Posts Tagged ‘mri’

My little Breast Cancer saga continued this morning: I had an MRI scheduled at 9:30 in the morning at a nearby hospital. Not my local hospital because they don’t have an MRI machine, but a sister hospital within a 20-minute drive. We arrived early, of course, because it was a Sunday morning and there was no traffic.  We wasted ten minutes sitting in the car and trying to count how many Eastern Fox squirrels were in the adjacent trees and shrubbery. I quit counting at ten. That’s a lot of squirrels in a small area.

Checked in at 9:25 and sat down to wait for the tech. Oh, I had about three minutes’ worth of additional paperwork to fill out: “Where does it hurt?” It doesn’t. “Place an ‘x’ on the body part to be scanned” (That was easy). And so on.

Another patient wandered in for an ultrasound. His nurse came and picked him up after about fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, the clock ticked. Trust me, this was the WORST part of the morning: waiting for a full 45 minutes before my tech showed up to usher me back to the machinery. Tick…tick…tick…

The tech was very out-going and so made up for the long wait. The second worst part of the morning (actually, pretty low on the scale of worst to best) was the insertion of the IV.

Wait. I forgot to mention that our eighty-pound beast of a dog jumped on the bed at 6:30AM, firmly landing on my outstretched leg. He heaved himself up onto the bed and subsequently stepped on that same spot before I could withdraw my leg. I have the bruises to prove it. Darn dog!

That was more painful than the IV.

Technology has come a long way since the last time I had an MRI. Back then, the machine was a long tube and my biggest fear was that they would stick me inside that tunnel and forget about me (or the power would go out and they wouldn’t be able to get me back out). Fortunately, I was only having my left knew scanned and got to sit outside the tunnel with just my legs inserted. (I had a torn meniscus at the time.)

Now the machine looks like an oversized CT Scan machine. Open on both ends and not nearly large enough to swallow a human being whole, much less strand them due to forgetfulness or a power outage. WHEW. I declined any sedative at that point: it couldn’t possibly cause me to have a claustrophobic anxiety attack.

Rather, the positioning of the body was the most distasteful part. On my stomach, breasts positioned just so, and hard plastic digging into my sternum with my ribs crushed below. I was certain I would bruise after 25 minutes of that torture, but – alas – it wasn’t that much torture and I endured. And I didn’t bruise. Only where the dog walked on me earlier in the morning.

The tech gave me headphones with music cranked up at front row concert, like at least 85 decibels (probably not that much, but it was pretty loud). I soon learned why the music was so loud: the MRI machine is LOUDER.

Bang! Clang! Alarm! Beep! Boop! Whistle! Vibrate (that actually felt kind of nice). I decided the best way to pass time was to count how many songs played. If a song is three minutes long (standard radio play time back in the day) that it would take 8 songs for 25 minutes to pass. Apparently, songs can run longer in this day and age because I only reached 5 and a half songs before it was over.

When I had ten minutes to go, the tech came on the little radio and told me he was sending the contrast into my system. I half expected to feel something, although he had earlier assured me that the contrast he uses is not the same contrast they use for kidney function: the stuff that makes you feel like you just wet your panties. His contrast, according to his words, is “more Vanilla than that”.

Despite the warning from my drinking friend last Saturday, waiting for the contrast was not horrid. I felt nothing. I heard a lot: whirring, gears grinding, some more beeps and boops and whistles. Some day they will invent an MRI machine that is as silent as a CT-scan machine. Won’t that be amazing?

We left the hospital at 11:00AM and headed to the local food cart pod for breakfast, then across the street for a couple beers with dear friends. By 2:30PM, I realized that all the noise of the day – the MRI, the crowded brew pub, and the loud 80’s MTV music playlist – had worn my sensitivities to too much noise down to a frazzled level of “I just need to go home and be quiet”. Kind of like the night my brother dragged me to some nightmare Casino/kids play area in Reno with greasy cheese pizza and his grandchildren running amok (not ill-behaved, mind you, just bouncing off the walls in the kids playing area with thirty thousand other children) and I crawled into bed later with my Introvert HSP ears ringing.

In summary, the breast cancer screening by MRI is uncomfortable and noisy, but the biggest pain of the day was when Ruger stepped on me and woke me from a dead sleep with a stabbing pain in my lower right leg. And left me with bruises. And the worst part was the 45 minute waiting in a hospital lounge where there was only one other patient, and he only waited fifteen minutes.

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My last post was about breast cancer biopsy (the bruising is completely gone now). I told my brother that I wasn’t surprised by the outcome because doctors have “tells” in their speech and mannerisms. I am, however, disappointed in that I am now a statistic. A lucky one, at that.

Had I not been referred for a bone density scan, I would not have called the radiology lab at the local hospital. Had I not called, I could easily have ignored the referral for a mammogram. I still could have ignored that referral but I decided to just go with it despite my previous painful experiences. I still don’t know what the bone density scan showed, but I sure as heck know what the mammogram revealed and the subsequent needle-poking of the biopsy proved.

Emotions tend to run high at the mere hint of the word, “cancer”. I’ve had several basal cell carcinomas removed from my face and a couple pre-cancerous lesions. Nobody freaks about that although those areas were much larger than the carcinoma discovered in my left breast. It’s so tiny, it can’t be felt by a routine self-exam. It’s considered an “invasive carcinoma” which merely means that it has invaded my breast tissue.

The word “metastatic” was not written in the report nor has it been mentioned by anyone. So, calm down everyone: it’s tiny. It most likely has not moved into the lymph nodes. All my markers are good. I’m not freaked out.

I’m irritated at the timing, worried about how friends and family have reacted, and not real thrilled with all the upcoming tests and surgery and follow-up, especially (irritation) during the height of garden season. my list of questions for the oncologist had more to do with the timeline of care and recovery than “Am I going to die? Will it recur? How scary is this?!” I still have no definitive answers on the timeline, but there is an outline of a game plan, and it does NOT involve chemotherapy, mastectomy, or even a whole lot of radiation.

The number of friends, family, and acquaintances I know who have already been down this road have been diagnosed with Stage 3 or 4 cancers, some metastatic and some highly aggressive. the living ones (sadly, I have lost friends, acquaintances, and family to this scourge) have either told their stories publicly or I have known them well enough to have watched them endure the weeks and months and even years of recovery. We all know those stories. I think that is where the fear comes in.

The doctors I have spoken to have gone out of their way to be kind and considerate. My own PCP (Julia) left a voice message that if I “needed to talk…” she would be there. The oncologists office was cheerful and upbeat in a true effort to make the whole process less frightening for cancer patients. Everywhere I have turned so far, it seems like I am being handled with kid gloves, as if my emotions are going to just spiral out of control.

I was referred to CompassOncology which has several offices in the Portland Metro area, the closest of which is 20 miles away, right off of I-5, and very reminiscent of my commute for at least 10 years. My oncologist is a Dr. D who is tiny, funny, sincere, and caring. She’s also very thorough. And she’s on vacation all this coming week.

Which is OK because I have to have an MRI a week from today. A mammogram only catches 50% of cancers. An MRI catches 97%. They want to know if the mammogram caught the entire picture of what is happening in my body and only the MRI can do that. My husband and support person whispered, “If that’s the case, why don’t they just do a routine MRI for breast cancer?” (Answer: insurance companies don’t want to have to write off that expense.) He also offered to take me to breakfast after the MRI even though I might be a bit loopy (I’m claustrophobic and will need a little sedative to get into that tube face down for 20 minutes).

Check that: MRI on April 30.

I also need to see a hematologist. This is because I had a DVT (blood clot) in my left leg a year ago and there was no obvious reason. No surgery, no bumps to the leg, nothing out of the normal and my blood pressure and heart beat all tested out relatively normal. this came as no surprise to me: Julia had mentioned it last year saying that we could rule out a clotting disorder if I saw a hematologist. We need to rule out a clotting disorder before I go into surgery.

The fun part about this upcoming appointment is that it is at 4PM. I’ll be driving home in high traffic. It’s OK, I’ve done this commute before, too many times to count. I told my husband he is not allowed to come with because I don’t want him to be in the car with me when traffic comes to a dead stop. And starts again. And stops again. he’s not good company in heavy traffic.

I do know the surgery will most likely be a simple lumpectomy and that one lymph node under my left arm will be removed for testing. I was advised Saturday by a cancer survivor that the injection of dye into the breast is the worst of it that no one tells you about. So yay for implanting that bit of knowledge into my nervous system.

Telling friends and family has been … interesting. A lot of “I’m so sorry you are going through this” comments and virtual hugs. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. I am going to be okay. Two friends broke down and cried. But I still made summer plans with one of them. My family… Well, my brother made jokes (I love that guy). I know they are all there for me, if I need them. But I am still making summer plans with some of them. I’ve heard privately from other dear friends, encouraging me. All the same people who reached out when our son died.

This has been a lot more serious than I intended it to be. I was planning on making jokes all the way through. I’m not far enough into the process to make this journey humorous, but – trust me – I will find a way.

The photos I am using were sent to me by a very dear friend shortly after my last post. She said they were the first images she saw after she read (and deciphered) my last post. They are of the Oregon Coast. They are proof that I am blessed. Very blessed.

Please do not feel sorry for me. This is just a little stumbling block. I’m in good spirits. I’m hopeful. I am grounded.

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