The good and bad of it.

I slept last night for seven hours without the aid of pharmaceuticals (I woke up at 1 a.m. for 10 minutes or so, but let’s not count that). Even though I’m not totally rested, I feel better about not needing a drug to fall asleep or stay asleep. I can’t go on taking a sleeping pill forever because it has gradually been working less and less. I just need to take a break and let my body try on its own. I keep getting headaches (requiring the use of Tylenol) in the daytime that I suspect is a side effect of the sleeping pill. If I can’t get 8 or 9 hours of sleep in the next day or two, then I’ll try it again.

I had a breast MRI yesterday. I had an MRI eight or nine years ago on my head and SOMEHOW I forgot how difficult it was. I had convinced myself before yesterday it wouldn’t be too bad because it’s not like it’s an invasive test. You just lay there and let the machine do it’s work, right?

For starters, I forgot that I had to get an IV because they shoot you with a substance toward the end of the scan. It took three tries. On the first, my vein blew in about three seconds. On the second, she poked around inside of my hand with a needle for so long and hurt me so much that I started sobbing. On the third, she took a good 20 minutes just trying to find a vein. She finally started it on the knuckle of my index finger. It took over an hour for all of this.

Then, the MRI machine. A breast MRI is different from the kind I had before, where I laid flat on my back on a table and was rolled into a very snug chamber. I never knew I was claustrophobic until then! That time around, the techs told me to keep my eyes closed. I was doing fine until I peeked to see why it felt like I was breathing on my own cheeks. When I saw that my face was just a few inches from this machine and I was totally encased, my heart rate shot up! I slammed my eyes shut and tried to think happy thoughts.

On a breast MRI, you are rolled into the machine backwards. They try to tell you it’s better because your head is near the entrance of the machine, so you can see around the room. They lie. It is not that much better. Plus, you lie on your stomach, with your boobies stuck through two holes in the table in a room that is about 63 degrees. The table is at an incline, with your head higher than your feet. You have to put your arms above your head, but you can’t lie your head on them like you are sunbathing. Your hands have to be out in front of your head about a couple of feet. (Try this sometime for an hour and let me know how your shoulders feel.)

Furthermore, I have an extremely long, fresh scar on my breast, as well as a more moderate one in my armpit. And it’s not like you get to jump on the table, put your boobs through the holes and away you go. Nope, the tech has to perfectly center your breasts in the machine. So, much poking, prodding and stretching of skin went on until that happened. Then, she had to adjust me so my scars weren’t resting on anything uncomfortably.

I got to maintain this position for 40 minutes in my little cave. Oh, let’s not forget that when the machine starts up, it begins making noises akin to a jackhammer being next to your ear, which you hear every decible of even though you are wearing sound-deafening headphones with loud music piped in. I had remembered this part of the test and had taken two Tylenol before going in. The last time I had an MRI, I left with a killer headache and slept the rest of the day.

The machine makes a series of noises and “silences” (the machine hums constantly, so there is never a true silence). So, it’s impossible to relax. Just as I would find a happy place, the machine would launch into a SLAM, SLAM, KER-BLAM sequence. Of course, you are supposed to lie perfectly still, so jumping out of your skin each time the machine takes up a new, startling noise is not helpful. I just read a book on meditation, so I tried making an “OM” sound in my head during a particularly loud phase of the machine. As I was getting good at clearing my thoughts and making the OM sound, the machine switch to a new hum and the OM tone in my head tried to match the frequency of the machine, giving me an instant headache. I had to stop that and go back to counting the songs of which I could occasionally hear snippets through the headphones.

I finally scuttled out of there, only to realize as we (my mom, aunt and I) sat down for lunch that I left my mammogram films at the office. So, we had to drive back after we ate to get those. In the hour it took to leave and return, the woman who was waiting after me had gotten her IV and MRI done. I was jealous. Took me 2 1/2 hours.

I should have the results in two or three days. The purpose of this test was to see if they could possibly identify how bad the cancer is in my right breast and see if anything is present in the left. If anything shows up, I’ll have to have a biopsy to verify what they are actually seeing.

Tomorrow, I see the oncologist. I’m currently scheduled for a third opinion on the whole mastectomy issue on Monday, but depending on how my visit goes with the oncologist, I might cancel it. The oncologist will be able to offer me an opinion as well, as the person who will supervise radiation and chemo, and he knows the aftermath of re-excision versus mastectomy.

Author: rosie

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