The MRI and I

As previously noted, after seeing the (first) surgeon on April 27, my next stop was with the MRI folks on Weds., April 29. With mammograms useless and ultrasounds apparently just so-so, MRI was the obvious next step.

I’d heard enough about the procedure over the years that I was not particularly concerned about it. I can be pretty calm about procedures that don’t hurt. I’m not claustrophobic, and although the machine is loud, they provide ear plugs. I didn’t think it was any louder than standing beside a power mower, for example.

I’d been told the test might run to 40-60 minutes so was delighted when I got there and they told me just 20. Piece of cake.

They did plant a needle in the back of my hand for injection of the contrast dye and I wasn’t thrilled with that. I have tiny, deep veins in my fat arms, but the ones on the backs of my scrawny old hands look like an anatomy drawing and just beg to be stabbed. So the needle people oblige. And it really smarts.

Then came the fun part. For women’s breast images, you lie face down on the table with your boobs hanging into holes. Kinda funny, really, but I don’t know how else to describe it. The section with the holes is a bit higher than the rest of the table (may actually be a separate item put on top of the table but under the sheets), and the edge of that elevated portion hit just below my ribcage, pressing on my diaphragm, with an abundant belly adding to the pressure (I never sleep on my stomach for that reason). So for 20 minutes I was lying there, not supposed to move, able to draw only shallow breaths. Oh, and my hands were above my head. So my arms started going to sleep before I got out of the tube. Claustrophobia was no problem because I was face down and couldn’t see anything. The radiologist kept talking to me, saying “we’re done with that shot”; “okay, the next one will take 5 minutes;” “how ya doin’?” etc. I had a call button in one hand if I needed it.

That was it. No big deal except for the shallow breathing. I kept wondering how any woman bigger than I am would have fared …

Afterward, as instructed, I had them burn a disc with all the MRI, x-ray, and ultrasound images so I’d have them with me when I went to CU. I didn’t get a copy of the printed MRI report and still need to snag one from somebody.

Being both patient and medical editor, I couldn’t wait to pop that disk into my computer when I got home and see what I could see.

Sure enough, that sucker’s in there. Right where they say it is. And to my eye it’s sitting smack on the rib under it. In fact, after the surgeon saw it he called me the next day and said it actually looks like it’s invaded the muscle fascia. We’d already discussed that the location might mean taking a bit of muscle and even bone to get it all. The bone can be easily reconstructed he assured me, and reminded me that open heart surgeries routinely require cutting through the breastbone and that it heals nicely, with no breathing problems, etc.

Looking at the MRI images, as soon as you figure out what you’re looking at, you can sort of scroll up the breastbone until the tumor comes into view, appears at its full height, and then quickly disappears as you go past it. It’s really thin, remember. It was like flying above the surface of the sun or some planet and suddenly seeing a solar flare rising on the horizon in front of me. Or maybe a volcanic eruption. It was really interesting …

… until I turned it off, reverted to reality, and remembered it’s a fucking tumor in my chest, and getting rid of it is going to be a very not fun process.


11 thoughts on “The MRI and I

  1. IzaakMak Friday, May 08, 2015 / 8:27 am MDT

    Wow PT. I hesitate to say it, but that was a fascinating read – kinda like a short-story version of “Fantastic Voyage” – that is, until the last paragraph slams home the reality that this is the true experience of a friend! O_o

    • PiedType Friday, May 08, 2015 / 3:42 pm MDT

      It’s nice to know someone finds this stuff interesting. Especially someone who is not immediately involved with or needing information on cancer. I’d hoped to convey the personal and emotional elements as much as the scientific/medical details (which are readily available elsewhere.) At least, I think that’s what I had in mind. Not really sure. At the time I was more interested in doing rather than thinking.

      • IzaakMak Friday, May 08, 2015 / 5:39 pm MDT

        To be honest, I cringe every time I think of you having to go through this. But I do consider you a friend and your “style” is what keeps me coming back (as opposed to the dirty pictures!). 😉

        BTW, I got an email from Karen W. reminding me that you had a birthday in the middle of all this and the appropriate big deal wasn’t made of it. Sorry if I missed a post, as I can imagine they might mean a little more about now. Happy Birthday!!!! 😀

        • PiedType Friday, May 08, 2015 / 7:29 pm MDT

          Aww, thanks. So sweet of you both to think of that. Didn’t know she and you were in touch. Yes, I turned 72 on April 8 and this whole saga got rolling the next day at my regularly scheduled checkup. I didn’t post anything about it because I felt a little weird posting “Hey, everybody, it’s my birthday! (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, hint, hint)”

        • IzaakMak Friday, May 08, 2015 / 8:04 pm MDT

          We weren’t in touch until she emailed me earlier today, but it was very nice to hear from her. She just sent me a copy of the e-card she picked out for you. I hope you like it, because you deserve a nice big smile! 😀

        • PiedType Friday, May 08, 2015 / 8:27 pm MDT

          And I got a great big smile from it! Thank you both for being so thoughtful! (The dog looks a lot like my Annie, you know)

  2. Jim Wheeler Saturday, May 09, 2015 / 8:18 am MDT

    I’m surprised they were willing to give you the image discs. My experiences as an image object is mostly being treated as just that. Maybe I just have to ask? Or, maybe things are changing. Anyway, I am following your progress with interest. Well described.

    • PiedType Saturday, May 09, 2015 / 8:40 am MDT

      I wouldn’t have thought to ask for them but the surgeon who ordered the MRI said I should get them so I could take them down to the team at the university when I went down there. And later, with the pathology slides, he suggested I pick them up at the lab (“they’re yours, after all’) to take to the university. I opted to have the lab send the slides directly because it was one less thing for me to do, and although I took the discs with me, the university team already had the images on screen when I got there. They must have been sent electronically from the first doctor’s office, along with all the other records.

      These days I think, legally, you are entitled to copies of any and all of your medical records at your request. That would include images. But for safekeeping, I think it’s a good idea to leave the originals on file with their respective doctors. They can send/exchange everything electronically.

      • philosophermouseofthehedge Monday, May 11, 2015 / 5:15 pm MDT

        We’ve found it better to hand carry stuff if you can in addition to having them sent. Normally electronic transmission is fast and dependable, but if there’s a possibility of a snag or slow down…do what you can to eliminate it?
        You’re brave. The MRI sounds funny if it’s not you….I cringe at the thought. The tech people sound like they are trying to help and make it as easy as possible. Hang in there…that has nothing to do with the MRI process (giggles)

        • PiedType Monday, May 11, 2015 / 7:26 pm MDT

          I was hand carrying everything I’d had access to up to that point. But a 50-mile round trip to get the slides was just a bridge too far. They arrived safely.

          Oh I think it sounds funny too. But “hang in there”?? LOL. Huge guffaw over that. You always know just the right thing to say!

"You don’t have to say everything to say something." ~Beth Moore

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