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.