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[Cancer]

[cancer] White tube blues

Ever had an MRI? Me neither, until last Thursday. Let me tell you…

As previously discussed, the MRI is part of the ongoing diagnostic process of the new mass in my liver which is probably a metastasis of last year’s colon cancer. This hasn’t been confirmed yet, but there are no good (or even bad) alternate theories about it. We’re trying to nail down the diagnosis before pulling the trigger on surgery and chemo. Having previously subjected my internal organs to a CT scan and a PET scan, my medical team determined that it was time for me to go for the trifecta and complete the set with an MRI scan.

I’ve for years been generally aware of what an MRI is and does, but I’d never had occasion to experience one for myself. My first clue was the fact that I was asked at least five times by four people if I was claustrophobic. My answer was, “Not clinically so, no.” My answer should have been, “Not yet.”

Last Thursday morning at oh:God:30, and I toddled over to OHSU to sign in for my MRI. met us there. I was checked in via the usual manner, though the disclosure form was kind of bizarre. A lot of really weird questions, all aimed at answering this life-affirming query:

“Do you have metal anywhere in or on your body that will be ripped out of your still-warm flesh by our giant magnet like a zombie going for your brains, you goofy sack of shit?”

To which I dutifully replied, “Um, no.” I didn’t mention the CIA mind control implant, either.

I was then permitted the delight of another IV, which led to a delightful conversation about the virtues of teflon needles versus steel needles. (I am the kind of patient who asks a lot of questions.) After that I was escorted into the Giant Magnet Room.

An MRI a biiiig white tube, about three inches wider in interior diameter than the width of my hips, as it happens. I was strapped down to a motorized pallet, much like the ones used for CT and PET scanning. Except this time, I was really strapped down. Bracket device against my back and against my abdomen. Sensor lead across my chest. Leg straps. Waist straps. Arm straps. Chest straps. Headphones. Panic button in my left hand.

This is not so bad, until you consider the fact that I am a born fidgeter. Anyone who’s been around me for more than five minutes knows I’m constitutionally incapable of sitting still. Ok, I can suck up it. Cancer isn’t going to win just because I can’t hold onto my shit for a little while.

Then the MRI tech ran me into the little tube.

I felt like one of those 1950’s movie cutaway shots where the train speeds into the tunnel, then the waves explode in white spume, to stand in for the sex scene. I mean, talk about loading the torpedo tubes. The curve of the top of the tube was two or three inches above my nose. My head was strapped in, so if I rolled my eyes way back, I could see a fingernail sliver of room light and open space somewhere behind me. If I rolled my eyes forward, I saw more tube. All the while, a little voice in my ears kept telling me not to breathe, while a small army of dwarves played the anvil chorus rescored for magnets and medical equipment.

For forty-five freaking minutes.

Whenever it got bad inside the tube, or I started seeing red flashes behind my eyes, I would resume the silent mantra, “Fuck cancer, fuck cancer, fuck cancer.”

If I were into being a bound sub, I might have paid good money for this experience. (Actually, I did pay good money for this experience, or at least my insurance company did.) As an ordinarily ambulatory human being of strong mind, fidgety body and toppish tendencies, this did not sit so well.

Every now and then the table would move a few inches. I would pray for daylight. The hammering would begin anew. I would be told when to breathe, when not to breathe, admonished to hold still. What, I have a choice? Closing my eyes most of the time did help a little, and for a while, I actually managed to meditate.

Finally, when I emerged exhausted and sated from being thrust deep inside the tube, I knew how a lone sperm feels after swimming upstream to spawn and failing.

When I got out, I asked the tech if they had to drug some people to get them inside the machine. She laughed ruefully and said there were folks who simply couldn’t get in the MRI, even under sedation.

No results yet, but as will attest, I wasn’t right for most of the day. As annoying as the PET scan was in some ways [ LiveJournal ], the MRI was a lot more overwhelming. Big science, annoying your hindbrain up close and personal. Necessary, not evil, but overwhelming.

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