Confirmed. The MRI was invented by men. Two men, actually.
My professor friend, Sheila Barry, says that “If the mammogram method was the same for checking for testicular cancer, you’d BET that test would be more gentle!”
So, while I’m thankful for our male contributors to the medical field, I wonder how much nicer a woman would have made an MRI breast imaging machine. After 40 minutes laying on my chest on a hard table, and getting up only to see bright red indents that made my front side look like a human waffle, I was pretty certain this machine was not made for comfort.
So, for any women warriors who need to have this done, this post serves as a guide — my own guide, though — to the breast MRI experience.
Let me start by saying that I’m pretty good with medical tests. I’m not usually anxious (other than some sleeplessness the night prior), I can handle being in the enclosed tube, and I’m not afraid of needles. But, surely, I can see how any one of these aspects would be enough to make the next person run out to the door. And, maybe my lateness to the appointment, one could argue, was a manifestation of my anxiety (or, my work-a-holic nature that kept me from leaving my office that morning).
First, most places will ask you to get there early. Seriously, do it. You need about 20 minutes just to get all the paperwork done (lots of it!), get changed, get your IV in (more on that in a minute), and get ready. They need to warm up the machine in between, and that takes time, too. Be sure to be mindful of that intake form – particuarly important in the MRI process is disclosing whether or not you’ve had exposure to metal.
Once you move into the dressing room, you’ll be asked to keep your socks/shoes and undies on. The scrub pants go on the normal way. Then, you’ll get 2 cloth robes. The first one goes on like a regular jacket; the second one goes on backwards — with your arms in and the opening in the back. This way, when it’s time for the MRI, you can take off the front robe and still have a back robe on you.
The IV and Contrast Dye: This is my LEAST favorite part of the entire experience. The IV. Blech. I hate needles in my hand or wrists. For some strange reason, it burns my veins. So, I was dreading this part. Thankfully, the kind nurse said that she could put it into the vein where they usually draw blood (in the inside curve of the elbow). Ah! Much better!
Now, if you’ve never felt the sensation of “tasting metal”, you’re about to get a healthy dose of it with this IV and Contrast Dye. First, the IV is flushed with saline, and I can still taste this as I write it. About 3/4 of the way through the MRI, you’ll have the dye injected through the IV line. This is the weirdest sensation ever. I could almost hear the fluid rushing through my head and could taste the dye in my lips and inside of my mouth (though it was only running through my veins). I’ve asked the technician to make sure to warn me before the dye goes in — loud and clear!
After it’s all done — about 40 minutes later — I felt a little dizzy coming out of it. And, since I was laying on a plastic table, my chest was absolutely killing me!
Some tricks of the trade —
1. Know what to expect — the more you know the better!
2. Find that ‘happy place’. When I’m in the machine, I run through all my old acappella songs or any other song that I know completely through. Most of the pictures are anywhere between 3-5 minutes long, so your favorite songs fit right into that time frame.
3. BREATHE. There are some picture sessions where the obnoxious knocking noises are rhythmic. So, I breathe through those ones.
4. Keep your eyes closed – in the Breast MRI position, you’re face down (which I think is way better than face UP in the enclosed tube). But, it’s still hard to let go of the fact that you’re in this tiny space.
5. Know that there is an end to it. After the 40 minutes, it’s all done. You’re back in the open air.
So, I wait a while until the MRI results come back. The doctors know they will be removing all of my breast tissue; the MRI tells them if there are any pre-cancerous cells or if there is anything in my lymph nodes. I’m really, really, trying to avoid having my lymph nodes removed….
Not as inspirational nor funny as the usual post – sorry friends. Wanted to document what is hopefully my last MRI for a very, very, very long time!
Peace, love and countdown continues,