welcome to the danger zone

Posts tagged “mri

Magical Mystical MRI (or The Time I Got “Blue in the Face” Instead of “Trying to Breathe”)

a2

Let me begin with this: I am not going to be making a resolution involving vodka and orange juice, because I decided that my relaxation cocktail is just that: pineapple, orange, and veggie juice with coconut vodka. It’s mighty tasty. I am having a lot of anxiety this evening (as will be discussed in the next paragraph) and I am trying to chill because I need to be bright eyed and bushy tailed for my Dr appointment tomorrow. I know I gained a little weight. I am not sure how, but I feel fluffier. I’m not stressing about that, because in three days, I’ll be so sick that food will be my enemy once again and the only thing I’ll want to eat are my go-to foods: pineapple juice, english muffin, oatmeal, yogurt and ginger beer. I want to make a pork roast tomorrow for dinner but I am afraid if I eat my friend, the pig, before chemo, I will lose my love for the other white meat the way I have lost my taste for artichokes and parmesan cheese the last time. And if I can’t eat bacon, what’s the point of living? Right now I am trying to coordinate with my brothers to get me to chemo and back because Andy is afflicted with the winter death plague, and I cannot be trapped in a car breathing his germs for an hour while we drive to Hershey. As it is, he is forbidden to be within six feet of me. And if he gets close, I pelt him with a hand sanitizer. So right now, it’s looking like I will be arriving two hours early for my appointment, and then waiting an hour or two for a ride home after we’re done. It’s gonna be a long, long, long day. But when in my life has anything been simple or easy. Enough stressing about what hasn’t happened yet, we have to review today’s adventure.

Let me preface this with this: the internet is a dangerous tool. Useful, but dangerous. Damn Penn State Hershey didn’t put my MRI results in my “My Health” account like they do with with my CT scans. How am I supposed to make myself anxious all night before my appointment if I don’t read them like I read my CT scan reports? Hmm? How can I prepare for the worst if I don’t have the info? I, of course, interrogated the nice young technician who did my MRI as to what she saw. She confirmed that there is indeed something in there, but I knew that – when I asked her if I should be prepared for an unpleasant surprise at my visit tomorrow, she would not commit. That typically means yes, I should be, because when they don’t put your fears to rest immediately, they are trying to find a way to avoid a straight answer. So we shall see. But again, I can’t worry about that until tomorrow. That is the point of the relaxation cocktail.

Well it was a lovely ride to Hershey. The fog was thick and murky on the interstate, as I tend to like it. It feels like driving in a thick cloud. I forgot it was a travel day and that Canadians would be in our country and on our roads, making driving difficult, which can also be said of New Yorkers, and also those from New Jersey. They should just stay home and enjoy their holidays in their own country/state. I had to stop and get something to eat because I was feeling nauseous, so I also took a percocet because it’s hard to tell if I am feeling sick from not eating or withdrawal, so I addressed both. I tossed back my chocolate milk and rolled into the parking lot at The Cancer Institute, realizing I would need to pick up my parking pass tomorrow for this lot for my treatments. I scurried into the building, looking like I rolled out of bed and fell into the door because I was trying to dress in things with no metal so I wouldn’t have to change into a gown. Nope, that didn’t work. I soon realized I had to go in the main entrance, and I meandered down to the radiology department, the same place that had tried to empty the cyst for the last year. I was the only one there, so I was personally escorted to the MRI room. I filled out my questionnaire about all of my surgeries and tests and radiations and chemos and skin pokings and jabbings and big giant incisions and medications and answered some math word problems about trains and wrote a short essay on what I did on my winter holiday. I signed releases I didn’t read. Then I was escorted to the changing area. It was pretty much the same deal as going through radiation, except there are no animal themed changing rooms and no waiting corral. I did get a locker for my stuff, and I actually had two gowns that covered me, instead of feeling like I always had to close some area that was exposing skin.

In typical fashion, I needed to repeat my name and birth date about 3,129 times. I had to show them my tattoos – MRI tip – an MRI will cause certain inks in tattoos to swell/itch because some inks have metal particles in them, particularly bright, vibrant colors. It’s not the best idea to get a tattoo right before you get an MRI. The technician asked me if I wanted some music during the procedure, and I said sure, but you probably have nothing I listen to – and to my surprise, she said give me the names and I will use Pandora. So I rattled off some of my faves: OWTH, Against Me!, The Go Set, Pennywise, Alkaline Trio, excited that I wasn’t going to be forced to endure One Direction, or Creed, or worse, Nickelback,

We entered the MRI room and to my surprise, the MRI machine is not so different from a CT scanner. However, there is the obvious lack of decorative stickers. I pointed this out immediately, and suggested some Brave, or Jungle Book, but no Toy Story 3, because I am still traumatized from that one. The tech said she’d check but they probably cant because of the risk of metallic particles.

Curiously enough, the room itself has a background hum that sounds like the womb sounds that my Sleep Sheep makes, which would have been soothing if not for their loudness. Unlike the CT meat slicing machine, the MRI tunnel is entered feet first. I had to get an IV started because there would be contrast dye for this one. They put some boards and blankets on my belly, and start the IV, which actually hurts at first. I told her to choose my right arm, because I was saving the left for chemo on Tuesday. Chemo tip – always go for the left arm. You will get a lot of fluids and will spend an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom – you want that right arm unencumbered. We got the IV issue worked out and that arm got strapped down. I was given a emergency call bell in case I started to freak out for the other hand. Then they put my headphones on, and I get launched into the tube. It’s a pretty small space, and I am a pretty fluffy girl. I had wiggle room but not much. The music started to play, and amusingly, the first song is an Alkaline Trio song, Blue in the Face, which ends with the line, your coffin or mine? I found this so amusing but being that I had to remain still I was not allowed to chuckle. The MRI imaging is done in time limited sessions. 45 seconds, 1.5 minutes, and then 2, 4, 5, 6, and (2) 8 minutes. Then the dye is injected, and you do 2 more 2 minute and 4 minutes sessions, and then (4) 18 second images images holding your breath. The instructions to hold your breath are supposed to come through the headphones – the tech broke into the music to tell me to follow along, except the instructions were in spanish, and she then had to just tell me what to do each time.

The actual imaging sessions are noisy. I was doing okay though, because I had music. Curiously, even though I had given her the names of the bands for Pandora, I got mostly Alkaline Trio and the Menzingers, and no OWTH for the first session – there was some Taking Back Sunday and some AFI – but no OWTH or Against Me!. This was tolerable initially, and I shouldn’t complain, because it could have been worse, like noted above, Nickelback, or even, ~shudder~ Macklemore or Pitbull. When the tech came in to start the dye, I asked her to restart Pandora with OWTH and the other requested bands – I got one OWTH song, and then it went right back to the Menzingers – weirdest thing ever, I wonder why that is? Anyway, the last sessions were the most difficult to stay still during because the machine was literally rattling. And your body gets really hot. Like it’s cooking. But I did really well keeping still, I turned on my meditative brains and pretended that I was a corpse. Of course, then runaway brain came along and I started to think about what it would be like to be buried alive, and this is as close as I hope to ever come to it. Then I started to think about all the poor people who were buried alive and what that must have been like to wake up in a box underground and be trying to claw your way out, and then the terrible realization that this is it, and you are trapped and never getting out. I then realized that I need to modify my living will to specifically state that under no circumstance whatsoever am I to be buried, or placed in any boxes unless my heart has been removed from my body or my head severed. That freaked me out. I realized then that the only suitable way to die would be drowning and then eaten by fish. Fear of being buried alive moved to my number 2 fear. Clowns were downgraded. Fire is still at the top. Again, drowning would be the only acceptable way to go.

Returning to our discussion track, there’s a lot of noise during an MRI. Banging and whirring and swishing and thunking. I did okay with most of it, the music minimized it but it still all seems to be going on by your ears, instead of where they are taking pictures. At one point it felt like the hair on my legs was being magnetized Totally bizarre feeling. It’s not constant. It starts and stops, and they tell you through the headphones when the next imaging will start and how long it will last. I only got caught off guard once with the loud banging, and fortunately, since you are in a restricted space, you can’t really jump out of your skin. I kept referring to my meditation practice and controlled my breathing the best I could, trying to relax. This is an important tip for those having an MRI. Work on your breathing. When it was all said and done, and I got to sit up, my whole body was stiff from staying still for so long. Even though the actual imaging session are short, the whole process lasted about 1.5 hours. Keeping still is a lot more work than you would think it is. As I mentioned, I asked the tech what she saw, but I also asked her why they do MRIs on a Sunday. She said they have to staff the MRI 24/7, and since someone has to be there all the time, they decided to make use of those hours by scheduling outpatient scans so they use the time effectively. There are a lot of emergency and rush procedures during the week, and it’s really stressful. Weekends are more laid back, there’s no tension and it can accommodate both staff who want to work only weekends and patients who need an urgent but not immediate scan, or people who can’t take time during the week. My tech said she actually prefers being there and doing procedures on the weekend. I have to say, it is a much more pleasant experience for the patient too because you aren’t jammed into a room of sick people to wait and you don’t feel rushed and everyone seems more calm and relaxed. There’s also better parking and fewer people in the buildings. After I regained my sense of stability, I was given my key to my locker and changed into my clothes and then scurried (IE. Walked slowly and stiffly) to reward myself with a chestnut praline latte at the hospital’s Starbucks. Twas yummy.

I took a longer scenic route back home – I had planned on going to dinner with my sharksister, Ashley, but she came down with the flu or plague or west nile last night, and we had to cancel. I was disappointed because I was really looking forward to seeing her, but we’ll have time, I have 4 months of appointments yet. We were going to go to Pho Miss Saigon in Hershey – a super yummy pho/noodle house – I still don’t have much of an appetite, but I was looking forward to Vietnamese iced coffee, which is my most favorite. If you frequent the Hershey area, I highly recommend the spot, particularly if you like pho or noodle dishes. It was still quite foggy as I headed home and was dark, so more stupid people than usual were about to hinder my ride home. Tomorrow is doctor and blood work day, and laundry. Weirdly, I need to make sure that I have a fresh blanket and sheets on my bed for after chemo – because of the whole weird smells thing, I need to have things as fresh as possible the first few days. Andy is also going to need to clean the car and quit smoking in it, because the odor of cigarettes is the one scent that makes me want to immediately hurl once I start chemo. At least I know what to expect. I also don’t have to have the nasty neulasta shot, at least not initially, so that’s a huge plus. That shit is the worst part in my opinion – the pain in your bones is as horrible as the pufferfish. I’ll have to get a picture tomorrow while I still have my hair…I figure it will be gone by the beginning of February I’ve started work on a fox hat, and I have patterns for a raccoon, panda and queen crown.

So that was the MRI. To summarize, much like being buried alive but without the bugs or dirt or paralyzing fear. Also much noisier. Not for the claustrophobic. In other news, I facebook blasted that my cancer is back – it may seem like an attempt to get attention to some, or putting “my business out there” but you know what, I don’t really care. People are naturally inquisitive – they want to know – and I don’t think this is something I need to keep private. It’s scary and people are curious. If I make it easier for someone else, all the better. With that ma petites, I shall leave you for today. I’m gonna finish my cocktail, and tuck myself in. Hopefully I’ll have more details tomorrow. Sweetest dreams my friends, and like I said on facebook, send me your good vibes, positive thoughts, prayers, animal sacrifices or good juju, I can feel it and it helps.

And don’t be afraid to ask me questions – it doesn’t bother me a bit.

Advertisements

Return, Resolutions, Repeat

I'm back....

I’m back….

That’s right, my lovelies – I did not run over any armadillos, I did not get a cat, I did not mix vodka with orange juice, I did not become a brain eating zombie, I managed to stay awake for at least one hour a day, I resolved to clean the house when absolutely necessary (which it never truly was), I did not use a drone to attack the neighbors, I ate no cauliflower, I checked my phone once a day, and I never told facebook what city I live in, no matter how many times it asked. 10 Resolutions made, 10 completed. Completing such daunting tasks gives me such a sense of satisfaction. I don’t know that I can top this in 2015, but damn it, what’s live without challenge?

I’ll get to this year’s resolutions in a moment. I really want to give the real ending to the attack on the cyst, because I couldn’t before I told my dad (aka pop) the facts – I didn’t want to ruin the holiday for him or for my niece – I mean I had to ruin it for Andy and some of my brothers, co-workers and friends, and of course, it was a bit of a downer for me too, but I couldn’t do it to my dad. I think I’ve told most people, if I haven’t and this is where you get the news first, I’m sorry. It’s not the thing you get any enjoyment out of telling people and one thing I’ve learned is that no matter how many people I tell, there’s always going to be someone that I forgot to. I can think of five or ten or fifteen now. Fact is, I’m tired of telling people. Here’s a fact: Telling people you have cancer (again) is fucking hard. You feel bad that your are giving people bad news, you feel you have to make them feel better, they always ask how they can help and it’s just generally a bad thing. If I tell you, just tell me that you love me. Or if you don’t love me, just say, hey, whatever you need. I’ll keep talking if I feel like talking about it, and if I don’t keep talking about it, and you have questions, ask me. I have a blog, seriously, it’s not like this shit is secret.

Anyhow, I read the CT scan before the surgery. I saw the words “possible malignancy” – I saw the look on the ER doctors face when he had to tell me there were some concerning items on the scan. I know my body. I knew something was wrong. After surgery, when Minion 1 arrived, and I asked her about the offending nodule and if they found cancer, she danced around it, saying that they “don’t think” anything is wrong, but they are only using human eyes. I much preferred the way I found out the first time – the resident held my hand and said it straight up, we can’t confirm it yet, but from the preliminary pathology, it looks like cancer. This time, I knew I was going to hear not very good news at my appointment. I know when they take a biopsy, they look at the sample to make sure it’s a good one. They don’t just randomly snap out a bit of tissue and hope for the best. And while they are checking, they can notice whether they have good cells or abnormal cells. Sure, they may not know if it’s malignant with certainty, but they know if something’s up or not. Minion 1 needs to work on her delivery. I should give lessons.

I also knew I wasn’t healing as quickly as I have in the past. I had some pretty hideous bruising. I lost my appetite. I knew things were different, but I wanted to believe what the Minion 1 told me. So when I got to my appointment on the 22nd, I was ready for the news, or at least I thought so. I went by myself because Andy was in Pittsburgh with my nephew and brothers for a Steelers game. I didn’t want him to not have fun because I had an appointment. I asked my niece’s mom to go with me last minute, but she couldn’t. So I just resigned myself to going it alone. I got there on time, checked in, and waited. I got weighed, and found out I’d lost 40lbs since October. That’s a lot. And then I waited. My blood pressure was almost normal, but there was much excitement by the nurse when I told her I was off the morphine and just taking percocet. I wasn’t in pain. That’s good. Yay. No need to undress. Hang out, Dr. will be in. Now, Dr. K is a presence. He’s a tall, funny guy, with a southern twang to his voice and he’s always cracking jokes with nurses and staff and patients. I suppose you have to when you have to give the news he’s giving. He’s almost never late. I can sometimes hear him talking to other patients when I wait for him. Today I can hear him telling one that they will beat this thing, and that they will be in to review the chemo and radiation schedule with her, etc, etc, etc. Not good. It’s still taking a while for him to see me. I wonder where my treatment coordinator is – I have presents for her and Nurse Sue and Dr. K – just little holiday gifts to say thanks. I don’t hear Anne outside either – not good. Finally, Dr. K arrives with Minion 2 from the ER nightmare. They sit down. Sit. That doesn’t usually happen, so yes, it’s another harbinger of doom. Dr. K looks at me and doesn’t mess around – the biopsy shows cancer, and launches into how we could treat it. No surgery, no radiation, two different ways to address it with chemo, there’s no protocol for cancer in this area, quite frankly he doesn’t even know how or why it came back, it shouldn’t have at this point, once you pass two years, there’s a much less likelihood of recurrence. I just kinda look at him, and tell him I don’t have dying on my agenda. He said that’s good because he hasn’t, and isn’t, giving me permission to die. I’m not crying, I’m almost relieved because now I know – I awkwardly hand him the card and ornament I brought him – tell him I don’t know if he Jewish, or celebrates Kwanza or Christmas, but he can hang the ornament on his Hanukkah bush if he wants to – and thank him for taking such good care of me. I can tell this is as hard on him as it is for me. I think the Minion 2 wants to bolt, but is glad I am not crying and that I am, matter-of-factly, addressing what I need to do. Dr. K tells him to talk to me about the MRI, since he hasn’t staged it yet, and needs the MRI to determine what all is happening in the dark recesses of where the stupid pufferfish lies. I tell him I think the unwieldy beast is starting its dark resurgence because I’m having some discomfort in the area, and he says that’s what he wants to see on the MRI. Minion 2 has ceased sweating, I truly believe he thought I would lose it like I did when they offered my the psych hold in the ER. I maintained calm. OK, I was in shock, but it still didn’t involve crying.

You are never really prepared for the news. I’m still not sure I have accepted it, and probably won’t until they hang the poison bag on the rack and it starts dripping into my arm. Dr. K and I hug, he assures me that we will kick cancer’s ass and be laughing about this in no time. He tells me this is a shitty way to end the year, and a shitty way to start a new one, but go home, enjoy the holiday, and they will call me with the chemo schedule the day after Christmas. I tell him I trust him, he got me through it the last time and will this time. I shake the Minion 2’s hand, and like a scared bunny, he hands me the packet of papers for checkout and flees the room. I head to checkout. As I stand there, alone, having just been told my body has betrayed me, it hits me, and I tear up. I have cancer. Fuck. The receptionist asks me about the papers – I tell her all I know is I have a 4 week appointment on the 5th, and Dr. K wants me to have an MRI. She asks if it is scheduled – I tell her I don’t know – I was just handed papers by the Minion 2. She looks, and doesn’t have a clue why I have been handed all of Dr. K’s results and notes. I suddenly realize I need a note for work, and another prescription for percocet. I ask if she can get that for me when she asks him about the other papers. She does – he tells me I’m off until after my 4 week check up. I realize we never even looked at the incisions. Good thing I heal OK. She comes back with all my papers – I ask her if she can give Anne and Sue my cards and ornaments. She will. I’m still not really connecting to any of this. I get my appointment for the MRI and visit summary and head for the elevators.

I don’t break down until I am in the car. Then I am a snotty, sobbing, weeping, sniveling, snorting, coughing, choking mess for about five minutes. And alone. Horribly alone. And also very glad to be alone because I don’t have to worry about making anyone else feel better about my breakdown. I text who I need to text. I need to get groceries while I am down here. It’s funny how the trauma and the mundane activities intersect here. I need to get food. I also need to get home. I start the car and go to Giant, and mindlessly wheel the cart up and down the aisles, tossing shit in I don’t really need, but I have a fuck-it-you-only-live-once attitude and decide we’re having a fucking rib roast and ask at the butcher counter for a small incredibly expensive rib roast. Two hundred dollars later, I’m checking out of Giant with my rib roast. I forget to buy water. I’m not even hungry. I need to go home and that’s the last place I want to be. My iPod won’t fucking charge. I’m not going home until I have the opportunity to sing loudly with my iPod, and preferably with OWTH, until the pain inside is purged. I must also see my friend, Pony-Pony. I need some normality in this surreal scene. I also need gas. Actually, GAS first.

So I drive – first to a gas station. I fuel up and head to the MHS barn to see Pony-Pony. He’s not there. They probably are making him be the stupid donkey is some live nativity somewhere. I keep driving. I see my friends, the goats, at the goat barn, and I yell “fuck you” at the sheep in their pasture. My iPod is still not charged. I see some cows. I see another pony, and another, none of which are Pony-Pony, but at least I saw them. I keep driving. I realize my blood sugar is quite low, and I am a little shaky – I’ll got to Hardee’s. This whole time I feel like I am in weird freaky film where my character is in a dream world unbeknownst to everyone who sees her. It’s like none of this is real. I finally get the iPod charged enough to commence screamsinging. Fortunately, RTE 322 is not busy and I can cry and sing and drive all at once with no worries. It’s not real. It’s not real. I get to Hardee’s and order some sort of burger and onion rings. I manage to choke down the onion rings. I head home.

The drive was cathartic. And pretty scary. Occasionally I would look down at the speedometer during pauses between songs. I pushed 100+mph more than a few times. It’s not really my fault the car goes that fast. I slowed down several times. I wanted to get home and then I didn’t. I would have to tell Andy and then other people. This is the part that sucks. I finally drove home – I walked in and Andy was all excited to tell me about his trip and the game – and I killed that with a look. He asked how the visit went and I lost it. I sobbed and cried and told him how sorry I was he had to go through this all again. My kid is a good hugger. He told me I was the strongest person he knew and it was just cancer, and I could beat it. Then he proceeded to hug me some more. When he was adequately covered in snot, he went and got the groceries from the car. I didn’t want my expensive rib roast being stolen in this neighborhood

The C-monster is such a fucking burden. Not only do you have to worry about being sick, but you have to worry about bills and work, and the house and telling people and not upsetting people all while being told that this is the time you are supposed to focus on yourself. If there are people who are able to do that, I wish they would have a network where you could find out their secret. Because once you recover from the shock, you have to think about who to tell, and when and where and how and how are they gonna react and if they are old, like my dad, are you going to kill them? And then there’s the logistics – appointments and chemo and food and laundry and the joys of all the changes in smell and touch and taste. And when you have been the head of household for the last 24 years, that just doesn’t stop, you still worry about that. It’s just a lot. And no matter how much you have people tell you they will do whatever they can to help you, you don’t want to ask, because you don’t want to be a burden, and you want to be strong and tackle this yourself.

I’m tired of writing tonight, and I am tired of watching this fucking pathetic Steelers game while I type. I’m tired of being sick and doctor’s appointments, and not wanting to get out of bed. At least there’s minimal pain. At least there’s plenty of food in our house and we have functioning utilities. I can still write. My bed is comfy. I have a new blanket to take to chemo with me. It’s all gonna be over in 18 weeks (it better be). Tomorrow is the MRI – it will be a whole new experience for me, so look forward to that blog entry. I sure hope there’s no metal inside that suddenly gets torn from my body like I’ve seen in horror movies.

Good night my happy people…I’ll be keeping you updated – hug on your loved ones and do something fun with them before they can’t, or you can’t. Sleep well. Oh, about those resolutions, still working on them. I won’t be bound by your constrictive linear timetables. Kisses.

Oh yeah – three years ago yesterday, I got my first diagnosis. Happy Anniversary. I didn’t know the 3rd anniversary was also cancer.