Thursday, June 27, 2013

MRI ay ay

The sound of my alarm startled me out of a non-restful sleep. My left eye popped open and my hand reached for my phone, which was positioned conveniently on my nightstand.

It was exactly 3:00 AM.


I propped myself up on my right elbow and reached my hand over to the nightstand again, hoping to find the pack of Ritz crackers I'd left there without having to turn on the light and wake Jimmi. Bingo! Got 'em. Now, I'm not normally in the habit of waking up to eat in the middle of the night, at least not since I was pregnant with Justin 10 years ago, but I didn't have a choice this morning. The Prednisone I needed to take in very specific intervals before my MRI this afternoon had a warning label on the bottle, "Take with milk or food to avoid stomach upset." Not wanting to cause more issues for myself, I figured I should follow the directions exactly. Jimmi stirred as I not so quietly ripped open the sleeve of buttery goodness and shoved the first cracker into my mouth, attempting to chew with only my tongue so I wouldn't feel the need to brush my teeth again. I repeated that process five times before deciding I'd had enough to help the medicine digest safely and I fumbled around for the pills. I pointed my iPhone light at the bottle and squinted my eyes to read the tiny letters instructing me to "take one pill 13 hours before, one pill 7 hours before and 1 pill 1 hour before procedure." I snapped off the lid, removed one round, white tablet and threw it into my mouth. If I'd known about the nasty-tasting coating that was going to stay with me for the next fifteen minutes, I might've had my glass of water more readily available. Yuck! I gulped down the drink in an attempt to cleanse my palate. No dice. Oh well, it's done now. I'll remember that for my next dose at 9:00. 

I put down my glass and my phone and the bottle of pills, snuggled back down into bed and pulled up the covers. I started to relax my mind, anticipating a quick return to sleep. But then my head snapped me back into consciousness as I tried to remember if I'd ever taken Prednisone in the past. I know I'm taking the drug as a premedication to avoid a possible allergy to the MRI dye later, but what if I'm allergic to the Prednisone? What if I fall back to sleep and have a reaction? What if my throat closes up while I'm unconscious? On the positive side, it would save me from any additional anxiety leading up to the scan and results of the scan. But the thought kept my eyes from closing for another 45 minutes until, at approximately 4:00 AM, I finally passed out again.

At 9:00 AM my alarm notified me it was time for my next pill. The same steps were taken as they had been earlier, only this time the water went down much more quickly. I got out of bed and walked to the bathroom with noticeably less pain in my back than I've had in the last few days, but since Prednisone is a steroid that reduces inflammation, I didn't allow myself any false hopes of a miraculous recovery. I went about my morning routine, fed the boys breakfast, took a shower and got dressed. And then it was 12:30. Only three more hours to kill before heading to the cancer center for my MRI. Luckily I'd booked the day full of regular check-ups for the boys so there wouldn't be much downtime. The only issue was driving. Since I'd be required to take two Benadryl with my final dose of Prednisone an hour before the scan, I was told I shouldn't drive. Not usually an issue with my mom and Jimmi around, but this time was different. Jimmi had to work and my mom needed to take the kids to the orthodontist and School of Rock rehearsal, which left me needing a driver. Never one to impose on my friends, my mom arranged a ride to the center for me and instructed my dad to pick me up at 4:45. Thoughts of my dad forgetting me at birthday parties when I was a kid flew through my mind, but I figured he'd grown up a lot since then so I shouldn't worry.

At 3:00 PM I repeated the final step in the premedication process; the last dose of Prednisone and two Benadryl. If nothing else, at least my sinuses should clear up a bit. And then, finally, it was time to go. While sitting in the car a voicemail notice displayed across the screen on my phone. I recognized the number as the radiology department. Oh no! They're calling to cancel and I've already taken all the premeds! I won't accept that! I can't! "Hi Mrs. Kane, it's radiology. I just wanted to make sure you're aware you have an appointment here at four o'clock. There's nothing in the notes that you ever confirmed. If there's a problem, please call me back immediately." 3:25 for a 3:30 check-in was a Hell of a time to call and make sure I knew I had an appointment.

I arrived at the hospital, thanked my ride and headed in. I didn't go straight upstairs, but turned right to visit my cheering section at Dr. L's office. "I'm here! All premedicated and ready for my MRI! Now we just have to hope the dye doesn't kill me before I find out what's wrong with me." They all laughed and, of course, pooh poohed the possibility of any dye reaction once the drugs were in my system. "No chance Dr. L will still be here to give me results after the test, right?" I asked hopefully. The simultaneous head-shaking gave me my answer so I thanked them and headed up to the second floor...again.

I walked over the the desk with a grin and said, "I got your message a few minutes ago. Thanks for the heads up about the appointment." The receptionist laughed and explained, "I was freaking out! I looked through all the notes and didn't see anything about a confirmation call! I know you had to cancel last minute on Tuesday and they were trying to squeeze you in and I was hoping they had called you!" I giggled evilly and joked, "Well, you're lucky the call went right to voicemail because if I had picked it up I would've played dumb and let you think I hadn't been told anything!" After a relieved sign, he handed me the same paperwork I'd filled out just two days earlier, "Seriously? Nothing's changed in two days." "It's protocol," he said. "Any chance we can make a note to skip the 'Are you pregnant?' form? That will NEVER change," I finally asked after two years of resentment toward that damn piece of paper. "I can mark it in your file," he told me and I felt better.

I had barely finished checking the box that I do not, in fact, have a penile implant when the tech came to get me. This time it was a very pleasant woman whose name has been lost with part of my mind from chemo brain damage. She led me to the changing area and asked if I'd taken my premeds. "Oh yes," I assured her. "I was up at three AM munching on crackers and taking drugs!" She left me alone to change and lock everything up in a locker, but if I wanted to take my phone I could put it in another locker right before I head into MRI. I took everything off except my underwear, socks and shoes, put on a super-sexy robe, threw my purse and clothes on the floor of the locker and stepped out the back door leading to the scan rooms. I looked around but there was no one there to escort me. I stood there for a minute. Still no one. "Hello?" I asked. Where did everyone go? I started walking down the hall when the nurse who'd sent me home on Tuesday appeared and asked, "Are you lost? Just down the hall to the open door." I entered the room and sat in the blue chair. Deja vu hit me again and so did the Benadryl. Wow. No wonder they didn't want me to drive myself! Just then the tech found me, "There you are! I had no idea where you went!" Well, how long did you think it would take me to remove a shirt, a bra and a pair of capris, lady? 

We discussed my name, with spelling, my date of birth and the possibility of me being pregnant. "Not without a uterus," I assured her. She scribbled a big check mark on the paper. "Ok, the nurse will be in soon to start your IV." I seriously think I need to get a job here. I totally know the drill. The tech left and was replaced by the nurse, as promised, who asked all the same questions I'd already answered. I explained that I was positive I'd followed every direction of the premeds exactly as they were written and I really hoped they'd work. She promised they would and that she would be in the room with me when the dye was administered, "just in case." Very reassuring. Then she found one of my less stubborn veins, jabbed it with a needle, inserted the catheter, pumped it full of saline and announced, "Done!" And I was left to wait for the tech to return to bring me to the MRI.

I killed time on my phone texting and playing games. My ex-husband messaged me a love compatibility app with a note that read, "Type in our birthdays. I should've tried this BEFORE we got married." I laughed at the way we can actually joke about our failed marriage and then the tech returned at exactly 4:00 to bring me to the scan room. She pointed to a locker where I could stash my phone. I locked it up with the key from the first locker, took the second key and followed her to a room with a metal detector. I handed her the key and walked in an out of the detector without any flashing red lights or beeps. She then took the hand scanner and went up and down my body like they do in the airport. Still nothing. "Ok, you're good." We headed into the MRI room and I looked at the machine, which was obviously a much more up-to-date and expensive version of the one the sports medicine doctor had used. I put my key on the sill of the window in front of the control room and walked back to the machine. I positioned myself on the bed with obvious expertise. One tech handed me earplugs, "Oh, you pre-squished them for me? Thanks!" She looked a little surprised, "Yeah, well if I don't people usually just try to jam them in their ears and they always fall out." I smiled, "I'm an experienced earplug wearer," I explained. "I go to a lot of concerts." 

After I was all set up on the table, tech #1 handed me the ball to squeeze in case of emergencies, the bed went back into the tube and we were ready to begin. "This first set of pictures will take thirty seconds," the voice announced over the speakers. 


God, that's annoying.


I don't think my left earplug is in all the way.


And then the noises stopped and the bed was moving out. I opened my eyes and saw both techs standing over me. "I think you have your key in your robe pocket," tech #1 said. "Really? I think it's on the windowsill," I was sure I'd left it there. "What about the other key?" She checked both of my pockets. Empty. "Do you have any metal on you at all?" I shook my head. "What about your underwear? Any rhinestones or embellishments?" I thought about the boy shorts I'd gotten at the Poison concert that were basic, white cotton with the pink word "Poison'd" on them. "Nope." They looked confused. "Ok, maybe we made a mistake. Let's try again." The bed moved back in and the noises started again. 


Sounds like a machine gun.


Ha! That sounds like the noise Pac-Man makes as he's eating up the little pellets on the board. Only MUCH louder.


Ugh! I hate dance music! Someone change the station!

The noises stopped and the bed started to move out of the tube again. The techs were back. "Are you sure you don't have anything metal on you? It's like really high up on your right leg almost at your butt-cheek." I thought about any possibilities. "Could it be the tattoo they gave me when I had radiation?" Seemed like a possibility, but when I showed them the tiny dot on my hip they realized it was in the wrong location. They checked my pockets again and felt all over the robe. There was nothing there. "Umm, that's where it hurts," I said with my voice starting to shake, "Are you seeing something bad in there?" My heart was pounding so loudly I almost couldn't hear the response, "No. It's definitely metal and it's much lower than where we're scanning. Maybe it's something that's stuck in the robe. As long as there's nothing that's gonna like fly off of your body during the test you'll be fine." And they headed back to the control room and I headed back into the noisy coffin.


Is the machine saying, "NED?" Is that a sign?


Now it sounds like that song I couldn't stand from the late 80s. What was it called again? How did it go? "Joy and pain. Like sunshine and rain!" But the absolutely unbearable loop in the background used to drive me INSANE!


Oh, now there are two lines playing the same sound in different octaves. Interesting.

"Ok, it's time for your contrast now," said the voice.

The table came out and the techs and the nurse came in. Not gonna lie. I was terrified! I mean, what if the premeds didn't work and I have a severe allergic reaction to the dye and it kills me? What a STUPID way to die! "You sure I'm gonna be ok?" I asked, clearly not trusting their medical knowledge. "You'll be fine. Don't worry." The dye was injected and, to my delight, I was still able to breathe! "You ok?" the nurse asked. "So far," I admitted without actually committing to an answer. Back into the tube I went.


Of course my nose would start to itch right now.


Oh my GOD! I need to scratch my nose!


How much longer is this gonna take?


"Ok, you're all done!" said the voice and the table moved out.

The techs came in and my earplugs came out. The giant smiles on the tech's faces confused me until #1 opened her mouth, "We totally figured out what we were seeing on the screen." Do tell. "It was driving us crazy so we actually pulled up your last PET scan to see if we could see it and we could!" Ok, TELL ME! 

"Were you ever shot with a BB gun?"

Before I could answer the flashback hit me like it was yesterday. It was 1989. I was 14 years old and I was hanging out at my "boyfriend's" house. As most 14 year-old boys do, he tended to enjoy the game, "What Would Happen If...?" without thinking about the consequences of his actions. I guess that particular day the question was, "What would happen if I shot my girlfriend in the ass with a BB gun at close range after pumping it 10 times?" Yes, really. "Ouch!" I screamed as the tiny metal bead shot through my jeans, broke the skin and ricocheted off, leaving a bloody stain on my right thigh, just under my butt cheek. At least, for the last 24 years, I'd lived under the assumption that the BB had bounced off and gotten lost in the woods. Apparently I was mistaken. "Yes!" I exclaimed. "My boyfriend shot me in the ass when I was like fourteen!" They seemed less phased by my confession than they were excited that they'd figured out the mystery metal that was hiding in my leg.

After realizing that I was both still alive and living with shrapnel in my body, it was finally time to get dressed and meet my dad downstairs. I thanked both techs and went off to the locker room. I was dressed in a matter of minutes and I almost skipped down the stairs. I really hope the pain doesn't come back when the premeds wear off. To my surprise, my dad hadn't forgotten about me and was actually standing in the lobby. I tapped on the window and held up my finger to say, "One minute!" then turned the corner to Dr. L's office. "I'm alive!" I explained to my girls. They all cheered and giggled. "Ok, let's hope that was the last test I'll need and we'll find out there's nothing seriously wrong with me so I can get on with this baby thing already!" They all bestowed their positive energy upon me and wished me luck then I exited the building to have a Daddy/Daughter dinner, which is a very rare and special occasion. 

And now the waiting continues. While I assume I'll have some answers tomorrow, I've learned not to hope too high for fear of being let down. But I promise you'll know when I know.

Let's get one last group cheer going...


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