I get to the hospital not really knowing what to expect. The doctor and the radiologist both told me that the MRI was the first step...they want to see how big the tumor is, if the cancer has spread to the other breast, or if the cancer is in the lymph nodes or if it's spread further. The MRI will focus on the breasts and the lymph nodes, and I will have a second if it's spread beyond that. They will also be able to "stage' the cancer using the MRI.
I checked in for my MRI and they shuttled me back to a dressing room. I changed into my two hospital gowns (here's a small win....I fit into a standard hospital gown. I was way thrilled with this as I haven't really fit in them for a while. I am down 25 pounds since Halloween and I'm really starting to notice). And then they come get me and take me back. The tech says to me "you are heavy, we are going to do a dry run to make sure you fit into the machine". My stomach immediately dropped. I hadn't considered not fitting in the machine. So we walk into the room and there is a bed that looks like a massage table with two holes where the breasts go. I lay on the table situating myself where all the parts go and she starts to roll me into the tube. My legs go in. My butt swooshes the top of the machine, but it's in and so far so good. Then my upper back and it stops. She pushes my shoulders in and I can't breathe. I am in but I can't take a breath without feeling the top of the machine pushing into my body. I am almost in tears. She pulls me out and tells me I am going to have to find a larger tube but she's not sure they make one or an open MRI, but they don't have one. I am getting distraught and embarrassed and just upset. Then she says, "wait. You fit in the machine. You just can't breathe, which means we only need an inch or so. What if we take the padding off the machine?" So she pulls all the padding (about 3-4 inches) off the contraption where my chest/breasts go and I lay back down. She pushes me in, my butt doesn't scrape the tube and my shoulders have room.
This is a picture of the contraption you have to lay on to have the breast MRI and the tube behind it. See how small!!
This is a stock photo I found of a woman in the "super man" position going into the MRI machine.
I breathe a huge sigh of relief.
HUGE. So we go and she puts the IV in, while I listen to this ridiculous woman screech, pant, whine, sob and generally cut up, and then the pathology tech says to her "ma'am I haven't even gotten the needle prepped yet". ALL that noise and he hadn't poked her?? Seriously?
The IV was in place and I am walking back to the 'tube'. I get situated on the table, face down with my arms stretched out in front of me like super man. She asks if I'm comfortable. Really? no. I'm not. But I can handle this for the 20 min I need to handle it for and I won't move. Then the tech gives me a set of ear plugs and asks what kind of music I want to listen to. I tell her Adele (they have Pandora. YAY!) and she puts noise cancelling headphones on me. I think it's a little overkill since the machine is on and is buzzing but not making any kind of hideous noise.
She leaves and I can see her in a little room. She tells me to cough or whatever I need to do and they are going to get started. Next thing I know the machine starts making a noise like the alarm that sounds before the baggage comes down the carousel at the airport. My adrenaline starts to pump and immediately I am tense and on alert. Adele is no match for that hideous noise. I am trying to calm myself down and my heart pounds harder. I can't move or we will have to start again but I am freaking out.
I start thinking of Kate at the playground the day before. I think of Kate's face and her funny laugh and why mommy is going through this hell. I am getting better because I'm a mom to the most amazing kid. I am the wife of a man who would do anything for me. I have an amazing family. I am a very very lucky woman. I start to calm down a little bit and then I start to think of the beach and the waves and the pier and my heart rate falls a little and my anxiety starts to subside. A little. Then the machine starts another hideous noise and I have to start all over again.
For 16 minutes. It doesn't seem like much, but it's real torture if you aren't ready for it.
Then she comes in and tells me to stand up and stretch. Ok, but I am in pain and my back hurts and I have to literally roll off the table.
Next up....flat on your back with this antenna on your chest to capture your lymph nodes and to see if the cancer is in the walls of your chest. Ok. 2 sets of 8 min just like the other one. Get comfy. Scratch your nose. Ready....and slide in.
This is worse. When I was on my tummy I could look in this funny little mirror and see around the room and see people. Now I have to keep my eyes tightly closed or I start to hyperventilate because I'm in a tiny plastic tube that is screaming alarm sounds at me. Then the tensing and releasing of the muscles of my legs and arms started. Then an itch on my face. Then my carpal tunnel started to flare and my fingers fell asleep. And all the while I am laying there still, praying that I make it through this and that it is over soon.
The longest 32 minutes of my life is over. I am free to change and go outside and breathe real air and not have to go back into the tube for a while.
I walked out into the waiting room where my sweet husband is waiting and tell him "THAT WAS AWFUL". Then I see this older man sitting next to me and he looks horrified. Oops. He was next. He wouldn't have the same experience because he wasn't there for breast cancer.
The MRI made me realize what I am in for. I realize that this isn't going to be a cake walk. This is going to test my strength. It's going to test my resolve. I am going to be like the soldiers of WWII. I'm going to start carrying a picture of the dude and the punk with me to every treatment. I am going to remember exactly WHY I am there. I have only been married 8 and a half months. I have a 19 month old baby. They deserve the mom, the wife, the woman they have. I owe it to them, I owe it to me.