I waited to hear from her office, but really all they ended up doing was faxing the MRI order to the radiology center. She also emailed me a copy so I would have it on hand. I called and made the appointment myself, which is what I preferred to do anyway. I called and spent like twenty minutes on the phone with the scheduler trying to make sure I was getting in for the “wide open MRI”. I asked the same question about forty thousand times… you’re sure it’s the wide open MRI? Are you sure they let you do that for a breast MRI? It’s wide open, right? And that’s what you scheduled me for? I think the woman thought I was nuts, but the potential that I could get into a “wide open MRI” was enough that I was willing to wait over a week for the appointment.
I had the option to use anti-anxiety medication. I had some old-ish meds on hand, so that’s what I planned to take with me. But I hoped to not have to use it, considering the “wide open MRI” was supposed to look like this (based on the picture on their website!):
Yeah, best laid plans.
I waited pretty well for the test. A few days before, I saw T and we actually did hypnosis (which she recorded and I listened to for the next two days) so I could get through the MRI test pain and anxiety free. I didn’t start getting nervous until the night before. The day of, I cried a couple of times, but when I went into the facility, I was okay. Nervous, but okay. They took me back and had me change into scrub pants (I had to ask for a size up because I’m just too bootilicious–actually, I needed more room in the thighs) and a hospital gown top open in the front. Then they made me sit and wait outside the MRI technician’s room, where I could see the techs performing the MRI before mine.
The male tech came in to talk to me about the test and why I was getting it. I told him I was nervous and asked if the MRI was indeed open on both sides. He frowned and said no, it was just wider inside than the old-style MRI. When he saw me shudder, he said, “I’ve had a 550 pound man in there, no problem! Does that make you feel better?” I said NO. He said, “Well, at least you’re honest! Haw haw haw.”
The one on the left is the wide bore. It’s wider where you go in and shorter in length. They also send you in feet first so your head is closer to the air. Well, except I was getting my boobs MRI’d, so really I wasn’t that close to the air. More on that in a minute.
The male tech said the female tech was due back shortly and would be the person to get me on the table. I asked how long the test would take and he said once I was settled on the table it would be 35-45 minutes. He put my IV in (he wanted to put it in my hand, but I declined because YOWCH) and left me to sit while he finished with his current MRI patient. I sat quietly, I breathed, I went through the hypnosis stuff in my head. Then the female tech came in and announced, “This is going to be painful.”
I said, “What?” She said that a lot of women have trouble with keeping their arms over their head for the whole test, and that it’s pretty uncomfortable. I said I understood, and she left to clean up the MRI from the previous patient and set it up for me. See, online you get this picture of a bi-lateral breast MRI:
So comfy. She’s got a pillow and a blanket and she looks like she could nap. Aww, isn’t that amazing?
Instead, what you are confronted with is this table, sitting there, staring at you, taunting you, just waiting to fill you with pain. It wants you to cry. I’m telling you, it wants you to weep.
Let me explain further, for your torturous enjoyment. You see those red arrows? They point to where your boobs go in. Nice and roomy, no problem. All good, yeah? But wait, look in between where your boobs go. See that white plastic piece there? Yeah, that one. The one that feels like it is made from concrete and is going to support the entire weight of your upper body for 35-45 minutes. Pressed solidly against what? Your sternum. You lay there, with your lower body slanted downward, but you have to have the majority of your body over that area where your boobs hang down. And it’s all resting on your sternum, on hard plastic. Narrow hard plastic. Narrow, unforgiving, hard plastic.
I had to climb onto the table and kneel down (both knees are bad, I don’t kneel on anything anymore), get positioned and then lay face down. And I nearly screamed out in pain. I have a very sensitive sternum and the muscles around it are also sensitive. I cannot even wear an underwire bra for more than an hour or two. I basically shot back up to my knees (my poor poor knees) and looked at the female tech for help. She said, and I quote, “I told you it was going to be painful.”
I have never, in all the years I’ve been going through testing–and I’ve had a long history of lots of different and unusual tests–backed out on a test. But I looked the tech in the face and said, “I can’t do this.” I couldn’t put my weight down onto that plastic piece for more than a minute, how was I going to do it for 35 or 45 minutes? The tech offered me a narrow pad to cover the cross piece but I barely felt it. She said too much padding and I’d be too far out of the boob slot to get good pictures. So we stuffed a pillow up under my stomach and I laid down and I suffered.
See the area where you put your face, like a massage table? Yeah, they cover that with one of those caps you wear into surgery. So you’re face down into a blue plastic-papery non-breathable cap. And when you breathe? You get a face full of your own hot air. There’s no place for your air to go. And because you’ve got your full head weight all resting up there, it all gets put on your face, cuz your head be heavy like a fucking bowling ball. All on your face and cheeks.
Then they readjust your gown out of the way, shove gi-normous earplugs into your ears because the MRI machine is SO LOUD I could hear it out in the hallway with the doors closed. They shove a rubber ball thing in your hand and shout into your ear (because you’re wearing earplugs) “Squeeze the ball if you have an emergency.” And then they leave you.
I’ve had MRIs before, and normally they tell you when the test is going to start and how long that section will take. I heard the tech do it for the patient before me. But I got none of that. The only time she said anything to me during the test was, “You have four minutes left. Stay still.”
I had my arms extended over my head the whole time, I didn’t move, and I breathed so shallowly that I thought I would hyperventilate. If I breathed any deeper, the pain in my sternum multiplied by a thousand. I do not exaggerate. I know pain. I live with lots of it. This was so horrendous, it was worse than post-surgery for my hysterectomy.
At no point did I look like this:
But rather more like this:
See that hyper-extension of the arms and shoulders? Yeah. For 40 minutes. Ouch. The MRI tube was wider than ones I’d been in previously, but it was hotter than I remembered. The MRI waves affect me. Not everyone feels it, but I feel the heat and I feel the magnets. They move across my body, making it feel like the flesh is rippling…which some people describe as “vibrations”. At some point I felt the cold slither of the contrast go through the tube she’d wound around my thumb so the tubing didn’t fall off the table, but no other warning for that. At least at that point I knew I was close to done.
When they finished, the tech came in and started sliding the table out. “Don’t move yet!” she said. GREAT. Then she unhooked me from the contrast machine and tried to warn me about sitting up slowly, but I still had earplugs in. When I pulled away from the torture device, onto my knees again, my entire sternum and chest area SCREAMED. The tech yelled at me not to stand up, to roll to a sitting position and wait. Then she approached me and yanked the earplugs out of my ears. I’m sitting there, dizzy, half blind because the room is so bright after being enclosed for so long with my eyes squeezed shut…and my chest is just so painful that when I breathe, I want to throw up.
The tech stands there while I try to get my bearings, then I push to my feet. The tech gives me the key to my locker, says, “you’re cube six” and then disappears. Doesn’t tell me where the cube is or how to get out of the maze of rooms and hallways back to the waiting room. I basically hobbled around the corner to find my cube, got dressed really slowly, then went back into the hall. I had to stop someone to ask how to get out to the waiting room. When I got out there, I hobbled to the exit and waited for Hub to meet me there. Then he helped me out the doors and as soon as I got outside, not even onto the parking lot, I started sobbing. Which hurt my sternum like a motherfucker. Hub helped me into the car and asked if I needed to go to the urgent care or ER and I said I just wanted to go home. I cried all the way home.
When I got home, Hub helped me upstairs and brought me ice packs for my chest, and I just laid in bed for three hours, trying not to cry. I had trouble sleeping last night–no surprise. This morning–one day later–every single muscle in my body hurts. My back and shoulders and arms… OMG so painful. My sternum still hurts. I can’t bend over without sucking in air from the pain.
I have no idea when I’ll hear from the doctor. I have no idea when any of this pain will subside. I’m so tired and so weary. I don’t know that I could do another MRI like that again. I wish I had been able to really tell the tech how I felt about the whole experience, including her attitude, but I didn’t have the energy or the strength at the time. I wanted to get a CD copy of my test, but I couldn’t stay in that building one second longer. I’ll have to call and order it, then pick it up. Hopefully just for record-keeping sake. Hopefully this will be nothing and I’ll have a good base-line for any potential future issues.
I’ve mostly been sitting around today. It’s taken me most of the day to write this email because my shoulders hurt so much. I don’t even know psychologically how much this trauma is going to affect me. Ugh.
(Happy update. My breast surgeon called about twenty minutes ago to tell me that the area was just “normal glandular tissue” and there was nothing to be concerned about. No follow-up needed, but to keep up with annual mammograms as usual. Yay.)