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Category Archives: hypnotherapy

On tests and techs and pain

I saw a breast surgeon, she said to get a bi-lateral breast MRI.

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!):

oasismri

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.”

wide_closed_open_mri

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.”

WTF.

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:

breastmri5

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.

mri2

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.”

WTF.

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:

p-mrimachine

But rather more like this:

breastmri

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.)

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Probably TMI for most

Well, I won’t go into all kinds of details, but still, you’re forewarned.

I was talking about some anxiety in my last post. Here’s what is going on. I’ve been doing hypnotherapy during a few of my regular therapy sessions with T in order to work on my cardiophobia. We’ve actually been working both with CBT and hypnotherapy for my fear of exercise. Part of my fear is because of my heart, but part of my fear is also putting myself in more pain than my daily dose…on purpose. I’m in pain pretty much most days, but exercising means I’ll be suffering more pain because of strained muscles and such.

So part of my therapy is to exercise. Shocking, I know. We have both a treadmill and a recumbent bike in our house (the treadmill is like…oh, 15 years old, but it still works!), so I have options on what I can do for exercise with machines. The bike is newer than the treadmill and it has those little dohickies on the handles that measure heart rate, which is a no-no for me. Just watching the heart rate go up is an anxiety trigger. So many people say exercise helps their anxiety, but it’s actually a major trigger for me. I started riding the bike (I figured it was lower impact on my arthritic knees than the treadmill) every night, with the intention that I was riding it to work on my fears, not on my weight loss. It gave me permission to see the exercise as something different…not to be perfect at it, not to think that if I only ride it a few minutes every night that it was a failure because a few minutes is a waste in the weight loss world. No, it’s part of my therapy, part of my recovery, and even sitting on the damn machine is an accomplishment.

I started slow with the bike, literally and figuratively. And I met my first goal of riding the bike three days in a week…and then I just kept going. I’ve been able to increase by one minute since I started. I’ve learned not to put my hands on the heart rate dohickies…and if it is too tempting, I’m going to put socks over the handles to make them not work. I listen to a little music, I play a game or two on the iPad if I have it. I go in, I get on, I ride, I leave, I recognize the accomplishment of what I’ve done. I went ten days. Some of the days I could have talked myself out of it (the a/c upstairs died again…my knee hurt, I had another owie which I’ll explain shortly) but I didn’t talk myself out of it. My mental recovery seems to be so much easier for me to work on than my physical. I haven’t really ruminated on that very much, but I suspect that is coming in therapy soon.

Monday night I went to shower and I realize there is a redness under my right boob. I’m endowed and…droopy. I’ve been that way all of my adult life, I’ve never gotten a heat rash or sweat rash under my boobs before (I am wondering if this is because of the surgical menopause and hormone issues). I don’t sweat like normal people. My first thought was oh shit it’s breast cancer because it was only under one boob and I know that there are some breast cancers that present that way. I managed to convince myself it wasn’t cancer even before the redness showed up under my other boob. At that point I was pretty well sure it was a heat rash (or sweat rash) from riding on the bike. So now I’ve got knee pain, foot pain (stupid plantar faciitis) and underboobs rashes. *sigh* I go buy these things that go under the boobies that is supposed to help wick away sweat. The are uncomfortable and weird and they move around. Joy. I also buy some tea tree oil and a powder for rashes and fungus, in case it’s a yeast fungus under there. The under-boobie wicky thing seems to help but not make it go away altogether yet.

Wednesday night I’m on the bike again (I’ve even been able to ride when I’m home alone, which is a big deal for me because if I have a heart attack on the bike…and I’m alone… shudder) and I’m like what is that pain? It’s in the crease of my left leg where it meets my groin. And I’m thinking it’s another damn heat rash. Great. I put some gauze in the crease and try to deal with it for overnight. Next day, I put another clean bit of gauze there to keep the area from rubbing and getting worse and I go about my day. I get on the bike again last night and I’m like … unh, that hurts. I finish my predetermined ride and go shower and suddenly I’m realizing it’s not the heat rash in the crease of my leg that was hurting. I have a cyst…my guess is an infected cyst (I get sebaceous cysts under my arms sometimes, but not for a while) or it could be an ingrown hair. It’s, uh, down there. Ya’ll ladies know what I mean. It’s in an unfortunate place, making sitting, standing, walking, lying down all very very uncomfortable. Dammit.

I tell Hub about the issue (he looks somewhat horrified), I go to sleep and wake up this morning first thing to call my doctor’s office. I don’t want to mess around with this area, so I beg them to fit me in today. They do and I go see one of the other doctor’s in the practice. She says “abscess” but won’t otherwise identify if it’s from a cyst or an ingrown hair. She doesn’t want to do anything with it but suggests I see my gyno to see if they want to drain it or what. I tell her my gyno is an hour away and not likely to be able to fit me in today, so she suggests I see the gyno in their extended practice and she goes to make an appointment for me. When she comes back, she tells me I’ll be seeing the nurse practitioner that afternoon, and oh by the way here is a prescription for bactrum (antibiotics). Oh how I love pills. And ABs are my favorite.

I go back later to see the NP, who tells me she can’t drain cysts and all the doctors are booked. But she graciously offers to do a lookie loo to see if the cyst actually needs to be drained. She measures it and says it doesn’t look too big, but writes down the info for future reference in case I come back with an issue next week. “Good news!” she chirps. “I wouldn’t drain this. It’ll drain on its own. Take your ABs and use warm compresses and a sitz bath as often as you can manage.” We talk about timing for when the pain will abate and what to expect from the “draining” and I go home.

The first time I saw the cyst last night, it was white. By the time I got home and everyone was done poking at it, it was a purple-red. Yay. (I told you, TMI.) Upon getting my ABs, I come home and go look up my blog post from when I had to take these particular ABs, and I apparently have nausea, bad taste in my mouth, and dry mouth (editing to add, and dry/itchy eyes near to the end of the course of ABs) to look forward to for ten days at least. Two pills a day over ten days. The NP told me to be happy, the other option is something like 4 pills a day over 20 days or something ridiculous. But at least I have experience with this AB, so maybe I’ll be okay with taking it more easily. (Prolly not, but one can hope.)

This is what I get for exercising? One time I went to vacuum my bedroom…I plugged in the vacuum and 10 seconds later the circuit blew. I reset it, plugged the vacuum into a different outlet across the large room and 10 seconds later another circuit blew. I reset it, used a plug in the upstairs hallway and THAT one blew. I decided at that moment that G-d did not want me to vacuum. I wrapped up the cord and put the vacuum away. So, is this what I’m getting about exercising? Multiple messages saying “don’t do it!” Well, another conversation for therapy, I guess.

Also, ow ow ow ow. 😦

 

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Cardiophobia

cardiophobia

Cardiophobia is defined as an anxiety disorder of persons characterized by repeated complaints of chest pain, heart palpitations, and other somatic sensations accompanied by fears of having a heart attack and of dying. Persons with cardiophobia focus attention on their heart when experiencing stress and arousal, perceive its function in a phobic manner, and continue to believe that they suffer from an organic heart problem despite repeated negative medical tests. In order to reduce anxiety, they seek continuous reassurance, make excessive use of medical facilities, and avoid activities believed to elicit symptoms. The relationship of cardiophobia to illness phobia, health anxiety, and panic disorder is discussed.

I had no idea. Did you even know this was a thing?? (edited to add that personally, I don’t actually make “excessive” use of medical facilities…but I do think about how often I go to the doctor and I think about how it would be to go to the doctor every time I felt health or heart anxiety)

I did a bad thing and I googled something semi-medical. I googled “I am afraid of exercise.” And lo and behold, there are people out there just like me, who are afraid of exercising because of cardiophobia. There are other reasons for fearing exercise, but I was mostly focused on the cardiophobia because that’s my issue. Cardiophobia is the main culprit of my health anxiety, although these days I do have some mild cancer recurrence fears, too. By the way, I survived my google espisode and I REALLY only looked at cardiophobia postings…I did not stray or fall down any medical google rabbit holes. Go me.

I had my appointment with my cardiologist this morning. I have mentioned this before, I believe, but I like this man because he’s non-judgemental about my weight and talks bluntly yet kindly when we meet. He listens to what I’m saying before starting in on any exam. He even listened to me when I said I was afraid to exercise because of my heart, and that I was working on it in therapy. He did an EKG which came out fine, then said we hadn’t done a stress test in many years (not since I first saw him probably in 2012 or 2011)…and he said we could do it right away if I was amenable. I said yes, of course, because no time like the present. The stress test was with an EKG and blood pressure cuff hooked up to me, but no echocardiogram like Hub had a week or two ago. The nurse said they only do echocardiograms when there’s a potential structural defect, which the doctor was not concerned about.

The stress test was hard for me. At one point, the BP cuff was so tight (I hate when it starts to tighten, stops, then starts again like it’s starting over…) that my entire right arm from cuff down to my fingers was beet red. I told the tech that the cuff was way tight and she reset it. But those stress tests make you go fast and at an incline on the treadmill and that’s hard. It was already hot in the room and I’m pretty heat intolerant. When they went from high speed and full incline to cool down, I got woozy and I told them. The nurse said that happens and it’ll go away, which is kind of did. Except for the fact that I am having a lot of imbalance issues (like being on a boat rocking up and down) these days, so it didn’t fully go away.

They unhooked me and gave me a cup of water, then the nurse left to consult with the doctor. When she came back, she said they saw no blockages and no abnormalities on the test results, so I was free to go home. Hub was waiting in the waiting room and he helped me out to the car because I still felt overheated and wobbly.

Do I feel better? I’m not entirely sure. But at the very least, when I go in to see T on Friday and we start working on my specific health and exercise anxiety, at least I can say that I was cleared by the cardiologist. Unfortunately, I’m dealing with heartburn again, which had mostly been under control up until about two weeks ago (a lot of this pain is probably the heartburn crap, which I think started out “silently” and is now just getting worse and worse. I’m going to get back onto my digestive enzyme regimen, with the exception of having to find a new digestive enzyme pill because the previous stuff I was using had to be purchased through a practitioner and the nutritionist I was seeing for it refuses to respond to any of my inquiries. I think she’s pissed that I stopped coming in for appointments.

Anyhoo, I’m cleared by the cardiologist. I go in to see T on Friday for hypnotherapy and Neuro-Linguistic Programming. NLP’s creators claim a connection between the neurological processes (neuro-), language (linguistic) and behavioral patterns learned through experience (programming), and that these can be changed to achieve specific goals in life. Apparently NLP is something that hypnotherapists can try to use to help along with the hypnosis. I don’t know squat about it, but we’ll see how things go.

I’ve already had one hypnotherapy session, just an induction where she wanted to see if I could go into a hypnotic state. We tried again on the last session, but I was so mired in grief that I basically burst into tears mid-hypnosis and that was the end of that.

I’ll talk about hypnotherapy in another post soon.

Hub and I started and stopped acupuncture, but are planning to start it again because we both felt it was somewhat helpful for certain issues. We were supposed to start again this week, but my cardiology appointment screwed that up. Hopefully next week.

There’s today’s update.

 

 

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