Time for breast MRI number two, the indicator of how effective my treatment thus far has been. (In other words, is the chemo shrinking the tumor?)
The Radiologist is the same one I had for my first MRI a couple months ago. We remember each other. She’s about my age, maybe a few years older. She wears her hair tied back like I used to, she makes a lot of eye contact, and she bows a little when she says goodbye. I wonder if she remembers me more by my face or by the cancerous images she views on her screen. Anyway, I like her.
Today she has me in her office to start the IV, through which she’ll insert dye contrast during the last scans. Thankfully, the needle goes in easy enough and we’re left chatting for a few minutes before the machine is available.
She’s looking over my charts and commenting on my height to weight ratio. “I’m 130 pounds too! Actually, 135; I just gained 10 pounds,” she tells me. “But I have nooooo muscle. I’m just like a big, thick soy patty, or something.”I laugh at her analogy. She continues to describe her lack of exercise and comments enviously on my toned legs. I’m a little stupefied at the irony of her coveting anything at all about my body or health at the moment.
Cancer doesn’t follow clean rules about who will get it and when. It will defy conventions on prior health, age, gender, or even family history. It’s not predictable or understandable. There are things we can and should do to bring our risk factors down, but even so, cancer, like most other diseases, can creep up on anyone, at any time. So, while I may be a lean fish next to my soy patty pal here, I’m still the one with a needle in my arm and cancer in my chest.I climb on the table to lie face-down, as I’m directed. There’s a white, bowl-shaped head rest at the top that fills my forehead with painful pressure as soon as I settle into it; it feels like the entire weight of my body is concentrated into the space between my eyebrows. The bowl also confines the flow of air to my face - not an ideal situation for a person suffering from nausea. I’m imagining vomiting into all that white and still having to hold still for the remainder of the tests.
The prickles of a hot flash descend not long after I’ve been inserted in the MRI tube. I can feel the sweat collecting at each hair follicle remaining on my head – all 12 of them. The flush of heat severely challenges my ability to remain still.I can do this. This is a small challenge. I’m picturing floating in a cool pool of water… diving below the surface, the calm, the quiet, the water muffling the loud banging and clanging of the MRI machine.
“Here comes the dye,” says Soy Patty through the intercom. A strong chemical odor wafts to my nostrils just as I feel the liquid being pulsed into the vein of my right arm. My weak stomach is fluttering; I feel so sick I actually laugh. Yes, I really am lying uncomfortably in an MRI machine, with bruised veins, sick from chemotherapy, and having a hot flash. This really is my life.The imaging only takes about 15 minutes and then I’m rolled out and allowed to stand dizzily on my own two feet. I receive Soy Patty’s small bow and best wishes, get my “toned” but unfortunate self dressed and head out with a bright, red indentation smack between my eyes.