So as part of my ongoing monitoring, I have to have an MRI. Every two months.
If you’ve been following along, you might remember that I enjoyed my first two MRIs but then managed to develop a crippling anxiety on my third. So two-monthly MRIs are not high on my list of things I want to do.
I emailed my CNS (Clinical Nurse Specialist) and told her I was a bit worried about getting through the MRI and wondering what my options were. She said she would write me a prescription for Lorazepam and that it would be waiting in the pharmacy for me to pick up before my MRI. Brilliant. Half a tablet 20 mins before, another half later if necessary. I considered just taking a whole one but I was going out after for my friend’s birthday and didn’t want to over-drug myself unnecessarily. I had no idea how it would effect me so thought I should err on the side of caution.
I was in at the Macmillan centre early as I wasn’t sure if I would need to wait for the prescription. I didn’t need to wait in the end so I headed over to The Living Room to get a cup of tea. I was sitting there drinking my tea when one of the Macmillan peeps came over to just ask if I needed anything. I explained I was just killing time before my terrifying MRI.
We had a bit of a chat about the MRI and she gave me some good tips and said to ask to listen to music. I didn’t even know this was a possibility, it had never been an option before. But I hadn’t had an MRI in the Macmillan centre before. I introduced her to Clarence who I had taken along in the hope I could take him in with me. It was just nice to chat to someone about it and she helped me feel calm. So thank you!
I then made my way down to the bottom floor for the dreaded MRI. While I was waiting I popped half a Lorazepam under my tongue as advised. Breathe in, breathe out. I’m calm.
Before long it was my turn. I put my things in a locker (two lockers actually… I had a pot plant in my bag… Totally normal) and went to get a needle shoved in my arm. Aargh the dreaded cannula! ‘My veins are difficult…’ I tell her as I grit my teeth and clutch the chair with my other hand. Thankfully she got in first time! Yeah the cannula hurt in my vein but it was in! This of course brought about the following conversation I have had so many times:
Her: it hurts? It shouldn’t hurt… Let me just check it’s placed properly…
Me: oh I’m sure it is, this is normal.
Her: well it seems to be in your vein fine, but… It shouldn’t hurt…
Me: don’t worry, I’m used to it.
So that was good. I clutched Clarence to my chest and in we went. I warned them I was problematic last time but wasn’t sure how I would go this time. But I had Clarence to hold and a sleep mask to put over my eyes.
The Imager (Imager? Radiographer? MRI-er? Lady-who-does-the-MRI?) came out too and they got me ready to go in. They told me that this machine was one of the more roomy ones and that THEY COULD PLAY MUSIC THROUGH THE HEADPHONES! Dream. Yes please. What kind of music did I want? Pop music? Um… Yeah sure.
I got on the tray, put my sleep mask on, clutched Clarence and they put me in. I was feeling fine until I got all the way in, then the panic set in and I had to get out. As quickly as I went in, I was out again. Hyperventilating, panicking, I couldn’t face the thought of being in there.
I lay there for a bit, trying to control my breathing. ‘Maybe it would be better if you could see the mirror in front of you so you could see us in the room?’ I took my mask off for a minute and looked at it. The tiny periscope making me feel immediately trapped even though I was out of the machine and I panicked again. They took the cage off my face for a bit.
We talked a bit. The lady who did the cannula said ‘you’ve already done the easy bit, you’ve already been in there!’ If that were the easy bit then it would be fine! It’s the staying in there for 20 mins that was the hard part!
Actually it turned out that this MRI is quite a quick one. Only 15mins. That’s good.
‘Where is your favourite place in the world?’ The Imager asked.
‘Ummm… I don’t know…’ I answered stupidly. I mean it was the correct answer, I don’t know! But it wasn’t helpful here.
‘Mykonos’ I answered finally.
She smiled. She told me to think of the winding streets, of the white buildings. Of wandering down to the far end of the town and winding back along the waterfront. She painted a fantastic picture and I was immediately transported. I get it. Visualisation. I know this technique. But though I know this technique, I’m not sure I could have transported myself there on my own. Having this chat with her grounded me, pulled me back, took my mind off the task at hand. We discussed the sunset over the windmills and I thought about all the restaurants and bars that line the shore.
By the time they put me back in, I was in holiday (and maybe by then the Lorazepam was kicking in). I put my mask back on and they moved me back into the machine very slowly (this helped), the music was already going so I could distract myself easily, and a gentle touch on my hand as I went in made me feel supported and not too far away.
Immediately I was lying on a beach. I could even feel the warmth of the sun on my face. The pop music playing in the club behind me. And from then on I was calm. I was fine. Over the speakers I was kept updated on how long for each scan – ‘just 1 min 20 for this one Jen’. Ok cool.
My guilty pleasure song came on (dynamite by Taio Cruz) and I pictured myself at a beach party with my friend Ange as the sun set. I had to remind myself to stay still and not dance to the music. At this point I was actually smiling!
And then it was over. Easy. Having that chat with the girls (and probably the Lorazepam) got me through it.
The Imager told me that she’s made note on my file to always scan me in that machine – the slightly bigger one that allows music, and to make sure there’s extra time for me if I need it, so I’m not rushed. What a saint. We had a chat after about holidays and she said she’s getting married in the South of France in a couple of weeks! So I hope she has the most amazing time and the weather is perfect!
She honestly saved me. I am forever grateful for her patience, amazing helpful attitude and beautiful smile!
Her parting words to me were a reminder to ask for help when I need it. Specifically, in relation to asking my friends to come with me to the MRI, but also just in general. I’ve been told this once before in a particularly memorable way. It’s true, I probably should. I just like to try and get through things on my own and not bother people. But she’s right. And I appreciated the reminder.