I just had to find a way to get through the MRI. That’s all there was to it. It had to happen.
Look, I know I can do MRIs. I’ve proven time and time again that I can. It’s been quite a few since I last had a panicky one, and that’s because I’ve got so good at managing them, making sure everything is in order. But getting one sprung on you when you’re already feeling pretty fragile… well… If I cried and panicked at the idea of it, what would happen if I did that in the machine? I’m mostly keeping it together in general life, but on the verge of losing it at any point if anything is particularly startling. And there has been a lot of startling.
But I am a problem solver. I love a process. I love stripping things down and working out why they work, and perhaps how they can be replicated differently to the same effect.
So. The mission is: let’s take control. Let’s make this work.
First, I told them that I would need Lorazapam. And I will take two, thank you. I would take one maybe an hour before the scan, then one on my way down.
I had Clarence with me so that was one thing sorted.
I didn’t have my eye mask with me, so I’d have to work out what I could use. I wondered about damp paper towels, though they might fall off. Then I had a brainwave. The mask I had brought for the uber ride to the hospital had no metal in it. I could use that as an eye mask! It also got bonus points in the ‘connection’ category because my mum made it. Something to think about if at any moment in the scan I was feeling alone.
I would also make sure I was wearing the t-shirt that my friend Nat got me with the logo of the pool we swim at. If I feel like I’m going to panic, maybe I can rub the fabric of it between my fingers and think of her and the beautiful sparkly (freezing) blue water that we dive into. Not alone.
Then I took a few moments to remind myself of the feelings of having Rosa there with me last time. When she’d held my hand through the whole scan, when she’d even briefly placed a hand on top of my other hand as I was going in, which sat on top of Clarence on my stomach. The time she’d said to me: ‘I can see your whole body.’
I sat for a while thinking about all these experiences and how they’d felt, physically feeling the relief they’d brought me. I relaxed my whole body and I smiled and really tried to feel that sense of my calm in my body. She might not be able to be here this time, but these little acts of reassurance she’s given me in the past, I can carry forward.
All that leaves me with is: asking the technicians firstly to create a relaxed environment. Then to please keep a hand on my body as I go in. Then to start the scan as quickly as possible so I’m not left there alone, wondering what’s going on, where everybody’s gone, and how long they’re going to leave me there.
Maybe, just maybe, I could do this. Well, I would have to.
So at 9:10 I asked my nurse for my Lorazepam. I asked for both so I had the second one ready to take when the porter came.
He turned up just before 10. We went zipping through the corridors as he pushed me in a chair all the way from T14 to T2 (via a lift). Zoooom zooooom zooooooooooom.
When I turned up, I told the technician immediately that I was liable to be panicky. He a nice smile and a soft, gentle voice. I liked him, he made me feel safe. ‘We will help to get you through it’ he said. ‘But it really is quite important that we get these images. So let’s see if we can do it together.’ I smiled. I like that, we’re a team. This was the exact vibe I needed. Unfortunately, there were people in front of me in the queue so I had to wait in the hallway. I didn’t listen to the thought that the Lorazepam might wear off if we waited too long. I was just grateful I’d insisted on the two so I could cover all bases.
He popped back to check in with how I was feeling and let me know there was still a little while longer. He asked if I would like him to check in with me between scans, letting me know how long they would be. I said yeah, that would be nice actually. I also asked how long it would be and the answer wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear because it was slightly longer than my usual – 40 mins. I tried not to think about that too much. If I could do 20, I could do 40. That wasn’t my issue. The problem would be getting through the first few.
Eventually he came and got me. The other technician came up and introduced herself to me and she was so lovely and immediately reassuring. I spoke to them about the putting a hand on me and the starting the scan quickly.
So I got in and they got me set up. She held my hand as I went in then she held it for a few moment more and said ‘how do you feel, do you feel safe enough if I step out?’ and I said yes, absolutely, I would be fine. Then he came and took over and very quickly, the scan started. And I had the time of my life. I kept thinking I was on a fairground ride. No part of it felt dangerous or lonely or like I was trapped. Yes of course there was still a cage on my face so I couldn’t just ‘move myself out’, but there was nothing about it that was scary or panicky. And as alway, I quite enjoy the scan itself. I often write songs in them based on the patterns of the scans, or in the case of this one, apparently picture myself at the coast at a fairground.
It turns out, I think, that I’ve done so much good work on getting myself through MRIs that maybe somewhere along the way I have cured myself (with a little help from my friends). I’m not saying I’m ‘all better’ now because the fear is still there. The panic of waiting for ages for it to start and if I ever have a technician who doesn’t work with me and start early, or if someone refuses to keep a hand on me as I go in, I could just as easily tip back over. Because I know what it’s like to be stuck in there panicking and still having to wait minutes until they can get you out (as opposed to just hopping out myself). But maybe, just maybe, I know enough now to ask for what I need and as long as they oblige, I think we can do this.
10 Comments Add yours
Well done! Proud of you. What a big accomplishment xx
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What a difference having a team who are understanding and patient about your fears! But you are the 🌟 bravo 👏👏
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Well done, Jenna. Good to be able to feel in control. It is hard work, but well worth it.
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So so relieved it went well. You’ve gained control of situations that could otherwise cause untold stress. You have learnt strategies to help you cope and you are downright amazing. Well done.
Yeah, I feel like a lot of our fears stem from a feeling not being in control and I know that feeling like I’m in control makes the difference so I like to try convincing myself that I am. It seemed to work in my favour so hopefully I can take that forward!!
So brave! Glad you had some good people there to help you through it. 🤗 Jenny Tuck
You have and continue to go through so much. I cannot imagine anyone not being a little anxious about having an MRI. Staff should always remain vigilant that patients are nervous and always try to support as much as possible. I think sometime they forget this… for them it’s normal, for patients it’s a scary time and the only reason you’re there is because it’s necessary. I think you’re amazing! x
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Yes I can imagine a lot of people have an issue with it for a variety of reasons. For example, I’ve realised I’m not actually claustrophobic per se, jut feel very alone when I’m lying in there waiting and trapped and that triggers my panic. I think they probably do forget, doing so many, though radiographers have almost always been very empathetic and reassuring, and they’re always keen to help, to get me through in whatever way they need to and if that’s holding my hand as they put me in, they’re happy to do it.
Hey 👋 you did it! I’m proud of you! I’d absolutely love someone to stay with me next time when I have MRI, that would definitely bring on the feeling of comfort and security. Once when my old radiology department, where I was working, got a new MRI and we were allowed to volunteer for scans. I was not scared at all! But then, I didn’t have cancer… Cancer changed my MRI, PET scan, CT, all experiences into something unpleasant even when the results were good or at least okay.
When I was diagnosed with TIA, I wasn’t scared, just wanted a confirmation that I have no stroke. That MRI was okay, but the others haven’t really been highlights of my life. I find that if I open my eyes, I panic, so I tend to keep them closed until someone tells me the scan is over.
I think a Clarence would be a very welcome companion, so I’ll bring my panda 🐼 with me next time.
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Yes! I definitely think it’s exacerbated by having lots of other scary stuff happening, I mean I was fine with my first couple, then it all started to hit me. Yes! Clarence approves of taking a fluffy friend in with you! It really helps to centre and ground you and makes you feel less alone.