Tomorrow I’m having my first MRI since being diagnosed a year and a half ago. I was supposed to get one about six months ago but, that didn’t go so well. I got there, undressed, took off all my jewelry, sat down in the big, cushioned, slippery faux leather hospital chair, they found a vein and injected the needle for the MRI contrast stuff. They asked me a bunch of questions and then gave me a look over to make sure I didn’t have any metal on. That’s when they noticed my tissue expander.
“What is that,” asked the nurse, concerned?
“That’s my tissue expander,” I said.
“You still have that,” she asked?
“Well, does it say anywhere in my chart that it has been removed?”
“I didn’t look. I just assumed it was out by now,” she said. “I’m so glad I checked. Expanders have a metal piece in it. That would have been bad. You can’t get an MRI until that is out.”
“WHAT THE FUCK,” I screamed!!!!!!!!
It was a really big, WTF moment. How could that have been missed? I had been psyching myself up for a whole week for that moment and even got injected (and they hit a nerve so it was ouchy) and suddenly, I couldn’t get it!!!???!!! I was not a happy camper. It’s not that I was looking forward to an MRI. Who is? But I wanted the all clear. I wanted to know that my months of chemotherapy and radiation had paid off. At least, that was what I was hoping for. But it was declared that I would have to wait until my expander came out.
3 1/2 months ago, that’s exactly what happened. I got my reconstruction and my expander removed. Two weeks ago, my surgeon ordered an MRI, this time remembering that anything that could have me recreating Alien, was out of my body.
So, here I am, trying to psych myself up again and I’m just as nervous as I was the last time. I’m not scared of being in the little tube. While I’m not excited by the noise, I know I can take it. But my first MRI was scary and I’m terrified as to what could be seen this time around.
I also remember my first MRI like it was yesterday. It was just a couple of weeks after I was diagnosed, and maybe days (or a week) after I found my current breast surgeon. I was booked for a back to back MRI and PET Scan. Once my MRI was finished, I was sent out to the waiting room because the PET Scan machines were running late. After an hour, I was ushered into the whole PET Scan process. After 2 hours, I was released to my mother who was waiting for me in the waiting room with a sandwich (you can’t eat before a PET Scan and by that time it was late afternoon and I was dying of starvation). The other thing that was waiting for me was several phone messages.
One phone message was from a nurse at the MRI station. “We have the results of your MRI. Can you please call us back at your earliest convenience?”
The other phone message was from my breast surgeon’s secretary. “Hi, we’d like to book your next appointment a few days earlier. Call us back to let us know if you can switch your appointment.”
I almost threw up. Why did I have all of these urgent messages on my phone? Why were my results back so quickly? Why did my surgeon want to book me as soon as possible?
Since I just got out of my scans, I went to the front desk and let them know that I got a message to call them. “But I’m here so if someone can just come out to talk to me, that would be great.”
“I think you need to call them,” the secretary said.
“Look!!!!! I just got out of both the MRI and PET Scan and got a message that my MRI results are back. Why can’t someone just come out and talk to me right now? I’m right here!!!!”
She realized that made sense and called the nurse. I went to sit down next to my mother, looked her in the eyes and said to her, “You need to prepare yourself. This is the moment we find out that I’m going to die.”
My mom looked stunned. He eyes widened and face stiffened. How can you hear something like this from your child? “You don’t know that. It could be anything. It could be that they just got the results quickly and want to let you know so you don’t worry.”
“Why would Dr. Guth want to see me so quickly? Something’s wrong. It’s all over my body. They’re going to tell me now that I’m going to die. This is the moment I find out I’m going to die. You better prepare yourself.”
I was convinced of this. There was no other explanation. No other possibility. My fate had been set.
A nurse came out. She sat next to me. I felt the blood leave my face. I felt still, unable to move. I breathed so slowly. She read the results.
“We could see the tumors in the right breast.” She talked about things we already knew about the tumors and how this scan confirmed what we already knew. “But here’s the thing, we don’t see anything in the left breast. I know that your mammogram came back inconclusive for the left, showing a possibility of some tumorous clusters but nothing is showing up here. That’s odd. We don’t think that there’s anything there.”
It turns out, she was right. A failed attempt at a stereotactic biopsy a week later with 6 mammograms to try to find these elusive tumors that my first mammogram had spotted turned out clear. There was no cancer in the left breast. Just lots and lots of calcifications.
An hour after I left the hospital that day, I got a call from my breast surgeon. She wanted to let me know that my PET Scan came up clear and that she was happy with my MRI results. I asked her why she wanted to see me earlier then. What was wrong? It turned out that she just had a cancellation and wanted to get me in as soon as possible so that we could make plans based on that day’s results.
It’s crazy. In one hour I thought for sure I was getting my death sentence and then found out that I was going to live.
Tomorrow, who knows what the results are going to be. I hope that all of my sacrifice, all of my pain and suffering and fighting have been worth it. But, as many of us know, it is not a guarantee. I could have done it all just for the cancer to find a new home in my liver, my bones, my brain, my other breast. Nothing is for certain. Nothing is in my control. I know this. The MRI machine knows this. It just tells the truth of what is brewing beneath the skin.
What is my truth? Is tomorrow the day I find out I’m going to die or that, at least for now, I get to live with no evidence of cancer?
**Update. My MRI came back clear. So as of right now, I’m NED or cancer free, or whatever. There’s no visible cancer! I couldn’t be happier. Thank you for the love and support!!!