The next steps: Testing: PET Scan and Breast MRI

On March 23, 2011, I was scheduled for a PET Scan and a Breast MRI Scan.  I was going to go by myself as I hate to ask for help with anything.  I even said no when my Mom said she’d go with me.  My friend Barbara said I shouldn’t go alone for tests like that.  Sometimes you have to be forceful with me with things like this :) 

Now, anyone that knows me knows that I am horribly claustrophobic and was dreading both the PET Scan and Breast MRI.  The oncologist prescribed Valium for me to help me relax during the tests.  The Valium tablets I got were 5 mg each. For the PET Scan, I took 2 pills.  They never had any effect on me.  Since I suffer from severe panic disorder and agoraphobia, I take anti-anxiety meds every day so my body is used to those meds.  I think I would have been better off just taking my normal anti-anxiety meds for the tests.

I had the PET Scan first at the Medical Center of Aurora South.  I had to drink this chalky like substance first and let it go through my system.  I was put into a small room, by myself, with the lights shut off and I had to be quiet.  I wasn’t even allowed to read a book or talk on the phone.  I had to sit there for almost an hour like that.  Then the technician came into the room and found a vein and injected me with radioactive iodine.  I had to sit quietly for another half an hour or so.  I just closed my eyes and tried to meditate, calm myself down because I could picture the tube I was going to be in for the PET Scan.  The worst thing about having to be quiet was that I could hear everything!!!!  The walls in those rooms are paper-thin.  They had brought a family into the room next to mine to give them bad news about a family member and all I could hear were the cries, sobbing and screaming of those who were going to lose someone they love.  One of them was so upset I could hear her vomit.  So much for trying to calm myself down and get myself into a “safe” place.  It seemed to take forever for the technician to come get me but when she did I almost jumped out of my chair.  She scared the shit out of me.

She took me into this huge room that was FREEZING and had me lay down on the long board that looked like it had about 6 huge donuts around it.  She put a blanket on me and told me to try to relax (yeah right!!!!).  I had to lie flat with my arms above my head.  I asked her how long the scan was going to take.  She said about 30-45 minutes!  I almost had a panic attack right there and then!  She said she would be in the room behind the plastic partition and would be able to talk to me.  I could talk to her as well.  She asked me if I was ready.  I laughed and said no.  I took some deep breaths and said “ok, let’s do this”. 

The minute the scanner started to make noise and the bed I was on moved backwards, my heart started to pound.  I closed my eyes and kept them closed the whole time.  There was no way I was going to open my eyes and look up and see the machine right above my head!  She would tell me to hold my breath, to breathe again, how many minutes were left, etc, etc, etc.  All this time, I was doing my best imagining myself on a beach, surrounded by gorgeous palm trees, blue skies, hearing the waves crashing on the surf, feeling the sand between my toes.  Finally, the test was done!  To me, it seemed to last about 2 hours!  I asked the technician when I would get the results of the scan.  She said it would probably be a few days.

I went back to the room where my stuff was, got dressed, shaking the whole time and went back out to the waiting room to get my friend Barbara.  She asked if I was alright.  I showed her my shaking hands and said not really.  From there, we had to go down the street a little ways to another hospital, The Medical Center of Aurora North for the Breast MRI.  It took about 10 minutes to get there.  I was still shaking by the time we got there!

I was more scared to have the breast MRI because of the claustrophobia and it’s a smaller space.  When we got there, we sat in the waiting room for about 5-10 minutes for me to fill out some paperwork and give myself some time to gather my wits about me.  I took one and a half more Valium.  Don’t you think I would have been knocked on my ass by then?  I went and got changed into the gown and the technician took me into the MRI room.  She explained everything to me.  She was very sweet and understanding of my claustrophobia.  She taped a little seed to my right breast where the tumor was, put in the IV for the contrast that would be used later and told me how to get on the table.  This table was hysterical looking!  I had to lay on my stomach with my breasts hanging down through two holes!  I called it the milking machine!  Hey, I had to make some humor out of the situation or else I was going to cry! 

I layed down on the table.  My feet were sticking out at one end and my head was sticking out at the other.  I could look up and see where the technician was going to be.  She went in her room and talked to me to see if I would be able to hear her.  I had earplugs in my ear because of the banging the machine was going to make.  I could hear her.  She came back into where I was and took my hand and said she would be explaining everything, step by step as it was happening.  She said some images would take a few seconds while the longest would take about 7 minutes.  The whole process was going to take about 40 minutes.  I was afraid to let go of her hand.  Again, I took some deep breaths, she asked if I was ready, I said yes and she left the room and closed the door.  Hearing that door close is something that I just can’t describe. 

She got on the microphone and I could hear her.  She said we would be starting in a few minutes.  I had to stay as still as possible and again, there would be times when I would have to hold my breath.  Let me tell you one thing, those earplugs they give you do not drown out the loud banging of the MRI machine ONE FUCKING BIT!  When I couldn’t calm myself down by going to my “safe” place…the beach, I would try to make a song out of the racket that the MRI machine was making.  My heart was pounding again but I made it through the MRI.  I remember at one point after the longest image was taken, I called out and said, “that was the longest 7 minutes of my life”. 

The technician came back in, helped me get off the table and led me back to the changing room.  By the time everything was over, I was extremely drained.  What I didn’t know but found out later from Barbara, was that the technician that was doing the MRI on me also suffers from claustrophobia so she understood everything I was going through during that whole test! 

Barbara and I went out to lunch after everything was done.  At lunch, I had gotten a call from the MRI technician but didn’t hear my phone or feel it vibrate.  When I got home, my Mom said that the technician had called and that I needed to call her back immediately.  I thought to myself….OH SHIT!!!!  Now what???  When I got home, it was almost 4:00pm.  I called the technician, had to leave her a message and waited for her call.  She called me back about 30 minutes later and said that the doctor had taken a look at my MRI and said that they found 3 areas on my LEFT breast that needed to be looked at.  I was in shock…didn’t know what to think or what to say.  They wanted me to come in the next day for an ultrasound of the left breast to have a look to see what was going on.    I made an appointment for the first thing the following day.

On March 24th, my Mom went with me to this ultrasound.  I had a different doctor perform this ultrasound and thankfully it was nothing but fibrograndular tissue (dense breast tissue).  I have to admit, I didn’t get much sleep the night before the ultrasound….what if I had cancer in my left breast as well?????

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. suze
    Oct 17, 2011 @ 21:21:48

    Amers, i want you to understand that what you are doing… writing all of this down.. you need to know just how cathartic this will be for you. You are, in essence, taking something that is arguably out of your control and you are in fact dominating it.. you are taking charge of this disease by verbalising your feelings…by documenting the procedure you are taking control as to how others will be affected… you are educating people and you are helping people. I want to commend you on your strength and on your tenacity. I have gone through those machines… i have dealt with the same procedures and i know you can win. i did.
    love you amers xx

    Reply

  2. Cindy
    Oct 18, 2011 @ 03:07:47

    Oh Amy, I just cannot believe what you have been through! I think the part about the walls being paper thin and hearing another family receive devastating news is just awful. :( I’m so sorry girlfriend. But you are strong and I love that you are writing your story and giving it some humor. What else can you do, right? Cindy

    Reply

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