Ever since I was diagnosed with my secondary mets, I have been having full body MRI scans every three-four months to gauge if there has been any progression, which then decides if my treatment needs to change. So that’s 3-4 a year for 4+ years. Plus a few more for specific areas like my head and lower pelvis. Let’s say that adds up to between 14 and 18 scans over that time.
To give you a real insight of what it’s like for me in the scanner, here’s a picture I found online. However, there’s a couple of differences. If I went in as the lady is below, I would be looking at the inside of the machine. So I have a cage put over my head which has a mirror on it and that allows me to see my feet outside the scanner, and a picture of a tropical island, kindly put up my the radiology staff. I also have another plate over my hips as well as the one over my chest. Even before I go into the scanner, I’m already strapped down.
Source: MRI Master
For the full body variety, I am in the MRI machine for about an hour. During that time there are different scans performed. Some last a minute and a half, some last four minutes and some longer, but I am in the machine the whole time, with the bed repositioning me into various places within the scanner.
The normal schedule is:
- Lie on scanner bed putting my head in a head shaped form.
- I am given foam earplugs to put in and headphones over that, so I can listen to music.
- The Radiographers strap the chest and hip plate down, clip in the head cage, and give me the panic button.
- A blanket is put over me as the machine has fans blowing through it to keep the machine and the patient cool but sometimes it can be too cool.
- The Radiographers leave the room and I am moved into the MRI machine.
- I relax myself, close my eyes and listen to the music whilst the scanner does it's thing.
- A couple of the scans require me to hold my breath whilst the scans are done, so I am not able to completely zone out and go for a nap.
- Once everything is done, the radiographers come back into the room, I'm removed from the machine, and the plates and cages are removed. All is done, and I can go home. Yay!!
Unfortunately yesterday’s scan didn’t quite go to plan.
I had made it to the last but one scan, which happened to be a particularly noisy one. My position in the scan had my shoulder right on one of the air vents. It was so cold and so strong that it was making my shoulder hurt. I tried to relax, tried mind over matter, I was thinking the scan couldn’t go on for much longer, but it went on and on and on…. until I couldn’t take it anymore.
I squeezed the panic button.
The scan stopped, the radiographers said something through the speakers but because of the earplugs and headphones, I couldn’t hear, so I squeezed the button again. Next thing I was pulled out of the scanner. I told them I needed the cages and plates off as I needed to sit up and breath. They took them off, and after what felt like an eternity, I was free and able to sit up. Unfortunately, because I panicked, the radiographers were not able to put on their PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), and I had taken my mask off to go into the scanner, so we were all potentially put at risk of being in contact with COVID-19. Right at that moment, as I was trying to calm my breathing down and stop crying, I really didn’t care. I hope that decision doesn’t come to bite me in the backside.
I managed to calm myself down enough to go back into the machine to finish the scan I aborted. The fan on the machine for some reason been turned up to 5, when it is normally on 2. This was reset, and I thought I was calm enough to finish off the rest of the scans. I managed to complete one. I couldn’t do the last one. It was too much. My heart was pounding, my breathing was too fast, my chest felt tight and I just wanted to get out of the department and into the fresh air.
Ross had been waiting for me in the carpark as he wasn’t allowed to wait in the waiting room, so I got into the car, told him what happened and cried some more.
At home I took a diazapam and had a lie down to try and relax. I’m a bit flummoxed that this happened and have been a bit shaky since. I’m hoping that next time won’t be a repeat performance. I’ve promised myself that before the next one, I’ll take a diazapam to relax me. It worked with the head cage when I was having Cyberknife, so hopefully it’ll do the trick for a scan.
So, it’s back to life in lockdown and hoping that I haven’t exposed myself during this episode.
I hope you and your loved ones are all managing to keep calm and carry on.
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