Monday, August 26, 2013

Thoughts after a regular MRI of the head/neck

Lilies
Lilies
I was able to skip last year's 'annual' MRI, but the doctor stressed that I should get one this year, so I did. Since adenoid cystic carcinoma generally comes back in other areas (lung, liver, bone), I haven't been too worried about something cropping up in the original tumor site (my left cheek, remember?). That may be my faith in the voodoo that is modern day radiation therapy, or just blind cussedness - your call.
Anyway, as I spent an hour in an MRI tube, I wondered again what is going on during the scan that makes that terrible racket. I located this description on How Stuff Works, and share it here in case you too have wondered.
Tips that I can share after spending time in about 10 MRIs since the cancer diagnosis in 2006:

  • Ask for a washcloth to put over your eyes (helps keep down the claustrophobia feelings - if I can't see it, it isn't there). Works for horses being led out of a burning barn, too. Just saying.
  • If anxiety is an issue (ahem, yes, because generally fears of returning or existent cancer are floating through your head while you are in the scan), let health professionals know before your scan day so you can get medication to help get you through the procedure. I have not had to ask for this, but I know it is available for the time when I would need to.
  • Trust your professionals that get you set up for the scan - they know what you are doing. Ask for updates over the speaker, if that will help you. Or ask that they don't give you updates, if you would rather zone out during the hour-plus that you are being scanned. You are never alone while being scanned - they give you a button to push if you need help, and they can talk to you and hear you during the scan.
  • Earplugs - bring your own, or ask for theirs. Do not skip earplugs - trust me.
  • Forget anything you ever saw on a TV show about some actor in a drama getting an MRI. Your scan will probably be set up differently. Mine involves a lot of padding around my face and a frame to hold my head in one place - haven't ever seen it, since I have the magic washcloth over my eyes, so it doesn't matter (but they never show that kind of set up on TV, huh.) Your mileage may vary.
  • If you think you might be too wound up (or too relaxed due to medication) to correctly fill out your paperwork the day of your scan, and you are close to the medical center, go earlier and fill out the paperwork when sober/less-stressed. (Ask if this is possible where you get scanned - it is for me.) It will be one less thing to think about the day of the scan. I keep hoping that the electronic patient record eliminates this step, but for some reason it hasn't yet where I get care. (I secretly think that this is their test of my mental abilities - "let's see if she puts down that appendectomy in the correct year THIS time...")
  • Ask if you can get a digital copy of your scan. I have requested this before (didn't yet on this one), and found it pretty fascinating to see the scans of my head/neck scroll by on my desktop computer. 
  • A really nice thing - a friend texted that they were thinking of me while I was in the scan, so their text was the first thing I saw when I got back to the dressing room to reconnect with real life. Really, really great thing to do.
  • Finally, the best thing I did for myself today was to take the whole day off. I was able to put the scan memories out of my head with wonderful time together with Dear Husband, and talking with my beautiful Mom. Doing what really mattered lessened the scan's impact on my day and regular life. 
I should find out scan results during my upcoming annual visit with the doctor. Not too concerned - if it is positive, I will deal with it. If it is NED (no evident disease), I will continue on my current path. Right now, it is all like a Schroedinger's cat paradox.

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