Secret decoder ring…

I recently had a “routine” MRI. Add this to the list of things I never thought I’d have to bother with. Every 6 months for the last 5 years, I either have a mammogram or an MRI. One of the spots they removed 5 years ago was pre-cancer and only found via the MRI. When your tissue is dense, sometimes that’s the best way to see what’s hiding. If you’re not familiar with how this works, first you get into the fancy outfit, then you have an IV put in so they can do a dye contrast. Then you wait. You have to be face down on the table with your chest hanging through the opening. They position you just right, with both arms over your head. They hook up the IV and slowly slide you into the machine. I have no idea what this part looks like because I always close my eyes when I lay down and do not open them until I’m done and out. This is a 30-40 minute procedure. They take the regular pictures and then let the dye flow through so they can see if there is anything they missed. While you are laying on the table, the machine is clicking and banging and whirring. Sometimes it sounds like you’re by a jet engine. This clinic gives you music headphones to wear. So, armed with my contemporary Christian music & a blanket of prayers, I lay there as the machine does its job. The prayers for calm and peace must have worked because I actually fell asleep this time. I woke up to the technician saying, “Are you doing Ok?” When it was all done, I gathered my glasses, the key to my clothes locker and put my mask back on. I changed, used sanitizer and went home.

It was in the mid-90’s that day. I was in a hurry to leave, and I suppose they assumed I have had this done before so I’d know what to do. But, I forgot to drink enough water to flush out the dye. And I was outside in 95 and sun. Every other time I’ve had it done, it’s been winter. Dehydration wasn’t rally a big concern. Mine was pushed out from March to June because of COVID. I think I will remember the water next time. I ended up very sick, vomiting, headache, etc. I had to take the next day off from work because I was still sick. I was able to get rehydrated and rested. It was a Tuesday. I missed my blog post that week. That was why. I hadn’t written it ahead and then got so sick.

I waited for test results. I tried not to worry, but why hadn’t they called? What was up? I sent a note to my Oncologist to see if he had heard anything. He was out of the office. They did reply to me though:

“…stable postoperative and postradiation change of the left breast most pronounced in the 9 o’clock position without suspicious masslike or nonmass-like enhancement. No contralateral abnormality or suspicious adenopathy. Continued breast screening according to ACR and ACS guidelines is recommended. Benign Finding.

This is where the secret decoder ring would come in handy. Um, I think this means I’m good? I forwarded the whole paragraph to my sister who is a nurse, just to confirm. Yep, you’re good. Wheew. Thank God. Meet with the Oncologist this Thursday just to make sure everything else is fine and determine next steps. Navigating medical issues is scary. It’s hard to know what they are talking about, and sometimes it’s overwhelming. If you are going through this, ask questions, but write them down whenever you think about it. You may get doctor’s office amnesia” and forget every question when you sit down. So having a notebook for questions is helpful. Don’t worry if you think it’s a silly question. If it’s bothering you, ask. If something doesn’t seem right, tell them. Their goal is to help you.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. And if you find a ring, maybe it will help.

Eraser tip that makes you hold your breath…

An eraser tip. You know what I’m talking about. It’s usually perched on the top of a #2 pencil. But why hold your breath? Are you taking a test? Kind of…

As a cancer survivor, self checks are important but scary. A few weeks ago, I felt a lump on my left side. This was the side I had cancer on, had a lumpectomy & radiation. I thought maybe it was my imagination… maybe it wasn’t new. Maybe it was scar tissue. Maybe if I don’t think about it or talk about it, it won’t happen. If thoughts become things, I don’t want this to be either. So I told nobody. Not one person. I knew my oncology follow up was coming up soon, so I’d have it checked then.

Breathe…

My appointment was on a Friday afternoon. It works out well because I miss less work and the parking is way better also. I assured everyone it was a routine check up and it wouldn’t take long. When I mentioned the lump to the Dr, his face turned serious. He knew that an eraser tip could change my life again. He could feel the lump I was talking about & immediately called to see if they could get an ultrasound done yet that same day (Friday afternoon, what are the odds?). Odds or spirit or God or good vibes- something was working because I got in right away. It was 4:30 by the time I got up there. I knew the routine, but I still felt like I was holding my breath.

Breathe…

Cold ultrasound gel goes on. “Oh, this spot here?”… yep – not my imagination. “It’s probably nothing.” Forgive me for not believing you, but I’ve heard that before (I said in my head). She went to talk to the Dr. Then the Dr came in to look for herself. She pointed the screen towards me and explained what she was seeing… normal tissue, muscle & the lump… it was just a fatty tissue. Nothing to worry about.

Breathe…

Routine breast MRI was coming due soon also. I asked if I could have it done here to save me a trip. Sure enough, they could get me in the following Thursday. Excellent! Again, supposed to be routine, but this would see deeper & clearer and be confirmation of how good things are. This MRI room had headphones so you could hear music along with the loud noises of the machine. Nice. For this MRI, you lay on your stomach… arms above your head, chest through two holes in the bottom & you go in head first. It takes about 30-40 min. My mind drifted and raced and calmed.

Breathe…

I was back to work by 9:30am. Excellent. Now to wait. I was surprised to see the Sanford number show up as a missed call and voice mail at 11am. Ugh. Voice mail? They don’t call that quick and not with good news. I called back. “Your MRI was all clear.” 5 words that made me feel like cheering. Wheew.

Breathe…

In 6 months, I’ll have a mammogram again, but until then, I can breathe. I may never look at an eraser the same way again though. One thing I’m learning is to stop and breathe. On your journey of enough may you take the time to breathe deeply. Whatever you’re going through, stop and take a good deep breath. You’re alive, you’re here, and you are enough. Exhale.