Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Getting an MRI

I guess you have to find humor somewhere in with all the dread and drama of having Prostate cancer. I know I've never had so many fingers up my butt in all my life as when I started with this whole cancer thing. As one of my co-workers said - at least I didn't like it.

It seemed like everyone, no matter how many times with the same medical person, wanted to feel my prostate. At one point while I was making the rounds of the medical people, I thought I'd just go ahead and bend over rather than wait for them to ask if they could insert their fickle finger to further feel my fate. I'll bet I had the single digit of seven different people determine my disposition.

So then I had an MRI.

I get to the hospital first thing in the morning, just before 7:30 a.m. The receptionist, an elderly and kind lady who'd had throat surgery just the year before, said that the technician had already been looking for me. I thought, jeez, here I am about 10 minutes early and they're already after me. I guess we were both anxious, but for different reasons.

The tech and I met up and he gave me two hospital gowns and a Fleet enema. He told me to remove my clothes, except for shoes and socks, and put the gowns on - one from the back and the other from the front. He told me to follow the instructions on the box for the enema and, if I had any questions, to ask the receptionist.

The receptionist told me to go into the bathroom until I was done and to make sure not to lie on the floor. Huh?!

So I went in to the bathroom, changed into the gowns and read the instructions on the box on how to do this enema. It said to either lie down on the floor, on my left side and crook one leg up or, to get down on knees and forearms with my forehead against the floor. I thought to myself, well, they told me not to lie down, so I won't. But how in the world am I supposed to give myself this enema if I'm down on all fours with my head pressed against the floor and my butt stuck up in the air? After a couple minutes of thought I decided to just squat over the toilet and call it even.

So I gave myself the enema and followed the rest of the instructions. I was to hold the liquid I'd just squirted inside me for as long as I could, at least for five minutes, before (what? exploding?) releasing. I'm walking around inside this 5 foot by 5 foot bathroom holding who knows what inside me for as long as I can. How do you know when at least five minutes are up in a bathroom? How do you know when you can't hold it any longer? I mean, both are a relative thing to consider. I can hold it longer. No, I can't. Yes, I can. If I jump up and down will it work better? What happens if I go all over the floor? Don't laugh, or cough, or it will. I mean, at some point, who cares? I hadn't had anything to eat the entire day before so I had nothing in my bowels to begin with. They just want to make sure you're cleaned out, is all, I was told. So the enema was soap and water? Good thing the box didn't include a brush or I would have really freaked out.

After it was all over I sat in the anteroom and the technician came to get me. He explained that the MRI machine I was going to be going into was the latest and greatest and that it was only one of two of its advanced kind in the country. Whew, that made me feel better. When we got into the room I saw this huge turbine looking thing with GE inscribed across the top of it.

He explained that I was going to lie down on this narrow table and be slid into this circular tube that was just a bit bigger, though certainly longer, than I was. While inside it I estimated that I had about six inches of space above me and virtually none on either side. It is definitely not a place for folks with claustrophobia.

I laid down on the table, he slid me in the tube for a few minutes and it made a bunch of noises. I thought, this isn't too bad. Then he told me he was waiting for the doctor to come. And here I thought I was done.

The doctor came and explained to me that I was going to have an IV in my arm to pump in liquids that would be used for contrast in certain tests and that I was also going to have a rectal coil inserted - guess where - for the entire time it took to do the various tests. And, that I shouldn't move in the least while in the tube. How long, I asked, is this going to take? Oh, a little over an hour was the response. Wait a minute: I'm supposed to lie down on this narrow table in a tube that's more like a tomb with a coil up my butt and liquids that will burn a little when they're released thru the IV in my arm for over an hour - and not move? Yep. Hmmn. How many other guys does this happen to? Oh, about 2 -3 a day, was the answer. Well, if they can do it, ....

So for the next hour or so I lay inside this tube. At first the tech put music on that I listened to through earphones but I didn't like it so I asked him to skip the music. The earphones turned out to be necessary for him to use to communicate with me and to deaden the noise of the MRI. At different times he would say things like, okay, take a deep breath and hold it until I say to let it out. You're doing really great. Don't move.

The machine clanked and whirred and groaned and made all kinds of noises. During one of the tests I swear someone was hitting the tube with a wrench: Bang; bang, bang. Another time it seemed like I was in a wind tunnel and the noise of the wind rose in all its fury, more intense than any wind could ever be. Just when it seemed like the noise was going to bore into my brain, it was over. Each test was accompanied by its own unique sounds. I could tell when one test was over and the next starting by the sounds. Then they said okay we're going to do the test with the IV now. You'll feel a little burning sensation. I did, but mostly I got a strong metallic taste in my mouth.

The whole time I was in the tube I held on to this little rubber device that, when squeezed, would alert them to my needing assistance - like getting the hell out of the tube. I did this once and was gently reminded that each time I did this it only extended the total time it was going to take for it to all be over.

It seemed easier to put myself into this Zen-like trance in which I focused solely on breathing, not on the infinite things that go on when you're told not to move an inch - nose itching, arm twitching, leg cramping, feeling like you're being buried alive. I mean, your mind can really go wild. So I put myself into a meditative state and breathed as easily as I could, trying as best as I could to ignore all the noises going on around me.

Eventually it was over and they both congratulated me on being able to remain so still for so long. I was told by the tech that they had gotten really high quality images. That's great, I said, but I'd really rather have this coil removed and, nothing against you guys, but I hope I don't have to come back here and do this again.

The tech escorted me back to the changing room and wished me well. As we entered the room, the next guy was sitting there, double-gowned, waiting for his turn. He and I looked at each other and I said - hey, no problem. Piece of cake.


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