MRI Happy Dance

My last radiation treatment was in April of 2010. My follow-up: Alternating every six months, I have a mammogram and an MRI.

Friday, January 13th was my MRI. Driving to the appointment, I thought how crazy it was to schedule an MRI on this day. But, hey, Bill was flying home from China today. What the hell, we live on the edge of superstition.

With my whole being, I try to keep these appointments like a regular dentist cleaning or a physical. And it works – to a certain point. On that Friday it was all calm until the transfer ceremony of the blue Johnny.

Damn. I hate blue Johnnys. They are a transfer of power – away from me.

The same tech has set me up each time I’ve been in for an MRI. And after questions about any metal implants or fake eyeballs in my body, she says, “OK, let’s get your IV set up.”

Damn. I forgot about that needle. But my veins are from a line of women who hand-milked cows and carried 5-gallon pails of feed. “Wow, look at that vein! That’s a nice one.” My veins always excite phlebotomists.

A tiny, tiny prick and we are set. I don’t watch the needle entry or the taping or anything. I strike up conversation, reverting to that good old safe Iowa topic: the weather. Unfortunately, while protecting the visionary sense, another one kicks into high gear.

“Damn! I forgot my gum! I can taste the saline.” And the tech says, “Yeah, that happens to some people.” I thought she should understand a bit more. “That sends me right back to the infusion suite, hooked up to a chemo IV.” “Oh…”

We move from the IV center to the MRI chamber. “What radio station do you want in your headphones?” Country. It would be nice to hear bits and pieces of a story in between the jack-hammering magnetics.

“I imagine you remember the drill: Put the girls in the two holes.” We get “the girls” placed; then I get a panic buzzer in my left hand and hold the IV string in the right hand. Looking down, I should be able to see the wall with the magic mirror. But I’ve already decided I’m going to close my eyes because I don’t want to see a red curl flung over the mirror. For my very first MRI, the curl and I talked quite a bit about its impending travels away from my head.

The techs leave the room and turn on the music. “…I went sky-diving; I went Rocky Mountain climbing; I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu; And I loved deeper; And I spoke sweeter…” Are you fucking kidding me? “Live Like You Are Dying” crooning in my ear as I roll on into the cancer-seeking chamber?

“OK, are you ready, Linda?” Sure. “The first test will run for 3 minutes.”

“You are doing great!” I’m not afraid of tight places. I’ve dove down to 100 feet in the Caribbean and communed with turtles and Rock Beauties. My body lies there, but my mind goes for a scuba dive. One of the most tranquil places on earth.

Three more… four more sets of BANG, BANG, BANG tests, then, “We are going to start the IV now.” Another quick hit of saline in my mouth. And I don’t think it’s my imagination that the tracer liquid has been kept at -32 degrees prior to running cool through my arm.

Finally, “OK, Linda you are all set. We’ll bring you out, but remember you are up high, and we need to lower you before you stand up. And move slowly, you might be light-headed.”

Farm girls, you know the scene of the cow being corralled into a livestock trailer? And the ambitiousness of her attempted escape? My feet flew to the ground and my horns popped up ready to gore anything in my path, with a smile on my face. The techs just looked at me. “I’m fine,” I assured them. I focused on the table with my glasses and moved to it. I thanked the techs, but one walked with me to the dressing room.

“Are you OK?” “Yup, I’m fine.” “OK, good luck!”

What the hell does THAT mean? Is that the kind of thing you say to someone after an MRI on Friday the 13th? After an IV to the ear of “Live Like You Are Dying?”

I stuck the Johnny in the bin, stood up straight, got to the car, and called my sister. I recapped the morning’s events. “Linda, she says ‘good luck’ to everyone.” We laughed.

I still think the tech needs a better sending off line. And I couldn’t think of one. “Good bye.” No good. “Have a great day!” It may be one of your last. “See you next time!” Bad omen.

“Good luck” it is.

And it was.

On Monday I got the message on my cell phone. “Linda, I’m just calling with good news about your MRI…” And this time I was in a public place, I held it together.

I rarely collapse to my knees in tears on the kitchen floor. That's an over-acted scene in a bad movie. I don’t think I ever did that in the middle of the cancer year.

But those calls that say, “You’re OK”… Boom, down. They take my breath away. They open flood gates.

They give me six more months of living cancer-free.