yesterday was the annual joy good-time fun brain scan in clackamas. the morning I arrive at the same hospital, same waiting room w/ the same receptionist and same bad painting, the same changing room w/ the same key for valuables attached to a wiffle-ball, the same MRI bay, the same enormous sci-fi machine that I was inserted into a mere and/or interminable 3 years ago: the very event that kicked off my travels into brain tumor land.
granted I’ve had multiple MRIs since that very first one but in different locations (MGH, OHSU etc). Returning to the original hospital always triggers some sort of body reaction. pre-flight nervousness. body quake. anxiety. fear. panic. nausea. depression. blend. swallow. repeat. the unfortunate thing is that it is a sustained sensation, one that I’ve been enduring for the past 5 wks, beginning in early December, continuing through the new year and beyond.
the best metaphor I can summon (also the most unsavory) is that if you were gang-raped in an alleyway and every year afterward asked by your doctor to return to that alleyway to confirm that you won’t ever be gang-raped again, your body would resist that idea of return, wanting instead to get as far away – geographically, emotionally, temporally – to blot out all memory of the worst experience of your life. Defying all rational thought and all the science and all the treatments and all the numbers in my favor; once the rug has been yanked out, it is near impossible to trust implicitly that it won’t ever be yanked again.
However, if this is the price I pay to be alive I’ll pay it. I’m one of the lucky ones.
If you’ve never had an MRI for your brain it is difficult to explain what the experience is like. The grinding unsteady churn of whirling magnets in staccato bursts in rapid fire full volume (the ear-plugs are a meager buffer). Your head held in place so you don’t move. (Not that you could move anyway, there’s about ¼ inch between you and the pod wall). Finally, the noise stops. A voice crackles on the intercom, “you’re doing great. next one will take about six minutes” and then you’re off again, finding quiet and stillness in the peaks and rhythms of the incessant pounding. About 30 minutes in, they pull you out. Inject your arm with contrast. Insert you back in the machine. More churn. More pounding. And your mind thinks, let this be the last one. And it isn’t. You just want to go home.