So, I don’t know if I mentioned this before or not, but once upon a time I had this thing? With my boobs? And if I use a lot of question marks it will be incredibly annoying but seem less important? But the Cliff Notes version is that I had a lump removed from my left breast (not cancer), and while they were figuring all of that out, they discovered something else in my right breast (also not cancer) which they decided they wanted to track.
My boobs, let me show you them. They are FASCINATING. (And by “show you them” I of course mean “talk about them ad nauseum.”)
Well, I went and saw a new ladybits doctor who is quite interested in my boobs. Naturally.
She sent me for a mammogram, and they found… exactly the same thing that’s been found on my last three mammograms, which is an area of “concern” in the right breast that should be tracked. Now, my understanding has always been that that means WATCH IT, but this new doctor, she is a humdinger. She decided that WATCHING IT from mammogram to mammogram was not sufficient. She decided that I needed to have it biopsied “to be on the safe side.”
I’ve had a breast biopsy before, and while it wasn’t awful, it’s not going to be my favorite leisure-time activity any time soon. But she said that’s what I needed, so I said fine. She said she’d call me back with the details.
When she called back, it was to say that actually, the radiologist (perhaps the same one who advised JUST WATCHING) thought that a biopsy was overkill. But that they’d agreed that an MRI would be a good idea.
Fine, I said. Whatever you think is best. Great! She said. We’ll set it up.
Her office scheduled me for an MRI, about six weeks ago. The night before my appointment, the hospital called to say that the insurance was denying coverage, and did I want to guarantee payment on my own? Uhhhhh, no, I didn’t.
I canceled the appointment and called the doctor’s office the next day to ask them to figure it out.
They figured it out, all right. I mean, they did eventually. The insurance company only denied coverage two more times before they finally got it approved and made me a new appointment, which is how I came to have an MRI this morning in such a timely manner. If I actually had breast cancer I’d probably be dead by now, but BY GUM the insurance company saved some important nickels there, buddy.
I went to the hospital, and I was given a pager at the registration desk. I sat and waited for a while, and then they beeped me and did my intake paperwork. They sent me upstairs, where I gave them my paperwork and sat and waited awhile, again, until they came to get me. They had me fill out MORE paperwork, then they had me sit and wait a bit, then they took me to a little changing booth where I could strip and remove all the metal from my body.
Then I got to sit and wait in a hallway, in a hospital gown, which is not weird or awkward at all.
I wish someone had explained to me, beforehand, how the MRI works. I mean, maybe this is common knowledge, I don’t know—all I know is that I had NO IDEA what I was in for.
First of all, the MRI ladies have no sense of humor whatsoever. And I think that if you are going to stuff people into big metal tube, you should know how to crack a joke or two, first. But maybe that’s just me. Instead, they were very cold and clinical, first inserting an IV and then responding to my “Um, I’m claustrophobic, I’m feeling really nervous” with blank stares.
As it turns out, being claustrophobic isn’t an issue with a breast MRI. I assume that for other body parts, you lay on your back, and therefore can behold the tiny quarters into which you’ve been jammed. But for breast imaging, you lay on your stomach, so there’s really no way to see how surrounded you are, anyway.
Here is what you do: You lay stomach-down on a hard table that has rectangular cut-outs for your breasts—because breasts are rectangular?—which leaves the girls free to dangle down for scanning. Two techs will reach underneath and rearrange your boobs for you once you’re lying down, and they don’t buy you a cup of coffee first or tell you you’re pretty or ANYTHING. While they’re doing that, you settle your face into this horrible facemask thing and realize that your hip bones are resting on bare table and already feeling uncomfortable even though you’ve just laid down 30 seconds ago.
At this point, the techs will have you reach your arms up and over your head “like Superman,” and you will briefly think to yourself that this is what it would be like, exactly like this, if Superman and Hannibal Lecter had a love child. A love child who needed a breast MRI.
Now your hips are feeling numb, your face is itchy, the techs are putting a “panic ball” in one hand and telling you to squeeze it if you need them during the scan but DON’T MOVE, otherwise, and you’re thinking, Hey, whatever, I can do this for a few minutes, stop being such a baby.
Aaaaaaaand then the techs will cheerfully announce that you should “just relax” and it will all be over in ABOUT FIFTY MINUTES. Then they’ll leave the room cackling.
Fifty minutes of laying face-down, boobs flapping in the wind, nose itching, hip bones screaming, and a panic ball in your hand that you’re not allowed to use simply to call the techs sadistic bitches. SHEESH.
Now, the techs have been kind enough to give you earplugs, which is nice, because WITH the earplugs the various banging and crashing and clanging and reverberations will make you wish that you were deaf, or maybe just dead. Every time that you think that maybe, just maybe, it’s almost over? Another rhythmic crashing starts up and your brain is vibrated beyond rational thought.
Halfway through (one assumes; how could you tell? it’s purgatory in there) a voice will come over the loudspeaker.
“You’re doing GREAT! Keep up the good work!”
And you will think smugly to yourself, “Yes, I am fabulous. I can LIE VERY STILL with the best of them. Who knew I possessed such rare talent? Indeed, I am working very hard.”
And a bit later, the voice will return to announce, “We’re going to inject the contrast, now, through your IV. It may feel a bit chilly in your arm.” And then, yes, there is an icy sensation flowing through your arm, interesting, but you are UTTERLY UNPREPARED for what happens next, which is that the clanging and banging starts up again and the iciness is replaced by a sensation of WARMTH all over, a buzzing, humming sort of warmth, and for one discombobulated moment—you can barely think straight, with all the NOISE—you will wonder if you have peed on yourself.
Because, really, it seems impossible that there’s something MORE HUMILIATING than lying there smashed into the face mask with your boobs flapping beneath you, but pissing yourself would certainly top that, you’re thinking.
It turns out that you haven’t urinated, of course (phew), but by the time they announce it’s over and pull you out of the Tube Of Cacophony you discover that you feel quite strange, and have some trouble getting back up off the table.
You’re fine, of course, if you’re willing to overlook the fact that you look as though you just arose from the hardest sleep of your life, the kind of sleep you haven’t had since you were in college or maybe badly hungover. Your face is grooved in four different places from the mask, and despite vigorous rubbing back in the changing booth, the creases seem destined to hang around for a while. Well, no matter. Why not go meet a friend for coffee?
Later, you’ll arrive home and a peek in the mirror will reveal that your forehead is still deeply creased. You will conclude that nothing so ridiculous could possibly reveal anything other than that your face, it likes to crease. You may also wonder if people at the coffee shop glanced your way and wondered what the hell was wrong with your face, but it’s too late to do anything about it now, anyway.
Yeah. I can see where the insurance company would have to be extra-vigilant about covering these procedures. I mean, they’re SO INCREDIBLY GREAT I’m sure everyone wants to have one for no reason at all. Admit it. You’re jealous. I just get to have ALL THE FUN.