1/16/20

And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Yesterday, I had a breast MRI. It’s no secret that I dealt with breast cancer a couple years ago, and a year after the surgery, the surgical site became severely infected. No one knows definitively why – the infectious diseases doctor thinks that since the mammogram I had right before was particularly vicious (I cried – I’ve never cried during a mammogram), it caused internal bleeding. The right side of my breast collapsed – there was more damage from the infection than from the partial mastectomy. Now, there is so much scar tissue, the 3-D mammograms aren’t as effective, and so my doctor wanted me to start having MRIs.

Which are downright miserable.

To do a breast MRI, they place a molded plastic tray on the sliding table that goes into the MRI machine. Instead of being on my back, I’m on my stomach. The tray arches me into a small cat stretch, and there is an opening above and below my breasts, so they hang down and free. My arms are stretched forward, so I look like a flying superhero. And then they stuff me into the machine. The mold is only padded minimally – it’s hard and uncomfortable.

At first, they arched me so high, I actually pressed against the opening of the machine. This made it impossible for me to breathe. So they pulled me out, adjusted, then stuffed me back in. And there I stretched, for the next half hour, as the contrast burned through my veins and the machine racketed all around me. All I could see was the floor of the machine through my little face pillow. A fan blew on me to keep me cool, and in about five minutes, my hips began to ache and so did my shoulders. But I couldn’t shift my position.

As I said, miserable. And very claustrophobic.

But the Moment of Happiness happened right before the procedure.

Two women technicians helped me. When I walked into the room with the machine, they prepared me, pulling off the robe and opening further the gown I was told to put on, open to the front, of course. I was standing there in all my breast-cancer-beaten-up glory when they turned away to get the plastic mold ready.

“So how are you today?” one of them asked.

“Well,” I said, “I’m standing here bare-breasted, about to climb onto the largest vibrator in the world. It looks like it’s going to be that kind of day.”

I was puzzled when they froze, and then even more puzzled when they looked at me, their eyes wide and their mouths hanging open.

And then I realized what I’d just said and slapped both hands over my mouth.

That’s when all hilarity busted loose. One technician laughed so hard, she had to drape herself over the mold. “Geez, that’s uncomfortable,” she said when she straightened.

I had to sit down, the laughter weakening my knees.

“We’ve never had anyone say something like that before,” the other technician said.

“You just made our day,” the first one said.

I was still laughing when I climbed onto the largest vibrator in the world and stuck my breasts through the opening. It took a while to get settled because I kept returning to the laughter and then they would laugh and we’d have to start all over again.

It helped to think about the laughter as I suffered through the procedure. But I couldn’t think about it too much because then I’d laugh all over again, and I wasn’t allowed to move once the process started. So instead I switched my thoughts to their saying I made their day.

I’m glad I was able to do that for them. What they do can’t be easy.  I hope they giggled throughout the day and then retold the story to their co-workers and other patients and to their families that night. I hope there was lots and lots of laughter.

Within an hour of the MRI, my doctor emailed and told me the MRI was clear. So of course, that’s a Moment too. Two and a half years cancer-free!

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

The Never Give Up rock painted for me by my sister. It sits right next to my computer so I see it every day.

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