Okey dokey then, so the results of my latest MRI are in.
But before we get to that... I mentioned in an earlier post that I am quite okay with being slid into a Magnetic Resonance (MR) machine, with a cage over my head. But I wanted to contribute my tips for making your stay in the MR machine a little less stressful. Well, anyhow this is what I do... and it works for me, so maybe it could work for you too.
I acknowledge that I am going to have an MR session. It sounds stupidly obvious, but I think it is important to say, yes I am going to have an MRI and it is my choice to do so for my health. I was lucky for my latest appointment that the scanning place makes phone calls to confirm appointments, because I forgot totally and so did my diary... big oops! I did acknowledge the fact that I wanted to have my MRI, but it was just much, much later than normal. No harm, no foul though.
I try not to dwell on having an MRI, or entertain any anxious thoughts or linger on the fact that I might need to have the gadolinium contrast because the first time I was given it, it made me tremendously nauseous (and if you have read my randomness page you will know I hate even the thought of being sick). I also try not to obsess on what the MRI might find... (I’m almost too superstitious to write the dreaded word)- progression. The flip side is much better to mull over - so try that - maybe your MS hasn't done much and has been behaving like a peaceful sleeping baby.
I make sure that my husband is able to come along and wait for me. When you are in the MR machine it is comforting to know that someone in the waiting room is there just for you and they will buy you a stiff drink afterwards if that’s what you feel like.
Before you are confronted with the MR machine... know what you need to be comfortable and do it or ask for it. The dudes (could be dudette) doing the scanning want the same result as you - good clear pictures and the way to achieve this is by the client, ie you, being comfortable. The things I need to be comfortable in the machine are padding under my head - I'll never forget the time when the back of my head being aching then burning in pain after half an hour on a hard cold slab of plastic with at least another half an hour to go. I also like to have lots of padding under my knees, otherwise my back aches and of course, a blankie to keep me warm. I find it best to keep my socks on too, because I can't handle, in any shape or form, cold feet. In the past I have also asked for a CD of my favourite music to be played, which I brought along, but even though it was played directly into the machine I couldn't hear it! So I skip that now.
It's also imperative to tell the scanner dude about any bad experiences you may have had, such as me with gadolinium. I was told some of the reasons why I could have had such a reaction, and one of those was that perhaps the gadolinium was injected too quickly... so more care was taken and I was fine the next time it was administered.
Before I am in the MR machine, I also like to clarify when I will be able to cough or wriggle. I usually ask that the scanner dude informs me when it will be okay to move. If I have a cough I mention it because it is more likely the dude will allow me a chance to cough up a lung after I have been holding onto a tickle for 10 minutes that wants to explode into a cough.
When I am in the MR machine I generally begin by listening to the sounds it makes... and I try (don't laugh) to turn the sounds into words and just repeat that word over and over until the sound changes then I begin the process all over again. One of the words I remember from my last MRI was "Simon, Simon, Simon". It's not hard to do, especially since with ear plugs and padding over my ears I could still hear the drumming... and what else are you going to do when you aren’t allowed to move huh?
The next strategy I might try to pass time in a MR machine, especially if I have an ache or am cold... (again don't laugh) is I imagine I am butter melting in the sun. If you are saturated fat conscious or vegetarian I guess you could imagine you were margarine melting in the sun - the effect would, I'm sure, be the same. You have to imagine your butter body melting slowly onto the table, melting over the ache, or warming up. It sounds ridiculous, but the more elaborate and the more involved you get the better it will be. Sometimes I have imagined I am butter melting into beach sand just for extra thought blocking power! Remember a block of butter melting in the sun will be a slow process - it's an old relaxation technique and it really works. Try it next time you are on the slab.
The next technique I try and which again requires a good deal of imagination, but is very good if you are starting to get anxious, is how I would spend a lotto win of 37 million dollars. I start off with how I found out I won, did I watch the draw on TV or was I standing at a kiosk, did I faint on the spot, jump around squealing or just stand there with my mouth wide open? How did I tell my husband, how did he react? Who would I give some money too and how much? How would I spend the rest? It is not enough to say oh I would spend it on a holiday, a new car and renovations but you have to embellish your spending spree as much as possible - live it in your mind. For example for a new car I might run through all my favourite cars, imagine them in different colours, imagine test driving them fast around a winding road, making a decision and then paying the salesperson cash etc. The key is detail and lots of it because it distracts you from where you currently are. It's also really important to feel the emotion surrounding such a windfall... for me it would be elation, because then, if you get into it enough, you might just forget that you are freaking out.
After you are out of the MR machine, I find its best just to get on with what ever you have to do for the day. On the occasion I had a bad experience with gadolinium, I tried not to dwell on it. Knowing that if I did, it would scare the heck out of me for next time. I did need to examine those thoughts and anxiety about having gadolinium, but I tried to look at them a few days later when the freshness of the experience had dissipated. We all know that if you are upset or anxious your thoughts will be horribly distorted... and well it's probably best that these aren't what you program your mind and body with since, if you have MS, you are likely to be having many more MRI's in your lifetime.
For me these things work... and work well. For my last MRI I fell asleep. My husband was waiting for me and after an hour and fifteen minutes he asked a nurse where I was. Other being woken every now and again by a voice asking me if I was okay, or if I needed to cough I think my (non) ordeal felt like it took fifteen minutes. Yay!
All right then, here are my all-important results... has Mr C been doing his job?
Here are the comments for my MRI of the brain. Slight progression since the previous imaging with one new lesion identified, but no active enhancing lesions demonstrated.
And the comments for my MRI of the spine, no definite new lesion or progressive disease is identified in the cord and no evidence of progressive cord atrophy.
Sounds like Mr C might just be doing his job in defending my myelin. Good on you Mr C. However it was a little disconcerting to read that my one, currently not active new lesion was 5mm LARGE. This is my biggest one to date. I don't know if it big compared to other people's lesions or if it's location (in the subcortical white matter at the superior aspect of the right parietal lobe) is significant or not. Some of my older lesions are showing evidence of cavitation, whatever the hell that means… While I don’t know what that means, I reckon I know what caused my new lesion and the cavitation... the 4th year statistics I was studying at uni this semester. I couldn't work out where all the stats knowledge was going and clearly it was escaping into my 5mm big black hole and cavities never to be found again!
What I really do know is that my neurologist has not schedule an appointment for me, so he must be happy with my results. So if he’s happy, so am I. What else could I ask for? Hmmm, how about no MS and 37 million dollars!