Before becoming a Single Mother by Choice, my doctor explained the importance of going through my genetic history to make sure that I wasn’t passing on any genetic diseases to my future child. The one issue that came up was the fact that breast cancer ran in my family. From there, Princess Margaret determined that I was “high risk” for breast cancer and suggested that I complete both a mammogram and a breast MRI prior to my first IUI (placing sperm inside my uterus).
This testing was important for two reasons:
- To make sure I didn’t pass on the BRCA (breast cancer) gene. Somehow doctors can remove it so you don’t pass it on to your future baby. How? No idea. Science.
- To make sure that I didn’t have breast cancer (which I now know I don’t), because I won’t be able to get testing again for two years if I am pregnant or if I can breast feed.
Last week’s blog was all about the mammogram so today’s blog will be about my breast MRI. What a happy topic. Haha! You know what? It should have been. Since discussing this story with numerous people, many explained that breast MRI’s are not supposed to hurt and that their personal experience was okay. So why was mine so brutal? I am still trying to figure that out.
This blog will also include all of my tips so that you don’t have an uncomfortable MRI.
March 12th: 8:30 p.m. Breast MRI at Toronto General
As you know, I had a mammogram at 4:30 pm at Princess Margaret. My next appointment was at 8:30 pm at Toronto General.
Before I left, the nurse asked me what I was doing between my two appointments and if I was going somewhere “nice” for dinner. I wasn’t. I was planning on eating and doing work at a nearby café. Ladies, if you ever have to go through both tests in one day, treat ‘yo self. You deserve something special – especially a delicious meal.
As someone who has anxiety, I thought the only thing that would make me uncomfortable with my MRI was the small confined space. Since I had an MRI for my knee ten years ago and get claustrophobic very easily, I figured I could depend on a 0.50 dose of lorazepam. Please note that this was not enough.
After signing in, I walked down a long hall full of different waiting rooms and started to become anxious. At the very end of the hall, several people sat in a waiting room watching “Princess Bride” on the hospital television. I think if I ever see Princess Bride again, I will associate it with this traumatic experience which is sad because it is a good movie.
Everyone was seated with a partner and for the first time I thought “ Oh no. Maybe I should have said “yes” to about ten people who asked me if I needed someone at my appointment”. Learn from me – bring someone to your appointment.
After waiting about thirty minutes, they asked me to change into a hospital gown and hospital pants and to put my bag, clothes, and tote in my locker. Here’s the problem: my stuff did not fit in the freakin’ locker. I just stuffed my clothes on top of the laptop and left the locker door ajar crossing my fingers that nobody would steal anything in a hospital (nobody did). If you have an MRI, do not bring a tote.
Then I just sat there for another thirty minutes with random people while we all watched Princess Bride and tried to distract ourselves from what was happening.
At 9:30 p.m. they called my name along with the name of another man. We both got our IV’s and he walked into one room with two technicians. Then they left him in his room and the two technicians came to me and led me into the other room.
At this point, I was little anxious but thought I had everything under control.
Then came the instructions:
- Please wear your hospital gown the other way around so that your breasts are exposed.
- Please climb onto the machine head first and bend your knees.
- Now place your two breasts in the holes.
- Hold your arms up infront of you.
- Take this device in your left hand. It is an emergency button that will stop the procedure if you are in trouble.
Overall the position was awkward AF.
Then the kind male technician who informed me earlier that he “may be male but has been doing this for a long time and will make sure that I am as comfortable as possible”, kept asking if I was comfortable and I kept saying yes.
As a people pleaser, I say “yes” to almost everything. I wish I would have said “no” because I think that maybe there was an easier/better/more comfortable way for me to be on the machine. If I had to go back in time, this is where I would do things differently. Try to be as comfortable as possible before you begin. Please say “no” if you are uncomfortable in any way.
Once I said yes, they gave me earplugs and placed headphones over my ears. They placed my IV off to the side and the machine started moving me into what looked like a tunnel.
Super loud noises started happening and I took deep breaths.
Deep breathing could not get me through it.
Trying to distract myself couldn’t get me through it either. I tried my best to think about what I thought would happen on “The Bachelor” that night because I was missing the finale. From there, I started labelling all of my favourite Housewives in order of how much I liked them. No amount of reality television could get my mind to stop worrying about the pain that was happening at my breast bone.
My arms were shaking and I didn’t know if it was because a) I was cold b) I was scared c) I was out of shape and couldn’t maintain a position where I could hold my arms up for thirty minutes.
The loud screeching would not stop and was just irritating me even more.
I felt like I was either going to puke or pass out because the pain to my breast bone was so intense. It was as though I was holding my entire body up on my breast bone. I kept taking deep breaths but every time I would breathe, it would hurt my breast bone even more.
I kept alternating between wanting to press the emergency button and wanting to please the technician. Plus, I was worried that if I pressed the button I would have to start the test over again. I had no indication of time.
When I couldn’t take it any more – I pushed the emergency button (which completely shocked me because I like to follow the rules).
A voice came into my headphones stating that I had thirty seconds left and that I was to “hold on.”
After thirty seconds the loud noises stopped and the machine moved my backwards away from the tunnel.
The technician was very kind and held my back. He asked what happened and I explained that I was either “going to puke or pass out.” He was kind enough to bring me the garbage can and I just stayed on all fours for about five minutes. Afterwards I showed him all of the dark red lines across my stomach and the dark area around my breastbone.
He told me that the machine was new and that it cost $35,000. I guess that meant that it wasn’t supposed to cause pain? No idea.
Once I realized that I could breathe properly, I had the urge to just get out of the hospital right away. When I started walking I felt like I was going to puke again so I went to the washroom. Unfortunately, the washroom was locked all I could hear was someone puking (I totally think it was the guy who was in the room beside me).
It’s weird because during my MRI experience I saw three people get MRI’s. The woman ahead of me came back to get her clothes from her locker in tears with mascara all over her face. The man (that I can only assume) who started his MRI minutes before me was puking in the bathroom. What in the actual hell?
It turns out that I didn’t puke but I have never left so quickly from a hospital. All I wanted was air and after walking 25 minutes, I walked right into a store and bought myself some ice cream because I finally decided I was going to treat myself.
I can tell you that on the plus side, I did receive a code and got my results that I am breast cancer free, all within 24 hours!
If I could create a perfect life it would be a place where everyone was healthy and where nobody ever had to have any testing. Unfortunately, that world doesn’t exist. In the meantime, below is a list of things that I plan on doing differently when I go for my next MRI. My hope is that the tips can also help you.
Tips for a Breast MRI
- Treat ‘yo self to a nice dinner before or afterwards.
- Don’t be afraid to take medication before your MRI to calm you.
- Don’t bring a tote bag – the lockers are small.
- Bring someone with you. Going alone does not make you brave, you may actually need someone.
- Make sure you feel as comfortable as possible before your MRI starts. You are in one position for thirty minutes.
- Ask them to give you a countdown. I am not sure if they do this but I want them to tell me when I have 15 minutes, 10 minutes, and 5 minutes left.
After that dramatic story, I promise that next week’s topic will be more fun.
Next week’s topic: I have found my sperm donor and my first IUI will be happening in late April/early May!