A few weeks ago, I wrote about my chronic issues with sciatic pain. Late last week I had my annual physical and mentioned my concerns to my doctor.
After a series of questions, which left me feeling like I should’ve said “Look, I have cramping/muscle tightness in my right and left glute, cramping in the back of my right calf, muscle tightness in the back of my left thigh, numbness and/or tingling in the bottom of my right and left foot and it might happen every day, a few times a week, or some combination thereof. Spin the wheel and let’s see what combination happens today!” my doctor recommended I have an MRI of the lumbar region.
Oh, oh. I was hoping for a simple x-ray first. He explained that the best way to view the spine was with an MRI.
So I left his office with referrals in hand for an MRI for bilateral sciatic pain and for physical therapy.
The MRI took place this past Saturday.
At first I wasn’t very nervous about the procedure. Then I started to feel a little anxious after talking to people about their experiences. I wondered if I could go through with it.
I tried to picture myself in the MRI. I started calling it the “hot dog bun.”
I woke up on Saturday morning at 5am in a slight panic. My head was telling me I couldn’t do this. That I was “gonna freak out” in the tube. Great! I rolled over onto my back and laid flat for 20 minutes repeating the mantra “I am calm. I am relaxed.” Sometimes, on the inhale I’d silently say “calm” and then say “relax” on the exhale. Eventually I fell back to sleep. I also proved to myself that I could lay flat for 20 minutes. (I knew I’d be in the MRI for 20-30 minutes.)
The alarm went off at 8am. I had to be at the hospital at 10:30am. I kept repeating my mantra silently in my head throughout the morning and while driving to the hospital.
When I walked into the MRI, I was promptly greeted with “Hi Amy, they’re ready for you.”
Oh yippee, skippy. No time to sit and wait. No time to get nervous.
Actually, this is a good thing.
I’m shown to the changing room (johnnies, pants and you can keep your socks on)
and then told to wait in chair just outside the MRI chamber. I can hear the dull thud of magnets in the distance. Thud, thud, thud.
The MRI tech comes out, escorts me into the suite and asks me a few more questions. I lay down on the table and stare at the huge skylight. I’m given a set of earplugs and headphones. I opt to listen to classical music. I tilt my head backwards and see the MRI tube behind me. Small gulp. The tech puts a pillow under my knees, gives me a little rubber ball to squeeze if I need help, asks me if I’m okay, and rolls me into the hot dog bun.
I keep my eyes open briefly as I pass under the beginning of the tube. Then I shut my eyes tight and start my mantra. I’m supposed to be in the MRI for 30 minutes. Oh yes, you have to stay very, very still.
During the course of testing I think about our trip to Nova Scotia…there is a cool breeze blowing over my head. Where is that coming from? I repeat my mantra. I start thinking odd things and actually start relaxing. I am tempted to open my eyes to see what the inside of this tube really looks and feels like. I decide that probably isn’t the best thing to do.
Periodically the tech checks in via a speaker to ask how I’m doing and to tell me how much longer I’ll be in the tube. At one point there is complete silence as he prepares to take pictures from some other angle. I start to doze and then the bang, bang, bang starts again. I feel my body jolt. And then I have to keep myself from laughing! I can’t believe I started to fall asleep during the MRI.
This is oddly meditative!
Eventually the test is complete and I open my eyes as the tech rolls me out of the tube. I imagine this is what it must be like in a space capsule. The MRI tech tells me that he got “lots of good shots.” I tell him thank you and I look forward to seeing a different side of me.
I leave the hospital relieved that the MRI is finished. It wasn’t a bad experience at all thanks to my mantra.
I’ll get the results on Tuesday and see what road I go down next.