Tag Archives: Breast cancer

Fantastic Things About a Breast MRI

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This is me with no make-up in my lovely gowns.

Some families have great genetics.  Everyone lives until they’re 95 even though they drink, smoke, and eat sides of beef.  This is not my family.  On my father’s side, we have heart disease, diabetes, and anxiety disorders.  My father and one of my half-brothers died incredibly early.  My father was 49 and my brother was 35.  This is why I exercise daily and don’t allow myself to become the size of a small whale.

On my mother’s side, we have breast cancer, colon cancer, Crohn’s disease, and anxiety disorders.  This is also why I exercise daily and watch my weight.  In addition, because of the strong breast cancer history, I also endure more medical tests than the average woman.  I had to start having mammograms at 30, and now, I have to have an annual breast MRI, too.  It’s not so bad, though.  Unlike the mammogram, breast MRIs do not hurt.  There are a few other great things about this procedure.  Here they are in no particular order.

New Google Material – During the second part of the MRI they inject you with a contrast fluid.  In my case, it was Dotarem.  In today’s super-litigious society, doctors must inform you about any and every possible risk greater than a toe stub.  So, I received a full-page document that basically said, “So far no one has died from having Dotarem injected, but you know, we don’t really know for sure if it’s harmful, but we think it probably isn’t, so maybe don’t worry about it for now.”  Okey-doke.  That made me feel much better.  In addition to worrying about having a claustrophobia-induced panic attack in the tube, I now had to worry about turning into the Incredible Hulk in a few years.  Peachy.  You know  I will be Googling Dotarem every time I feel remotely ill from now until I’m 97 and a half.

Pretend Spa Time – For this procedure, you have to, I mean you GET TO, lie face down in a face donut thing and listen to music for 45 minutes.  It is JUST like getting a massage except no one actually kneads the knots out of your shoulders, and you can’t actually hear the music because all you can hear are magnets banging together, and your boobs sort of hang awkwardly in their own donut contraption.  OK. I’m lying.  It is nothing like a massage.

You EARN Treats – After you endure this nonsense, you can and should get yourself a treat.  There was a Starbucks a couple blocks away from the medical facility, so I thought of driving there.  After the test, I felt super hungry, so I settled for the Tim Horton’s that was IN the facility.  I got a donut and a cup of coffee.  I regretted it and vowed to always go to Starbucks.  I’ve only lived “up north” for the past decade or so.  I still don’t get the appeal of Tim Horton’s.  Lesson learned.

No Glamour – When you are getting ready for your appointment, you will be amazed at how quickly you can get out the door when make-up, jewelry, and deodorant are not allowed. This is because there is a strict no metal rule in the MRI machine and these items can contain metal.  Think about it – MRIs use MAGNETS to take images.  If you had metallic eyeshadow on, well, I hate to think how that would play out.  If you passed fourth grade you know what metals and magnets do.

No Bra—You get a solid 45 minutes of bra free time.  Once you and your MRI tech work together to awkwardly (could she at least buy me a drink first) place your breasts in their proper magnet holes, and once the padded breastbone bar is in a spot where it doesn’t feel like your ribs will crack or your stomach will cave in, you can lounge peacefully without a bra. Maybe it is like spa time.

Open in FRONT—This is the one time in your life when you will be permitted to wear a hospital gown that is open in the front.  YAY!  At least your butt won’t hang out for this procedure.  Just your boobs.  Oh well.

Peace of Mind—If you are like me and have shitty genetics, getting a breast MRI in addition to a mammogram is a smart thing to do.  MRIs catch things that mammograms miss and vice versa.

So, if you are getting an MRI soon, I hope this helped clear up some of the mystery.  It’s not fun, but it’s not the worst thing ever.  It’s non-invasive.  It’s not a colonoscopy or a uterine biopsy.  I’ve had both of those and the breast MRI is MUCH easier.  There’s no prep, other than not wearing deodorant, jewelry, or makeup, and there’s just a small needle to deal with.  If you are claustrophobic, your doctor can prescribe a tranquilizer for the procedure.  I was able to get by without it this time because it was my SECOND MRI, so I knew what to expect. Plus, you are on your face, so you don’t really see the machine much. My facility was super cool and had mirrors in the face hole that showed me the room, not the tunnel I was in.
Have you had a breast MRI? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section. Also, if you have any questions, I would love to try to answer them.

Not THIS Time, Breast Cancer

I have been having mammograms since I was 30, and I am just a LITTLE BIT older than that now. OK, I will be 43 in two weeks. My mom had breast cancer in her 40’s, and a cousin on my mom’s side had it in her 30’s. So, it’s kind of scary and my doctor likes to stay on top of things.

I had my regular annual mammogram last week, and I was waiting for the all-clear email that I usually get, when instead the phone rang. I hate the phone all the time, but especially when it is the mammogram place calling the day after my test. That is never good.

When I got the call back for an additional mammogram and sonogram, the receptionist informed me that the radiologist saw a “mass.”   My stomach immediately cramped.

NOTE TO MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS: Do not use the word MASS when calling about a mammogram unless you are sure that it is something to worry about. Say, “the picture was not clear” or something like that. Mass is a scary word to someone who just had a test to detect CANCER.

Even with the use of the word mass, I was able to calm myself down. I wasn’t REALLY worried until my PRIMARY care doctor’s office called to be sure I was going back. This is not even the doctor who ordered the test. Plus, this doctor is usually very mellow about everything. When I was freaked out about having a DVT and being on blood thinners, this doctor told me to go ahead and shave my legs with a real blade because I wasn’t going to bleed out from nicking myself. (Note: The same cousin who had breast cancer ended up passing away from bleeding internally while on blood thinners.) So, if my super mellow doctor was concerned about me going back for round two of boob torture, I sure as #$# # was worried. I grabbed the first open appointment they had, which was FIVE days away.

That following Monday, as luck would have it, The Huffington Post emailed me to see if I would be available to chime in on annoying social media friends on Huffington Post Live at 2:35 pm ET, or RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF MY MAMMOGRAM APPOINTMENT. Yes, I understand that the children in Iraq are just weeping for my little scheduling problem. “Poor American lady can’t do TV because she is having a modern medical test in a building with a roof.”

Well, since I had already worried about breast cancer all weekend, and since my husband cancelled a business trip to go with me to that appointment, and since I was probably too stressed to be funny, and since I would oh say be topless at that exact time, I said no to the Huffington Post.

For five days, between the call and my appointment, I prepared for the worst.

I envisioned arguing with the surgeon on why I needed to have both breasts removed, as my mother had done when she was diagnosed.

I planned on  finding a new surgeon after imaginary first surgeon said no because he was an ass.

I pictured arguing with my insurance company who would refuse to pay for my double mastectomy and insist I only needed the cancerous one removed, which would make me the uniboober.

I imagined chemo, and vomiting, and laying on the couch while watching an endless stream of Lifetime movies with a cat or three lying on me.

I thought about having to cancel my next hair appointment because I would not have hair. I love my hair appointments.

I thought about vomiting. Again.

I wondered where the damn ice bucket challenges were for this. Maybe I would do a barf bucket challenge. I wondered if that would go viral and finally get me on the Today Show.

I posted about it on Facebook, even though I said I wouldn’t.

I blamed myself. I don’t eat that well. I don’t exercise enough. I drink more than I should sometimes, meaning wine not water. It’s good to drink more water than you should, as long as it’s not TOO MUCH water.

I once again wished that my parents had never mated. Seriously! We have every damn disease there is in this family. Heart disease and diabetes run through my father’s side of the family, along with a touch of anxiety. On my mom’s side, we have colon cancer, breast cancer, Crohn’s disease, and more anxiety. No wonder I’m a nut case!

The day FINALLY arrived. My husband drove me to the mammogram place. The chamomile tea I drank that morning did not keep me from feeling like I was facing death. I changed out of my shirt with sweaty armpits, because you can’t wear deodorant when you have a mammogram and because I had the nervous pit sweats. Deodorant messes up the images somehow. Look it up. I’m not a doctor.

I’m not sure if I pissed someone off at the mammogram place, or if it is just standard procedure to clamp the mammogram machine on someone’s boob like you are trying to kill a spider with it when they have to come back for a second test. For the love of bruised titties that hurt SO MUCH worse the second time. And I still had to have a sonogram after that. Even with that FLAT view, they couldn’t tell what my ”mass” was.

FINALLY, after the sonogram, I was told I had a “cluster of cysts like a bunch of grapes.” My first thought was “Cluster of Cysts” would make a great name for a punk band. My second thought was, “WHY didn’t I postpone the appointment and do the damn Huffington Post Live Show?”

Huffington Post Live, email me!! I’m cancer free and available now.

That's my nervous smile.
That’s my nervous smile.

Update: This post has also been published on The Huffington Post.