My first-ever breast MRI was today. I was expecting, I don’t know, horrible things. Burning veins full of contrast dye, IV pain from hell, and an incredibly awkward hour in an imaging machine.
In reality? Not. Bad. At. All. Like, I’m incredibly shocked at how easy it was (and I’m thankful, of course – this BRCA stuff is nerve-wracking enough, so anything that is easier than expected is a pleasant surprise!).
I arrived at 7:30 as scheduled, ran around trying to figure out exactly where I was meant to go (apparently, my awful sense of direction is also awful IN BUILDINGS and not just on the road), and finally checked in and filled out my paperwork. Also, can we talk about how weird it is that I’m a reasonably healthy twenty-five year old, yet I’m literally a card-carrying member of a cancer facility? Presenting my patient card is always really odd to me. Anyway.
I waited for ten minutes or so, and then a nurse took me back to some sort of chemo/IV room full of lots of giant chairs. I could be three times my size and have still fit comfortably in these chairs, and my legs were dangling, oh, a foot off the ground (yes, I’m quite short as it is!). The nurse gave me a few robes and some really sexy pants to change into, and then injected the IV. This is the part I was most afraid of; I’d been told the injection would be incredibly painful, and it was… not. It felt like having your blood drawn, which for me is never that big of a deal. The nurse inserted a bit of saline to make sure it was working correctly (and told me I would have a salty taste in my mouth, but I barely noticed) and then covered the IV site with a bandage. THANK GOD, because I think I’d be pretty creeped out staring at a giant needle hanging out of my arm.
Right after all of this, my mom showed up. She visited the same cancer facility all through her treatment, and now has to go in every so often for check-ups. She just so happened to be going in this morning, so we got to rendezvous for a bit. Shortly before 8am, an MRI technician came to collect me for the procedure.
Getting into the actual MRI machine was… awkward. It’s high enough that just a step stool doesn’t help much, and I really had to sort of climb onto it. Once I got situated, I wasn’t claustrophobic at all. I wasn’t too worried about that since I’d had a brain MRI before with no issues, but it was nice that this didn’t freak me out either. Being face down helps a lot, and I’m only claustrophobic if I’m completely enclosed in something, which I wasn’t. The MRI lasted about thirty minutes; it was loud, it was difficult to stay completely still, and my arms fell asleep from being out in front of me for so long. One thing I really can’t stand is having my appendages fall asleep, so that was one of the worst parts.
Halfway through, the technician let me know she’d be injecting the contrast dye into my IV. Had she not warned me, I would’ve had no idea. I mean, seriously, NO idea. I’d been told that I may feel a burning sensation, a lot of warmth, or a bad taste in my mouth… and none of those things really happened. Next to the IV itself, the dye was a huge fear for me, so I was really happy that it turned out to be a nonissue.
When the MRI was finally over, I awkwardly climbed back out of the machine. They wanted to observe me for a little longer, just to make sure I didn’t have a reaction to the dye, so I sat in another giant chair and ate yummy graham crackers and orange juice (and subsequently felt about five years old). I felt a little out of it from lying face down for thirty minutes, but I recovered fairly rapidly. My forehead was bright red from being jammed against the machine, and I had red marks all over my torso from it as well. I was glad it took me awhile to get to work so I looked more normal!
For the rest of the day, I had some weird itching issues but nothing so major as to suggest an allergic reaction. It was mostly in my legs, which for all I know could be due to my run last night (I think my shins have finally healed!). The absolute worst part for me – and it wasn’t very bad at all – was the aftermath of the IV. My arm hurt all day, and I don’t know how much was due to the injection and how much was due to the bandage cutting into my arm and sticking to my skin. When I got home from work and removed the bandage, my arm felt a lot better and is now almost totally normal.
Overall, it wasn’t the most fun I’ve had in my life, but it was nowhere near as bad as I expected, especially since I only have to do it once a year! Of course, now begins the fun part (and by “fun” I mean “terrifying”) of waiting for the results. They told me to expect 1-2 days, so it’s possible I’ll hear from them tomorrow. I’m trying not to worry because I know today’s anxiety won’t change anything about the results, but it’s still a little scary. I have my fingers crossed!