I woke up just after 5 this morning to find snow softly falling outside. After making a cup of tea to drink while enjoying it through the window, I checked the patient portal.
I love that we live in a time when online patient portals give us access to our healthcare information, where we can see it sometimes before our doctors do. But it also taps into all of my obsessive tendencies, so when I say I’ll be checking it at least 10 times a day until the results are in, I’m lying. It will be at least 20 times.
The results I’m waiting for are from a cervical spine MRI I had yesterday. My neurologist ordered it because I began having tingling and numbness on my left side a couple of weeks ago. And then I began experiencing similar tingling/numbness from my mid-shin to my knee on the right side a few days ago. This isn’t supposed to be happening while on Ocrevus.
The only panic attack I’ve ever had was when I tried to do the thoracic spine in a closed MRI, and I came close on my last cervical spine in the closed machine. So my dread and panic built in the days leading up to it. Aside from my usual psychological terror about being in a tiny, blacker than black, stale-aired space (that always, always feels like being shut in a morgue drawer, but you’re paralyzed and no one knows you’re still alive), this MRI was in a hospital system and location I hadn’t been to before. I am a creature of habit, so that added to my anxiety greatly. What if the machine was even smaller than the other ones I’d been in? Would they give me scrubs to wear like they did in the other hospital, or would it be the dreaded gown? (Spoiler alert: it was the gown, of course.)
Yesterday morning, trying to calm myself, I went for my walk as usual. But this time I deviated from the trail and walked over to the river for the first time in months. Because of flooding in the summer, the park has been closed, but seeing no one around to stop me, I crossed the caution tape and made my way to the water, taking in the rusty old toll bridge and the rushing water. This is the place where I try to go in my imagination while getting MRIs, and I needed the lift of being back there in person first.
After teaching my afternoon class, I rushed home to take the Xanax prescribed to take the edge off. It doesn’t really help much, except with sleeping after it’s all over, but it is better than going in without anything. Clothed in a less-than-flattering, flimsy gown after having my line for contrast put in by a sweet, smiling nurse, I followed the technician to the MRI room, approaching the table slowly and beginning to tremble. After adjusting my body to where it needed to be, another technician put plugs in my ears and placed what can best be described as a cage over my face to keep my head from moving, locking it in with a thunk. Then it was time to be pushed inside, and the panic button was placed gently in my hand. My eyes were covered with a washcloth because it helps me not to see how enclosed I am, and once I was all the way inside, instead of the pitch black I’ve become accustomed to, it was bright. There was a light inside! What a difference that made. Also, instead of the stale air that makes it hard to breathe properly in the other closed machines I’ve experienced, cool air circulated freely, making my mental journey to the river’s edge so much easier. I emerged 40 minutes later to get dressed and meet my husband. We stopped for drive-through potato oles (I blame the Xanax as they would never appeal to me if I were sober) and then artisan ice cream before getting me home for a long, restful sleep.
Because MRIs are usually so difficult for me, I try to make sure I have something to look forward to after, and today that involves an overdue haircut and dinner at my favorite restaurant with my mom. But for now, I have a snuggly Maggie tucked in by my side on the couch sleeping, a rare pleasure, the sun rising behind us, the snow beginning to accumulate on the grass. Soon, I’ll bundle up and head out for an invigorating, cold walk. It’s a beautiful morning, and I plan to enjoy it.
Right after another visit to the patient portal.