I’m not sure there’s anything more frustrating that waiting for MRI results. I had brain and spinal scans done on Thursday to see if any new lesions have appeared since starting treatment in August, and I’m so, so hopeful they’ll show no evidence of disease activity (NEDA).
Waiting for results has never been a personal strength. There’s too much time to worry before deciding quite definitively that nothing is going to be okay ever again. Taking my comprehensive exams to earn my first master’s degree in college comes to mind. I had to read so much material about composition and rhetoric to earn my degree from the University of Nebraska while I was also enrolled in another graduate program at Iowa State, where I was studying Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL). So spring break that year was spent on my screened-in porch reading for comps and smoking heavily. Smoking has been in my rearview for more than a decade now, but I remember my Camel Lights and Djarum Blacks fondly, how much better they made everything during those stressful times. Anyway, I had procrastinated on studying for months and had to dedicate my entire break to catching up. I read everything thoroughly, made charts showing connections from one concept to another. But when test day came, I sat for the three-hour exam and left knowing that I’d failed. Miserably.
The following week, after convincing myself that I needed to find a whole new career, I was awarded a “high pass” on my exams, an evaluation reserved for extraordinary performance. But until I saw those results, I was certain I’d blown it because I’d spent too many of my weekends living it up instead of studying.
When I first toured the bottom half of the Ames duplex I rented while attending ISU, my landlady showed off a small, built-in cupboard in the dining room, calling it the “china closet.” Much to her dismay, I made it my “liquor cabinet,” and it held my wine glasses and bottles of alcohol, including the quintessential drink of the early 2000’s: Hypnotiq. Yes, my friends, I was that cool. I threw a few parties for the other students in my TESOL program on the weekends I didn’t go home, but they were more interested in eating than drinking, while the latter had more of my attention at the time. Because I left most weekends to be with more like-minded friends, some of my fellow students called me “party girl.” I can’t tell you how flattering that was for a nerd not often mistaken for the kind of person found in the middle of life in the fast lane. Really, I was just a little faster than most of my peers in Ames, which honestly wasn’t very fast. The fact that I smoked cigarettes put me in a category for many of them that I reserved for the kind of person who injected drugs.
Anyway, I wondered if they were right as I waited for the results of my exams. Should I have spent more weekends in Iowa with my nose in the books? Had I spent too much time partying instead? By the time I seriously considered those questions, it didn’t matter anymore. The exams were over, and nothing I did would change the results.
Why can’t I understand that when it comes to MRIs? Especially since I can’t do anything to prepare for them?
To focus on something else, Alvaro and I had dinner and game night with my mom and my niece Abby on Friday. Yesterday morning, after making brunch together, Abby and I went for a lovely walk by the river. We took in all of the destruction from the flooding, looking for treasures as we passed sinkholes and areas where the sidewalk used to be. All we found washed up with the usual debris was a plastic mixing bowl for our efforts, but it was fun anyway. When we returned home, we made popcorn and settled in to watch a movie. That’s when I felt the fatigue hit. It’s hard to explain real fatigue to people who haven’t experienced it before, people who mistake it for just being really tired. It’s my body’s way of telling me I’ve overdone it and that I’m going to pay as a leaden feeling takes over my limbs, my brain, my eyes. My husband recognized it on my face when he got in from work and volunteered to take Abby home so I could rest. I felt better after an hour, fortunately, but even if my MRI results show NEDA, I am still feeling the effects of the damage MS has done already: the tingling on my left side, the fatigue, the permanently altered vision.
I’ve checked the patient portal about 75 times anyway, even though I know the MRI results won’t be posted for several more days, even though those results won’t really change anything. Doubt is creeping in, as usual, getting stronger by the day.
But there is hope in waiting, too, and I’m trying to focus on that hope. Maybe, just maybe, things are going to go my way.