It was such a busy weekend, between visits and parties on Saturday and Sunday, that I truly had no time to stress out about this morning’s MRI. No time to meditate on or visualize good results, as I try to do when I remember to, until I was already inside the machine, IV placed by an MRI technician who had to convince me he knew how to do that (I’d only ever had a nurse do it). I wasn’t at the hospital today, I was at the facility a few blocks north which never seems to be crowded. And which has the employee who looks like the medical assistant version of Iggy Pop. I saw him this morning while I was waiting to go in. I decided he would be my good luck charm, that seeing him would bring me luck, even though he seemed to be in a foul mood and complaining to a colleague about how everyone else was lying on a beach in Mexico except for them. It isn’t a great idea to choose a person to be your good luck charm. Because they can be in a bad mood, or hey, maybe next time he’ll be lying on a Mexican beach, himself. (I wish that for him, he seems like he could use a vacation.)
Today they stuck me inside the MRI machine without a mirror. Usually, they put a mirror right above your face which works like periscope, letting you have a view of your feet. I don’t know if they forgot it or what, but I decided I was more interested in getting this whole thing overwith than seeing my feet. So I closed my eyes and drifted off a little. I have given up music while in the MRI machine, too. Pandora’s classical music selection can be pretty awful, and I don’t trust any other genre label enough to choose it. So today I just listened to the machine, tried to predict which noise patterns would come next, and tried to figure out how long I’d been in there. They notified me over the speaker when I was halfway through, which is when they let the contrast come through the IV. Until that halfway point I think I’d mostly been sleeping.
I was very early for my MRI appointment this morning. This meant that I’d be waiting around for a longer time to be seen by the neurosurgeon, too. When I was done with the MRI, I walked down towards the hospital. At first I thought I’d wait in the main lobby. I found a place to sit, but there was a Satmar couple, the pregnant wife very nervously pacing around and around and looking like she was in preterm labor, and it was stressing me out. Also, I guess I finally had an opportunity to realize that whatever news I was going to get would be pretty major. I’m good at waiting. I’m pretty good at listening to news. I freak out later, after the fact.
I decided to go upstairs and just inquire whether they might see me earlier. There are always a few people in the waiting room, but there are so many doctors in Neurosurgery, I assume they are waiting for other doctors. The receptionist checked me in and I barely had time to sit down before Nurse Practitioner A called me in, surprised I was alone. I texted J to head over (he doesn’t work too far away), but I wound up in and out of there before he even got to the hospital.
First, I saw Dr W, a resident, whom I’d seen in the summer. She is the one who’d been so excited about the good results of my gamma knife surgery in July that she almost stole Dr K’s thunder in telling me about it. Today, she scanned through the images, making encouraging sounds. I’d like to say that at this point I’ve gotten better at interpreting what is flashing by on the screen in front of me, since after all it’s my brain they’re looking through, but there’s a very good reason I still don’t entirely understand. It’s called medical school. I actually never went. And I never did a residency or a fellowship or a post-doc in neurosurgery. So I guess I can forgive myself for not understanding these things. I can see white blotches that worry me, when they don’t worry the doctor. And vice versa. It’s very hard for me to outsource my concerns, but there really is no other choice.
Nurse Practitioner A came back in, and then Dr K joined us. He asked how I was feeling. The truth is, I don’t know. Keppra makes me totally drowsy, the steroids make me strident, and I don’t know what has been making my vision kind of black out temporarily when I change positions, like go from lying down to standing or when I bend over to pick something up. I’ve gotten used to it, and I don’t pass out or fall over or anything, but it’s kind of baffling. Note to self: Mention it to Dr D (the ophthalmologist) next time.
After more flipping and flicking on the computer screen, through slices and slices of mortadella – which, let’s be honest, is what the layperson sees on the screen when an MRI is being examined – Dr K pronounced the one lesion that had worried him last month as now being free of swelling and bleeding, and it seems to have decreased in size. All of this a huge relief to me. J was texting me his location as he walked over, and Dr K said to text him that I was fine. He told me to knock off the steroids immediately and taper off the Keppra over a week’s time. I SHALL BE RELEASED.
However… Dr K then said, in his earnest Canadian way, he’d been very worried about me. He said that performing gamma knife in this situation had been “a gutsy move,” and that when he’d consulted with colleagues, many of them had said they would have opted to cut. I heard him comment to Dr W that even the dosage [of gamma rays, I assume] was kind of a wild guess. So once again, in the midst of a crisis, of illness, of everything, I feel lucky. Very, very lucky, to have found a doctor who didn’t go with the prevailing opinion, who took a risk, and had that risk pay off.
I finished my visit, was not charged a copay because it was a followup after surgery, and went down to the lobby to wait for J, who had almost arrived. It is unseasonably cold out today (haha) so I wanted to bring J up to speed indoors before we headed back towards the train. We sat in the same bank of armchairs I had sat in earlier, but the Satmar couple was gone – hopefully to a safe labor & delivery, or to bed rest, or anywhere other than the uncertainty that hovered around them when I saw them.
I told J what Dr K had told me. And then the floodgates opened and I cried. I was relieved. I was grateful. But also – it’s never easy, finding out your doctor has been worried about you. It makes me a little annoyed, finding that out after the fact (just as Dr P had concealed the extent of my lesions last April, until it was clear they were under control). I get it, but I don’t have to like it, as a patient management technique.
We headed out under the gray sky and walked back to 33rd Street together. We couldn’t even have coffee to celebrate, as I’d taken my meds less than an hour before. I kissed J and came home and made some kale instead, and had some of Young J’s birthday cake for good measure. So very glad I’m seeing my therapist tomorrow.
I’ll have another brain MRI in two months’ time. In the meantime, other than the daily cancer meds, and a visit with Dr P in early January, I may now resume civilian life. Freelance work. Job hunting. Normal eating. Exercise. Less yelling. Perhaps another attempt at weight loss. But I’ll be keeping my secret identity card in my pocket at all times. The cheat sheet with the knowledge I have won from all of these ups and downs. How you confront your mortality every eight weeks and stay (reasonably) sane.