My MRI Experience Last Week: Claustrophobia & Meditation

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Not my MRI machine, but one from the web. I didn’t have my phone for a photo.

This is what I shared on Facebook Friday after my MRI. I’d asked for prayers and good vibes.

I got them!

My experience:

I totally forgot that there is an IV involved. I hate needles, so how’d I forget that?? I’d have made sure to hydrate a lot (I have difficult veins) if I’d remembered. But I did remember to wear shorts that have no metal zipper, so I didn’t have to wear the imaging place’s outfit – other than the robe.

It turned out, though, that there was no problem with the IV, and next thing you know, I’m getting set up on the bench that will slide into the MR tube. The tech is hustling me and about to send me in when I ask for a minute to compose myself. I close my eyes and breathe deeply. I see deep pink – which I swear, y’all, was the good energy everyone sent me.

I get my arms close, close to me so that they won’t brush the side of the tube. Because that’s the part that triggered my claustrophobia last time – when my arm brushed the side of the tube, and I was aware of how tight it was.

In I go. The cloth of the robe on my right arm brushes the side of the tube. Uh oh. I start feeling that claustrophobic feeling, the one that makes me want to jump up and run – but I know I can’t.

The pink goes away as I go inside the tube. Can good energy not penetrate the MR tube??

The sounds start. I forget whether it was the drumming sound or another one, but I could also hear birds. How nice, there must be a bird’s nest right outside. But then I realize that it’s a very constant bird chirp, no variation.

No birds. Just MR (that’s what the docs call it) machine sounds.

Then a deep pain where my seroma is. The seroma started as a fluid sac at my surgery site but eight drainages wouldn’t clear it up, so we finally quit. Now it’s a hard-feeling sac. The frame of the MR machine (I’m lying face down) is pressing on it. It really hurts. I’m wondering how I’m going to get through 25 minutes of this when I feel the bench start sliding out, and I hear the tech’s voice say, “You’re too low.”

She hasn’t lined me up correctly. I’m not supposed to be feeling the pain at the seroma, because the seroma shouldn’t be pressing on the frame.

I adjust, and we try again. I get her to tuck in the robe on the right side so it won’t brush the tube, and in I go. Again.

And this time, the LEFT arm of the robe brushes the tube. And I can feel it touching the tube when the bench stops. I’m going to have that sensation the whole 25 minutes!

I work hard to calm myself. The first couple of minutes I spend breathing deeply and trying to calm down. Which I do.

I settle in for 25 minutes of this. 25 minutes is exactly how long we do a group prayer period (meditation period) in our centering prayer group. I know I can handle this. And I wonder how people who don’t meditate handle it. 25 minutes lying in a tube that’s less than inches from your body can seem like an eternity.

I decide to do a visualization and take a symbolic walk. The deeper I go, the longer the walk. Late into the MR, about the fifth or sixth change in sound and cadence of the machine, I decide to tap into the energy of the scan. Some of y’all know I’m pretty woo woo. And all I’ll say is that there were dragons. Cool dragons. Dragons that made me happy.

At some point, the tech triggers the mechanism for the contrast fluid through the IV. It feels cool as it goes into my arm.

And at another point toward the end I know when the machine is scanning my heart area because I can feel it in my heart and high heart chakras. Maybe that’s after the contrast? Because on the MR images, my heart was very colorful.

The sounds finally stop. I’m thinking, “Yay! This is over. Pull me out of here!” 

But nothing. No sounds, and I’m still inside the tube.

A minute or so passes, and nothing.

I start to feel panicky. I’m sweating. And I have to calm myself again. 

Just breathe. Be calm.

And finally, FINALLY she pulls me out!!

Whew, I made it!! I wait for her to lower the bench. She says I’m about three feet in the air, but you can’t prove it by me because my eyes have been closed the whole time – well, except for a couple of seconds two or three times to look at the mirror that shows me it’s an open tube. I could see green and sky outside in the mirror.

I put on my glasses and go to the waiting room, all the time still wearing my robe. I want to get dressed, but she says the radiologist may want an ultrasound. I had one last week, but okay, I’ll stay in the robe.

In the waiting room, people come and go. I read in My Grandfather’s Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen. It’s one of my favorite books for doctor’s appointments.

One of the women in the waiting room says, “Ms. Seckinger?” She turns out to be one of my former track athletes . . . who now lives on my street! I know exactly which house she is talking about. She’s on one side of the hill, I’m on the other. Her teenaged son is with her, and it turns out he does yard work, and I was just thinking this week how I need a teenager to do yard work for me. So she gives me her number for me to line him up when I need someone to mow or do yard work.

And now they call me back to see my results and talk with the radiologist. He’s very thorough and shows my how my breasts are “busy.” Lots of cysts, which look white on the screen. He explains how the seroma formed (the last radiologist thought it was an implant. Every tech says it looks exactly like an implant). He describes how my surgeon had to cut into the muscle to get good margins. Things I never knew about my surgery (more than four years ago).

I mention the book I’m reading, and it turns out my radiologist has read the book and was at a conference where the Rachel Namoi Remen was a speaker, and he got to talk with her. I asked what she was like, and he said “like you’d expect.” He describes a warm person who took the time with each person and who treated him like a friend.

He and I discover that we both meditate. We talk about that. He asks how that affected my cancer treatments. I tell him I don’t know how I’d have survived my cancer journey without this practice, how even when I didn’t feel well enough to meditate that the practice was (and is) a foundation for me.

He says now we have a good baseline for comparing future scans if there appear to be any problems. He says my surgeon will decide how often I’ll have MR scans, probably every other year. We shake hands. And I leave.

I survived my MR. 

AND got a good result. 

Thank you to everyone who prayed for me, who sent good vibes. Those prayers and good vibes made it to me. I saw them. They were pink!

I left today thinking how grateful I am for support.

Support that shows up in so many ways.

What blessings!

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How I felt AFTER the MRI 🙂

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