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About this time last year I posted my experience with my first breast MRI (see ‘Happy Dancing‘ in Archives or click on the link). Whenever I learn something new I like to share it so here we go with this year’s experience.

I am not at all a fan of recreational drugs, but the well used drug in therapeutic circumstances is such a marvel. After my difficult experience with the panic attack last year the surgeon suggested I take a 5mg Valium tablet about an hour before the test this year. Of course the surgeon lives 1500km away from Alice Springs so it was my GP who had to write the prescription when the time came, and his advice was to take the Valium 2 hours prior to the test. Not being familiar with Valium, I wasn’t sure whose advice to follow but in the end I thought my GP might have a better knowledge of my history so I took his advice. The variables were a bit complex however as I had an empty stomach (on purpose), and a thirty minute walk to the hospital and then the appointed time varied by 30 minutes from what I’d thought it would be.

By the time they called me through to have the cannula inserted for the dye I realised it had been two and a half hours since the Valium and it was already wearing off. This started to make me more anxious and when I saw the technician I explained to her my situation. And then I cried. I’ve hardly cried through the entire treatment of the breast cancer even though at times it was quite confronting. Facing fear is one of the things that helps us grow. I know… but… are we having fun yet?

The technician was very calm and matter of fact, assuring me she could make ‘modifications’ to things that would make me more comfortable. Oh really? Could she disappear the tube and put me to sleep during the entire process? I didn’t think so. However, it turns out she could modify the framework on which I had to lay. She opened the area where my face rested so that I would feel I could breathe more easily. She placed a softer block of high density foam on which to rest my forehead. And the most important thing she did was tell me to breathe normally! Previously, the last words said to me as they shoved me into the tube was ‘no deep breaths’, which I had somehow misinterpreted as ‘take shallow breaths’ and which resulted in my panic that I could not get enough air.

The modifications made an appreciable difference. My only question is, why not just do it this way in the first place????? (The surgeon had no answer, she was equally mystified!)

vanilla slice

vanilla slice

The technician encouraged me to think about something I like doing… my next jewellery project perhaps? But all I could think about was the vanilla slice Don had found in town, and had told me about earlier! Go for it girl, I thought, think about that vanilla slice for all you’re worth! By the time the technician’s voice came through the headset to tell me she was about to inject the dye, that vanilla slice had saved the day. I was pretty sure I would be okay. When the scan finished and I felt them move me out of the tube and into the room, I stuck both thumbs up for the technician to see, and to celebrate my victory. But the final celebration was awaiting me… a thirty minute walk into town… the taste of victory, thy name is vanilla slice.

(The following day I had the be-jesus squeezed out of my breasts during the mammogram and saw the surgeon.  All clear for another year. Gratitude out the yin-yang)

PS. Take the Valium an HOUR before the test for maximum benefit!