Saturday, June 23, 2012


Whew! Been a busy June. I've squeezed doctor, hair and nail appointments, cross-country travel (my first flight since my diagnosis and yes I overcame a lotta fear that I might swell up which thankfully I did not and I also did not set off any TSA alarms with these freakishly old tissue expanders I still have, thank you very much), a high school graduation, lots of time with family, and meeting wonderful new (and old) friends — all while providing my mother with a lot more care than she has required as of late. Problems with her upper spine have her in pain and unable to lift anything heavier than a paper plate.

(Copyright © 2012 The Big C and Me)
So this week, I took her for an open MRI (she is terribly claustrophobic.) Afterwards, the technician asked if she had been in a car wreck. WTF? She's never had blunt trauma of any kind; her doctor suspects degenerative disk disease. We find out on Tuesday — that's when my sister and I take my mom (along with a copy of her MRI and radiology report) to see her immensely handsome neurosurgeon, Dr. H. (What a pleasure it is to rest one's eye on a good-looking man while stuck in a medical office. I'm just sayin'.)

I'm also just sayin' that's why I haven't had time for The Blog. Back in April, when I was posting daily as part of the WEGO Health Activist Writer's Challenge, I had ideas aplenty (despite only a smidgeon more time). This month? Lots of thoughts are fighting for space in my cerebral cortex — but nothin' is jellin', Magellen. 

Back to the MRI. Like my mother, I am terribly claustrophobic. But I have tricked myself into thinking I am somewhere else when I have an MRI and am able to breeze through it with less anxiety. You can, too! I'm re-posting some tips I wrote last August on how to make it through an MRI. Maybe it can help you, or someone you know. 


You can survive an MRI (or any other uncomfortable procedure) while feeling calm and cool and even collected. I've got it down to a few simple steps:
1) Breath deeply while you're waiting (after changing into that cute little gown) and then waiting some more. Don't let your mind wander into the worry zone.
2) Don't be overly ambitious when you walk into the MRI room. Keep your eyes and mind focused on walking towards the machine. Try not to think of anything else in that moment. Do not look around the room.
3) Lay down as instructed and close your eyes immediately. This is key. Get comfortable. Listen to the tech's instructions, but whatever you do, do not open your eyes. If they will let you, wear a fabric eye mask without metal. Or tie a bandana around you as a blindfold (that way there's less pressure to keep your eyes shut).
4) Think about your favorite place that is relaxing and joyful to you. For me, it's being at the top of a hill I regularly hike to. I imagine how it feels to stand, feet firmly on the ground, arms stretched out to touch the wind. I notice the sun and how warm it feels on my face. With the breeze comes the fragrance of eucalyptus. I listen for the sound of birds and hawks above. BTW, while you are imagining the many details of your favorite place, the MRI will commence. Whatever you do, no matter how many times they ask you to move or they move the machine to reposition you, keep your eyes tightly shut! Focus on your breathing; it should be slow and rhythmic as you relax into whatever pleasant experience your mind is conjuring up for you. (I used this same technique as a pre-surgery meditation here.) 
5) Sing a song in your head. This helps to counteract the banging and clanking of the MRI machine. Imagine being in your favorite place and singing a great song to the wind. Sing it over and over again. Before you know it, the technician will be telling you it's over — the MRI, that is. 

Remember: If you can't see that you are closed in,

you can tell your mind you're anywhere!


  1. MRI's can be really loud. I like to make songs (in my head) with the rhythms that come out of the machine. It helps me...

    Dianne Duffy

  2. Dianne: Thanks for stopping by! Timing the beat of the song to the beat of the MRI is a great idea! I just stopped by your blog, you are a good writer and I can't wait to read more! Keep writing. It has tremendous therapeutic value! It's just hard to find the time. ;-)

  3. I try to imagine I’m in a club, and all those honks and bonks are the music pounding onto the dance floor. It might sound cheese, but I literally have to stop myself from moving to the music!

  4. Catherine, that is a good one — and a tip I've never heard before! (The last time I went clubbing, new wave music was actually new...)

    Thank you for sharing! ;-)

  5. Such great advice, Renn. I'll remember every single tip next time I have to do one of these. And I'm sure there will be a next time, with my medical history. I especially like #4. Imagery has done wonders for me in situations like that. Thank you very much. xx

  6. Hi Jan! Yes, there are many times when these same tips can be applied. Here's hoping we don't have to use them very often!

  7. Perfect advice! I turned the noise into music with patterns .... like Close Encounters of the Third Kind. And ABSOLUTELY kept my eyes shut :)

  8. Oh, Renn, your poor mom! Sounds like a lot of my patients. Sounds like a few of my own back adventures. I hope it's something that can be treated effectively.

    I've had several MRIs & I now get them in what's called an 'open' MRI, which is not as narrow & you can actually see daylight. Also, they'll play music for you, even let you bring your own CDs.

    The thing that I hate most about them though is that the table is horribly uncomfortable. I think the last time I had to get one, the tech practically had to get a winch to help me off of it. I was in pain before I got on the damn table -- but afterward!! OMG, I needed morphine!

    I feel like I haven't been up to much blogging either lately. Life has a way of interfering with our writing time, doesn't it? I'm glad you have had some fun, too.


  9. Renn,
    You're right on target with everyone of your tips. My Golden Rule that I never, ever break is to keep my eyes closed... No matter what! I keep them shut and imagine I'm somewhere I love to be. Every time it gets easier, but it's still not my favorite thing. I'm always proud of myself when it's over that I didn't freak out.


  10. Renn,

    Great post! I'm glad you've been able to squeeze in a lot of activities. Your tips for the MRI are great. Luckily for me, I don't have a problem with medical procedures themselves. This is a good thing as I've had so many, including an MRI and most recently a bone scan. Do I get nervous waiting for results? Yes. Thanks for writing. Whatever and whenever you write, I'll be reading.

  11. Renn
    So great to see your post today!
    Sorry to hear your mom is in pain and hope she gets some relief soon.

  12. Carol, Kathi, Brenda, Nancy and Yvonne:
    Hey there, Hi there, Ho there! Thanks for being a part of my blogging world. It's always a good day when y'all stop by!

    My momma is better. YAY! No surgery required. A-MAZ-ING. Diagnosis: Two frozen shoulders! (We can all relate!) Physical therapy/pain pills/muscle relaxants are the Rx. (Sound familiar?) Fingers crossed she starts to feel better soon. So far so good!

  13. Good advice. I too am horrendously claustraphobic. I have only had to be sedated 1x, however. Eyes shut tight is definitely the key. That, and music. Ear buds playing your own personal soundtrack can also transport you from the moment. And being tummy-side down. Have the techs work with you in doing all MRIs on your stomach if possible. Warm wishes to your mom.

  14. Dear Susanne,

    I have been through a lot with my mom who has difficulty getting through a complete MRI. I will share these with her.

    Good for you! Get out there and travel the world (although be careful as evidenced by my last trip and broken ankle).

    Cheers and God Bless as I am so happy you are doing well.

  15. Thanks for stopping by, TC!

    @Janice: Hope your ankle is better! God Bless right back atcha!


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