Wearing an iron cloak to welcome in the new year

New Year’s Eve looms and with it the expectations of resolutions and the setting of 2013 goals. My goal is as simple, to remain cancer free and healthy for the next 30 years. My first milestone is one year post removal of cancer, then my 2nd anniversary and finally, the passing of the 3rd year. After that, my odds of reoccurrence bring me into alignment with other women who had been diagnosed with oestrogen sensitive breast cancer. My resolution is to stay strong in my faith and be open and accept that I may have to have both a bi-lateral mastectomy and chemotherapy.
Each time I engage with the medical profession, I do so with trepidation. It would not surprise me if my file is coded, ‘anxious patient’, for I don’t go quietly. I ask questions and I thank each challenge that rewarded me, resilience and a voice. I research each treatment procedure and the side effects. I do all in my power, to improve my experience, such as hydrate adequately prior to all needle interventions with my veins. On the 27th I undertook an MRI for my breasts to ascertain if there was any cellular change in the remainder of my right breast or at all in my left breast. This procedure includes an injection of Gadolinium dye which is pumped slowly through a cannula in your arm while you are enclosed within an MIR machine.
I rang the service located in the hospital to discuss the procedure. Initially I was responded to by a receptionist gatekeeper who ‘baby-talked’ to inform me that I would be having a little needle, a little dye and that it was nothing to worry about. At the mention of side effects, she referred me to the ‘technician’ who proudly claimed no-one had experienced any ‘side effects’ that he knew about. I recounted the list, of potential side effects from Gadolinium dye, including pain and burning at site, low blood pressure, minor skin rash, mild headaches,blood clots,lightheaded ness,nausea, hives,shortness of breath and fibrosis,a thickening of skin and connective issue especially in the joints. In the extreme, side effects can include swelling of the tissue of the liver, lung, and the myocardium around the heart and may lead to death.
He retorted that these were not ‘side effects’ but reactions. I challenged the semantics of language. The conversation continued and ended politely, with my appointment scheduled to occur in the hour. I weighed up the odds, hoping that the technicians may be just a little more careful with a ‘anxious’ patient than one who blindly submits to authority . I attended, filled in the paperwork which included a similar list of potential ‘reactions’ and signed away my right of litigation and followed the nurse, who enquired cheerily, if I had good veins. I was to discover my veins are fine and deep.
After robing in a front opening gown, the nurse led me to a small consultation room and attempted unsuccessfully to access a vein in my left arm in which she intended to insert a cannula where the dye would be pumped. My veins refused to cooperate and collapsed, she requested assistance from a senior nurse who achieved access from a vein my forearm. I thought about the potential impact for chemo treatment, where failure to access forearm veins, leads often to the use of the back of your hand which is very painful or a port directly in your chest wall. My veins were also voting so it seemed.
For those who are yet to experience an MRI, depending on whether you are surrounded by the dome or partially engaged, the sound is memorable and unique to this medial equipment. While not in the league of a stack of Marshall speakers, or belligerent as a jack hammer, the metallic pounding in syncopated thuds is invasive and strikes at the core of your being. This was not first MRI however it was the first one where I lay on my stomach, arms pinned back, palms against my sides and my breasts hanging in a frame. There I lay as motionless as possible for 50 minutes, while two full MRI were undertaken, one without dye and the other with dye flooding into my veins. The $350.00 procedure is not covered by Medicare or Private Health cover.
I have been blessed with a wonderful support team, and have via social media the opportunity to share my current health challenge with those most precious to me and with complete strangers via this blog. I am however alone in treatment, alone in pain and alone in all my decision making.
In these moments, I draw deeply into my faith, to comfort me and I use meditation to protect my spirit from the invasive experience of medical technology. Faith has been by constant companion and in the darkest moments, it is the light that chases the fear away. Like cancer, the fear is aggressive. I have a new iron cloak that is mine, and one that remains ever present. It takes little to find myself wearing it, despite all my best efforts to keep it closeted.


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