The "Phew Factor"...maybe it could be a reality TV show on one of the commercial TV stations. But, let's face it, we all have our version of the Phew Factor, don't we? The close call at the bad corner in our town? The time we thought we hit "reply all" on our email where we criticized our boss or relative? The child who doesn't get off the bus because she fell asleep and the driver didn't notice. And our health scares -- the topic for today's show on the "Phew Factor".
Actually, it wasn't a health scare they way some of the Phew Factors can be health scares but definitely a health Phew!
The Background (okay, if this were a reality TV show, there would be some dramatic and tragic music playing, a montage of old photos, family and tears by a gravesite) and a sad voice over by me or the emcee of the show. My mother died of breast cancer at the age of 57, her younger sister died a couple of years earlier, probably at the age of 55-ish, their oldest sister died at a much older age but still of breast cancer. The final sister, who died at a ripe old age of 90+ never had breast cancer but three of her daughters have had it and two of her granddaughters have had it too. We don't have the BRCA gene according to my cousins but obviously something is going on. I have had mammograms starting from the time I was 33, regularly since I was about 40 (and I'm 53 now). So far all has been well. Phew, phew, phew.
Flash to Current Day (scenes of middle aged mother blogging and interacting with the last child at home, the teenager, and passing a post-college age daughter in the home's hallway as she rushes to work (we communicated more when she wasn't living at home)). A sister-in-law calls and says, "You should have the Breast MRI because they are saying some really good things about it, and you know, with your family history." Oh yeah, I've been thinking the same thing myself. Of course there is that little ick factor that comes up every time I go for the annual mammogram: "It might show something!" Oh yeah (clear head by shaking) that's WHY we do it because it might improve one's chances of survival. But isn't it true that we would in some weird way just not want to know because then we'd have to 'deal' with it? It's not how I live and practice but it definitely goes through my mind.
Flash to annual Gyno Visit. Nice nurse chats you up, asks about your children. I remember not to ask about hers because even though you have for the past ten years, I realized last year that she talked for about a half an hour about her children and her ex husband and it was just a little too much, I mean I feel for her but five minutes would work just as well. The doctor is a woman and we all live in the same small town and share information about college acceptances and teachers and the sport teams. "Hey, are you paying attention down there?" Once again, like last year, I forget (forget?) to ask about the MRI. At the check out desk I say, "Oh, I forgot to ask you, what about the breast MRI? Is there value in having that if you have my family history?" She promises to run you through "The Calculator" (shivers) and see if you qualify. Turns out that you DO qualify (gulp) and the appropriate referrals are granted and off you go to the hospital a few days later.
Honestly, I was worried but not about what you think. The The IDEA of an MRI gives me the creeps. Being in that cylinder? Yep, I have some latent, not important in the real world claustrophia. A closet, an elevator..these things don't bother me one bit, but to watch a program where prisoners of war dig a tunnel under the ground and crawl in the dark, to see nature video of spelunkers or of scuba diving spelunkers go into caves and....well, listen you can hear my breathing get shallow right now and it's hard for me to breathe. Aster just had a brain MRI (everything is fine) and he says, "What's the big deal you just relax and kind of doze."
Now to the Breast MRI. First there is the contrast dye through an IV and I have the bruise in my inner elbow to prove it. Then when you enter the room..a large, iron lung type thing fills the room and a bed is sticking out for you to climb onto. I purposely don't look at the iron lung, luckily until after I am all done. One lies, I had to lie face down, arched over an open contraption through which hung my....well, conical protrusions called breasts. My head was able to rest comfortably on a pile of pillows up to the level of the contraption. A call button is placed in my hand and the IV is gracefully threaded over the other hand which are at the base of the pile of pillows. The contrast dye will be pushed remotely after the first series of pictures are taken. I didn't realize that I was in the iron lung until they tucked something around my head. Truly I felt a little panic but I repressed it and kept my eyes closed. "Sleepy, be sleepy," I reminded myself and just enjoy that you have to lie still and do nothing, absolutely nothing for 40 minutes. They talk to you in the lung and then they start the pictures. They explain the horrendous noise, for which you have donned earplugs, as the magnets. I mean really, why do they have to make that kind of noise? It's absolutely deafening. ON the other hand, it's kind of numbing and reassuring in a strange way too. Only it makes different kinds of noises which I couldn't really explain to myself as I tried to make sense of them: click, click type noises, thundering, clapping and clanging. Physically either feel the vibrations of the magnets moving or in fact the sound waves or something causes you to feel as if something were moving up your body. Flash to the claustrophic worry that a mouse is in the lung and there is nothing you can do because after all you can't move can you, especially draped over this breast encasement? Every now and then, they would talk to me: "Are you okay? This series will be 7.5 minutes." or "Now we are going to push the IV contrast dye, your arm might feel cool when it goes in" (for the record I actually felt nothing). Then it was over and the magic bed slid me out. I needed help uncurling from my new form, stretching out my back, taking out the IV and returning to a sense that the real world still awaited me.
This morning my Gyno called (so soon?) and said that I had "perfectly normal" breasts. Phew. Phew. Phew. The Phew Factor.
My husband called to respond to the Phew Factor email that I sent him: "Definitely much better than normal." He said. I thought he meant the news was much better than normal. It took me a moment to appreciate the compliment.
Middle Age Momma grins and The Phew Factor closes with her blogging this entry!
More from living