Archives for category: Sciatica

It’s been interesting how opinionated my friends are about my choices in how to deal with my bulged disc. I appreciate the care and concern, and I listen to everyone’s input.

Now that the acupuncture month is over (it did a lot of good, but I can’t justify $1000 every month until this is over, since I have no idea when that will be), I am looking for other means of coping.

I’m convinced that time is what is needed, but I also know that if I don’t “do” something, it will make me crazy.

To that end, I e-mailed the Volunteer Health Clinic to ask them about alternatives. I explained that it’s been 2 months since I visited, and that I wasn’t trying to be ungrateful, but that given my emotional/chemical make-up (which I know better than anyone else), their original suggestion of a corticosteroid was likely going to do me as much harm as good. We’ll see if they respond.

Additionally, when I was up in the wee hours researching how to sleep with sciatica, I came across this.

1-12This morning, I did these for the first time. I had to modify and/or just skip a few things. This is totally against my “push through it to do it” philosophy, but I know I’m dealing with that is tantamount to an injury here, so I only did what didn’t make me want to cry.

For instance, the second one? I can’t do that with my left leg AT ALL. Basically, I can’t straighten both my left leg and my back if they are to be at a 90-degree angle with one another.

Also, I could do the cow, but arching my back to the “cat” position was a definite “run away!”

The wide-leg dog is doable if I give myself permission to bend my knees quite a bit. The full out downward-facing dog is impossible right now.

The warrior stretches felt great. I am really excited about them. Same with the pigeon, cowface, and cobbler.

I was kind of happy about the locust, because when I first started going to the chiropractor in January, she asked me to try Supermans, and I could NOT do them. I could not lift my left leg off of the ground when I was on my stomach AT ALL. But today, after I did the locusts, I tried the Superman and was able to do it. For a few moments.

I also sweat a LOT.

Getting down and up was a chore, but only when I was lying on my back. There is a certain finesse to that, a “lie on the side then roll onto back” thing initially, then “roll to the side” before trying to get up. Oh, and my head has to be on the ground for that. If I try rolling to the side with my head elevated, pain shoots down my leg in a most excruciating manner. So I will avoid that.

The fish twist felt good, but when I did my right leg, I had to just curl my left leg toward my back, similar to the mermaid position. Like I said: I can’t straighten it.

I’m going to try to do these every morning and every evening and see if it helps strengthen anything. I’m also trying to remember to “crunch” my abs when I stand up just to strengthen those and take some pressure off of my back. I’ve been unable to do sit-ups of any kind for months, and that’s ironic because it would really help the healing if I could re-muscle those.

Last night, I went to bed at 11 PM and woke up this morning at about 5:30. I lay in bed until 6ish and got up. This is so much less discouraging to me than going to bed at 10 and waking up at 4. I’m not sure why, but it is. So I’m going to try to stay awake like I used to, even though my body is screaming at me by about 9 o’clock on a typical day.

I’ll keep you all updated. ūüôā



acupuncture-7That’s exactly what the needles they stick in me look like. There is a springy end, and a needle-y end. The needle is thinner than a (healthy) human hair, but it gets the job done.

Last Friday, the wife had me take off my pants (second partial disrobing! score!) and ran a line down the inside of my right leg. It was pretty icky feeling, none more so than when she came to take them out, and my leg did not want to release one, especially. (The polar opposite of my ear rejecting the needles altogether.)

Today was my next-to-last treatment and I almost skived off on it because yesterday, I rode in the car down to San Antonio (ouch), sat in the theater watching “Spamalot” for the better part of two hours (ouchie), sat at dinner in a cushy booth for almost an hour (but at least I could move around a little), then drove back to Austin (tear come to eye ouch).

The last half hour of the trip, I found myself praying, “God, please let lying down be a respite. I need a break from this pain or I’m going to lose it.”

Fortunately, I slept pretty soundly until my normal 4:00 AM thing, and after that, though I was still pretty uncomfortable, at least I was able to snooze somewhat.

(By the way, remembering the days when going to bed was a great relief and I didn’t want to get up in the mornings because of the hurt to come are now painful¬†nostalgic¬†memories. I can’t WAIT to get out of bed now. Lying down past 4 AM is exhausting. But we’re not dwelling on that, remember?)

So, anyway, when I got out of bed at 7:30 this morning, the last thing I wanted to do was to sit in the car again for even 10 minutes. However, my appointment was later than usual, and by 8:40, when I needed to leave, I was feeling okay.

I made it to the center without writhing in the car much at all, but getting up onto the bed was a challenge. Any time my spine is suspended like that, it yells at me. The pain was very intense still.

Now, here’s the good part. Well, wait. Not quite.

He didn’t use too many needles today. Except for the ones on my scalp, they all hurt like the Dickens! When he put the ones in my feet, I flinched. When he put the ones in the crook of my right elbow, I felt a fire in my thumb. They were extremely painful in a way they’ve never been before. He said that was probably because I was in so much pain already. He also apologized, and said he goes somewhere else (the “Spanish Inquisition” from “History of the World, Part 1, specifically) when he’s hurting people, because he doesn’t want to be hurting people.

Fast-forward 10 minutes. No pain in my backside. None. It was gone.

When he came back in and the session was to be over, I told him how great I felt. He asked if I could hang out 5 more minutes just to get the full benefit.

Here’s the deal: I still don’t get why this stuff works, but it does something.

He acknowledged that my pain is “stubborn,” and I don’t anticipate my last session will heal it… but it’s made management SO much better.

Well, dang it, I was hopeful.

The first three days of acupuncture, my body systems took notice. I was able to stand from a sitting position without hurting, get up out of the car and walk without a limp, and sleep gloriously through the night. For two nights.

After the second night, I woke up in a some discomfort, and that has regressed back to the whole “me crying out to God, begging him to heal me and asking why” wakefulness in which no position is free of excruciating pain. In fact, last night (this morning, actually, at 4ish AM), I iced my back for the first time. It didn’t help. It made it hurt worse.

So, once again, I’m finishing out this pre-paid month’s worth of treatments pretty hopeless about their long-term efficacy. During the first week, I felt so much better, I was cautiously optimistic that by Easter, I’d be nearly back to normal. This does not appear to be the case.

A weird thing happened on Monday: The acupuncture practitioner put a needle in the back of my right hand and it HURT. Not like acupuncture-needle-entering-skin hurt, but “that ain’t right” hurt. He noticed me wince and apologized, pulling it right back out and putting it in a different place. What’s weird is that it left a hole in my hand, and usually the needles enter and exit without a mark (except for some redness if one of them uses rubbing alcohol).

Also, the difference in this gentleman and his wife are interesting: She is much more, “Does that hurt yet? No? What about NOW?” than he is.

It’s an interesting system, and I did get relief at the front end. I just think I need to accept that this pain is too big for relief until it’s healed, and I can’t anticipate when that will be. Wanting “better” is driving me crazy, and I have to stop trying to worry about the fact that I can’t touch my toes or lean to the left and grab my left foot when I do the splits, that I can’t dash across a crosswalk at the last minute unless I’ve been standing and walking for a long time, that I want desperately to sit on the couch beside my man and I just can’t swing that. I have to stop thinking about what I’ve lost and celebrate what I do have.

Because I think I’m in this for the long haul.

right_whatwedo This picture is from the Tigerlily website, and I’m trying to decide whether or not to be offended because in every picture I see of people having acupuncture, they’re beautiful women who aren’t wearing clothes. I have not been asked to disrobe, nor have I turned into a commercial model yet, but we can hope, right?

I went back on Saturday morning, when I was treated by the wife of the gentleman who’d done my first two treatments. She had a very different approach than he did. She reminded me very much of my favorite college professor, musical theater instructor Amy Herzberg. She asked me a lot of personal (female-related) questions that her husband had not. (The acupuncture practitioner, not Amy… though she pried into my life a lot, too, to get a good performance.) She also was more aggressive in her positioning of the needles. She did not do any facial or head points, but went down the outside of both of my arms. When she’d hit on a particularly painful spot, she’d say, “That was a big one!” almost before my body had had a chance to register that, “Yeow! That smarts!” I wonder how she did it, but, as I’ve mentioned, I am not too curious about the “how” as long as we get results.

I had to replenish two of the three supplements on Saturday, and it was the better part of $100. Gosh, how I hope this works.

Monday, it was back to the scalp, and with more points on my feet this time.

By the time I went in on Monday, when he asked me what my pain level was now as opposed to when I started, I told him it was 7.5-8 compared to 10.

The thing is, Monday and Tuesday after my first visit, my body reacted quickly and noticeably. Wednesday night, I almost cried when I was at dinner with my small group and was able to sit and then stand over and over again with almost no “transitional” pain.

Then, it was like my body got used to the new input, absorbed it, and kind of went back to business as usual. I awake once a night and find it difficult to position myself in such a way that resumed sleep comes easily. It hasn’t been frustrating enough to make me cry yet, though, so that is an improvement.

Also, right now, I’m at McDonald’s working, and I’m sitting in a cushioned bench. I keep getting up and down, and am only mildly sore. There’s not a catch, stop, and then deliberate limp/walk to move out of the pain and into “normal.”

So, intermittent pain relief is still better than unremitting pain, but I have an “all or nothing” tendency to want it to be better, or to be discouraged that I’m going to hurt until I’m dead and never be able to jump or do a backbend or sprint across the street again.

Which just means I need more therapy than just of the physical sort, right?

earmsI just realized that this picture includes a very freaky-looking human body. Well. Just have nightmares about that for a while.

Anyway, second acupuncture visit yesterday.

The biggest news I have so far is that the first night after my first treatment, I was able to sleep so much better. I was uncomfortable, but not in severe pain. I was in moderate pain. I was in pain that might have kept me awake six months ago but that, now, felt doable.

Last night, I was able to lie in almost any position I wanted to without gasps of pain and/or involuntary whining rising up from my soul and out my pie hole.

This is a vast improvement from Saturday night, after which I reached out to my small group for prayers for extreme discouragement and the feeling of losing myself to the pain, and then the following night when, at 4:30 AM, I woke Daphne up because I was sobbing inconsolably as I could not rest without pain shooting down my leg.

Chronic pain is bad. But at least at first, I could escape it in sleep. Losing that small oasis has been a huge blow, so the last two nights of solid rest have been amazing. I thank God every time I wake up naturally and can tell I am about to fall back to sleep like a “normal” person.

I am still not in full-out comfort. I still feel extremely deep, but more dull, aches and stabs. But at least I can sleep. And that is a huge blessing.

Today, the acupuncturist was going to do some electro-shock therapy, but his machine hadn’t been plugged in and had dropped its charge (for the first time in the 7 years he’s had it), so he decided to add my ear into the hand/foot/arm mix.

First of all, my left arm still does not like the needles. It is sore as soon as he puts them in, and now my skin is treating the needle punctures like mosquito bites. I guess histamine habits die hard.

My ear, though… it was the weirdest. He put somewhere between 4 and 6 needles in that area. I believe that there were 2 near the outside of my earlobe, it felt like 2 being inserted in the little weird sticky-out part, and then a couple that were not in my ear canal, but it felt like it. It’s difficult to tell when you can’t see.

He also put one where my third eye would be if I thought that I had one. So for one hour, I was a beautiful if unimpressively-endowed unicorn! (Then there were the three in my scalp as earlier.)

I can barely feel him putting the needles in my feet and legs; those don’t bother me at all.

This time, he did not come back in to “stimulate” me. Knowing that was supposed to happen, I occasionally moved my hands and arm to “remind” my body that I had needles poked into myself.

After a while, it felt like a tiny butterfly was flying into my ear, and I realized that one of the ear needles, one of the inside ones, had probably fallen over, like a mini-tree in a teeny-tiny forest.

This is where the mind games start: Oh my gosh, it’s going to fall into my ear canal and punch my eardrum open! I realized this was dumb, the tiny ear hairs were probably stronger than this needle, and I just needed to lie there and wait for him to come back to “stimulate,” which, of course, he didn’t do this time.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering why they don’t have the equivalent to a nurse’s button by the beds, so I could contact someone in case of an acupuncture emergency (though I can’t imagine what that might be).

In time, I felt another needle moving and eventually falling out.

Then I have this very ridiculous mental fantasy in which my body is healing itself and rejecting the needles placed in my ears specifically for pain relief because my body is trying to tell the needles, “I got this, bitches.”

Which I know is stupid, but when a third one fell out, I was picturing the needles shooting out of my ear and hitting the wall, like in a science fiction movie.

Finally, when the hour was up and the guy came back in, I mentioned what had happened. He looked and said, “Yep. You’re right. I don’t put them in very deep, but this is the first time this has ever happened. You must be special; but you probably already knew that, didn’t you?”

What had started it was that one of the interior-most needles had drawn some blood. The needles had been so shallowly inserted that the blood knocked the needle over, which knocked down a second, which eventually pushed on and knocked out a third.

He invited me to use the restroom to “reconstitute” the blood so I could remove it from my earhole. It might have been fun to keep it there just as a talking point today.

He thinks that the Circulation herbal complex is what’s helping me sleep. He said that everything slows down in sleep, and that’s why the pain is so much more intense then. He reasons that the Circulation formula is helping that.

Maybe. But it hurts when I lie down, not just when I am asleep. Regardless, I feel better and I’m not going to criticize explanations. I don’t even care to understand, as long as it works.

Now I need to go take the next 10 pills for the day, so I’m signing off for now.

Acu_woman_smiling_dreamstime_4554584_2See that lady right there? Just naked and smiling as Thing inserts a tiny acupuncture needle into her back? Just so you know, in case you ever actually go have an acupuncture treatment, my experience was NOTHING like this. I’d post a picture of what I looked like this morning, except that I have dignity. But suffice it to say that I didn’t remove my sweats or my sweatshirt or anything beyond my shoes and socks. And the dude didn’t touch my back at all. Also, I am pretty sure that he had a staple gun and that was how he inserted the needles. But more on that in a minute.

First of all, one thing I’ve heard about acupuncture is this: The needles are so small, you can’t even feel them! Um, yeah. You can. That’s kind of the point. You’re stimulating different parts of your body to open up channels for energy and whatnot, and I don’t totally understand it and maybe it sounds like hooey, but I do not want someone to slice into my vertebral column just yet so I’m going to try some treatment that has been used for thousands of years before we get to that, mmkay?

Basically, the acupuncture practitioner told me what to expect, and how it works (on an elementary level, because I’m dumb and whatnot), and then these three supplements he’d recommend that I take while I’m pursuing this course of treatment.

He sent me home with Boswellia Complex for inflammation, Gotu Kola Complex for soft tissue healing, and Circulation (SJ) for “the sharp pain.” When he said those words and explained that I’d be taking 4-6 pills three times a day, I didn’t flinch. I was ready to down a whole vial of those puppies, if they’d¬†alleviate¬†the “sharp” pain. That’s the *worst.* However, he said, “That might sound like a lot of pills,” (which it didn’t, since I’ve been taking 6 Aleve and 6 ibuprofen per day, as well as the occasional allergy med) “but it’s herbs, so if you think of rosemary… how much of that would you have to eat before your body responded?”

Next, he invited me to take off my shoes and socks and lie down on my back. I was able to do with easily, mentally noting that I need to buy a hard chiropractic/acupuncture table to sleep on at night. There was a firm wedge pillow under my lower legs, too. I laid there for nearly an hour before my body started begging me to move.

The practitioner pushed up my sleeves and the bottoms of my sweats a bit (would have shaved if I’d thought of that… whoopsie) and said that he was trying to open up the energy in the complementary meridians to my back, where the pain is. By stimulating this channel to “open,” the body starts healing itself. Or something like that.

He warned me that it would be like a “dull ache,” and I assured him that I’d just had a tattoo touched up on Saturday, on top of my finger, just so he’d know I am pretty bad-ass.

Well, I still have to say “ow.” The needle insertion didn’t hurt as much as the tattoo, but they were certainly more than slightly uncomfortable. He put needles into my right hand, my left arm at the elbow crease and in that area, my right foot, my left ankle, and he put three on top of my head! What does it say that I felt the skull needles least?

After he’d put those in, he talked to me a bit before leaving the room. He mentioned that I should feel the “dull ache” and not a sharpness or itching. But the one needle inside of my left elbow was pretty itchy. He said he might have pierced a vessel through which some blood escaped, creating a “histamine” reaction. He took out the original needle and put another one in, and then left me to relax.

Twenty minutes later, he came back and asked me if I could still feel the needles. I could really only feel the one in my left elbow crease, so he “stimulated” them all again. My body had stopped paying attention, but it took notice again quickly! Yikes! I said, “I didn’t but I do feel them when you do that!”

He said, “You’re supposed to feel it. That’s how we get these passages to open up.”

By the time that my hour was up, I was starting to get¬†fidgety¬†and my tail was getting exhausted. It wasn’t pain exactly, but I needed to move. Also, at one point, my left leg felt weirdly empty.

When he came back and took out the needles, he massaged my arms quickly, and both of my wrists popped, which I don’t know that they’ve ever done before.

I felt no different when I left, but I scheduled 10 sessions because I want to attack this thing aggressively. I need to be FINISHED with my pain before my Haiti trip. I need to be finished with this *now*. I’ll keep you updated.

Now we’re going back to the beginning of the MRI story. Spoiler alert, I suppose… You know how it turns out.

A couple of weeks ago, I’d priced MRIs. They’re a couple thousand dollars. X-rays are less expensive, but I don’t feel like that is something I need, and it’s still not cheap.

I had posted the question to my Facebook friends about affordable imagining, and a friend mentioned Volunteer Healthcare Clinic. I looked it up and found that they see patients on Tuesday and Thursday nights, and that their requirements are that you have no form of healthcare whatsoever, make 200% the federal poverty guidelines or below, present a photo ID, and have proof of county residence.


From what I read, the doors opened at 5 and they started seeing patients at six, after which time no new patients were admitted. I left my sister’s at around 5 and see, with hindsight, that showing up at 5 would be a good idea if you were actually sick. I look pretty healthy, so probably would have been shoved to the back in triage, anyway.

I got to the facility at 5:15ish and had to park two blocks away. When I walked in, a gentleman was conducting an orientation of sorts. He directed me to a place where I could grab a ticket, then he continued explaining, in both English and Spanish, that all services were being provided by volunteers: the administrators, pharmacy, doctors, intake, nurses, etc. They would treat the client with respect and expected the same in return. He talked through what would happen and what wouldn’t happen there at the clinic.

He mentioned, for instance, that they do not have care for expectant mothers. They had a dermatologist there for that night. He said that they had vouchers for an eye exam and free glasses, but specified that you had to ask for the voucher when you were being checked in. Then he asked if anyone there had used an eyewear voucher before, and three people had. He asked them to hold up their glasses. He asked them, “Did you have to pay for them?” Everyone indicated no, they were complementary. “So you got them for free? It worked?” They all confirmed it. You could tell that some people might be nervous about whether they’d be baited-and-switched. That others had already blazed this trail and not been “taken” seemed to soothe them.¬†The same spiel happened when they talked about orders for x-rays and flu shots.

A bit before six, we all lined up outside, in order of our ticket numbers, to be checked in. A cold front had blown in, and we all stood shivering in the beautiful, flaming Austin sunset, as rain begin to pelt us. We were allowed to queue up near the building to avoid getting wet, but the whole check-in took fewer than fifteen minutes.

A gentleman asked to see my photo ID, and asked why I was there. When I explained, he seemed a little put out. “Are you experiencing pain NOW?” he asked. It was with extreme self-restraint that I answered calmly, “All of the time. Yes.”

I was given a number and went back in the big room to sit down… or, in my case, stand up.

The clinic asks for a donation of $5, but most of the people I saw were giving $10-20.

Those with children were allowed to go first, regardless of when they arrived. One boy apparently had whooping cough (something I’m sure I shouldn’t have heard, but which I will explain later), and it was a school night, after all.

Everyone was called back to get paperwork handled in order of our numbers. My number had been assigned as 27/adult (this was after 11 or so kids), so after an hour, when we were only on 9/adult, I knew I’d be there a while.

As I watched, though, I noticed that people were being processed and seen and sent to the lab and pharmacy as they could. Finally, after over an hour, I went to the back to start my paperwork. I was asked questions about my income, and where I would have gone for heath care if the clinic hadn’t been available.

When that was finished, I was sent back out to wait for the next step.

At just before 8:00 PM, or more than two and a half hours after I’d gotten there, I was sent in to be weighed (I closed my eyes and asked her not to say it out loud) and measured… and decided to ignore that I’ve apparently shrunk one inch since I was measured for my high school senior cap and gown.

Then I was sent back out to wait for triage.

I went back to be interviewed by a nursing student from UT. She was very attentive and pleasant, nearly three hours in, even though I did chuckle when she asked me how to spell “sciatica.”

She took my temperature (which was “normal,” which is high for me) and my blood pressure (which was “low,” which is normal for me), then, you guessed it: sent me back out to wait.

There was a line of five seats along a narrow hall in the back of the building, and I’d learned that this was the waiting area for seeing the doctor.

Gradually, everyone else was called back, even people who’d been assigned numbers behind me. I got it by then: I had no overt illness, and could wait. No problem. I had taken, “The Real History of Chocolate” to read (again) and was engaged in any number of fascinating text conversations to pass the time.

I watched clients hanging out at the lab in back of the room. When the lab techs weren’t working, they would talk with the patients. When the admin who was taking “donations” was not busy, she just sat and talked with whomever might come to share a bench with her.

The idea of mutual respect in my head from the orientation leader’s explanation, I saw it. I especially saw it when, shortly after 9:00 PM, I was finally called back to the “the doctor will see you now… almost” chair line.

While I waited, a group (made up largely of UT med students) of volunteers was standing around the corner chatting. That’s when I heard about the sick kid’s diagnosis. They were also talking about putting together a 20,000-piece puzzle. They were enjoying each other, and had nothing else to do for the night. They were basically waiting for me to leave. And they sounded a lot less tired than I was, making plans to go out afterward.

Dr. Gonzales called me into his office, the last patient of the evening. What I’m about to tell you might cause you a great deal of shock, but it’s the honest truth: This man, this doctor, this gentleman who could have been at home but had chosen to donate his time and experience to help me and people like me… He LISTENED to me. He asked what was wrong, and before he tried to tell me what he thought, he LISTENED to the words coming out of my mouth. He was positive about my chiropractor. He agreed with everything she’d told me, and was surprised himself that the month of adjustments hadn’t helped yet.

He felt my back and said it did seem uneven (not surprising since he had me bend over and I can only do that if I bend my left knee significantly), but that he didn’t feel anything that concerned him. He thinks the wonky sacrum is the most likely reason my nerves are shot and I’m in so much pain. He agreed that a bulged disc might be the cause, also, but that the odd thing there is that typically, if that happens, it hurts for six weeks or so and then scars over and the pain subsides. He said that sometimes it will last as long as eight weeks, which is around how long I’ve been in this extremely severe pain.

The doctor said he was not at all concerned that I might have a tumor or anything more serious, but that, to rule it out, he’d be glad to order blood work (to check for infections and cell count) and an MRI.

I almost cried.

The nurse who’d triaged me had suggested an x-ray, and I didn’t want to be a choosy beggar, so I wasn’t going to say anything if that’s how the visit went.

But do you know what?

The doctor listened to me. I think he could tell what I wanted and he met that need. I was extremely grateful.

After he sent me off, I went into the lab to have blood drawn. Another volunteer was turning off the lights in the main room. I literally closed the place down.

I left at a bit before 10:00, thanking everyone who was still hanging out.

Fortunately, the rain had quickly visited and moved on, because that two blocks was much more nicely traversed in the cool, still evening than it would have been in a cold soaking-to-the-bone rain.

As I processed this visit on my drive, I realized that I’d basically been paid (or granted?) $500 an hour to sit in that clinic. No imaging centers use a sliding scale. Having now gone through the MRI, I can more appreciate why it’s so expensive, and would not want to save money by finding a cut-rate operation.

Another friend here in town said that this is one thing he loves about Austin: That there are people here who have the means to make a difference, and they do. They’re not just bleeding-hearts, they are actual do-gooders.

Adding up all of the donations from that night doesn’t come close to making a dent in the free service I received. I’m grateful to the benefactors who support Volunteer Healthcare Clinic, and to every single person who works hard to make the services available.

I am going to tell the second part of this story first, but that’s because this part is fresh on my brain so I wanted to get it “on paper” before I lose my delightful afterglow.

Yesterday at 2:00 PM, I called ARA Diagnostic Imaging to make an appointment to be magnetically resonance-imaged. The nice lady at scheduling asked me if I could be at a place about 45 minutes away in an hour and a half. I was both mentally unprepared and (embarrassingly) not as freshly-scrubbed as I might like to be when engaging in activities that require people to evaluate my body.

I told her the nearest center to me and asked for the earliest appointment they had. I was surprised when the answer was two hours earlier than I’d expected: six o’clock! “But they ask that you be there half an hour early to check in.”

Whatever. Let’s get this over with. So I made the appointment.

There are no dietary restrictions or anything else pre-MRI, so I just went to bed at 11, hoping to get a good 6 hours of sleep. By midnight, I was still awake and saw that James had just posted on Facebook, so I called him and we talked for an hour.

Then I still just lay in my bed for who knows how long. My sleep skipped across the night like a smooth wide stone on the surface of a pond, which is a pretty poetic way of stating something sort of obnoxious, except that at least when my alarm went off at 5:00 AM, I was able to turn it of when it was still vibrating and before the annoying sounds started.

Since I had my clothes laid out and did not plan much in the way of daily beautification rituals, I was ready to leave by 5:15. I walked out the door at exactly 5:15. I pulled into the radiology center at exactly 5:30.

I got checked in and invited to have a seat to fill out my paperwork, but asked for permission to move away from the guy at the front desk but still stand. I’m not accustomed to sitting this early, and the drive over was an unpleasant one.

There were a lot of questions I had to answer about former surgeries, metal implants (which my dad has, but I do not). I noted about the tattoo on my left ring finger. I noted that I have asthma but had taken 2 hits off of my inhaler already today (raise that to three by the time I got in there). I marked that I did not have motion/spacial issues, although this is not entirely true.

Here’s the thing: I used to be a rather compulsive liar when I was younger. I lied about everything and usually for no reason. As I got older, though, I lied to my parents about what I was doing sometimes because of this stupid rationalization that would happen in my brain.

For instance, I knew that they did not want me to get drunk or to have sex, but I did want to go to parties where my friends did those things. The thing is, I didn’t want to engage in any dangerous activities, anyway; I just wanted to hang out with my people and, frankly, laugh at them when they were idiots. So I wouldn’t tell my parents I was going to a party because I knew they’d say “no,” but I told myself that this was okay, because I understood that their underlying spirit was that I not do anything stupid, and I knew I wouldn’t do that.

Which, now that I look at it, is pretty funny. I’ve heard that the definition of “sin” is when we tell God “I got this. Don’t worry yourself.” I believed in my own self-governance, above the will of my parents… which pretty much means I sinned against them, even though I did an awesome job of self-denial in that respect.

I digress slightly.

Allow me to do so again:

About a year and a half ago, I got a day at the spa for my birthday. During the facial, the lady asked me if I were claustrophobic. I said, “No.” The truth is that I *am*¬†claustrophobic, but I’d read about the electric shock therapy to the face (which is overstating it; they *do* run a current through your facial skin, though) and I really wanted to try it.

So I interpreted her question as, “Are you going to freak out when I put all of these layers of wet cotton on your face and then it gets really hot and you have electricity running through your epidermis?”

I tailored my answer to get what I wanted, so I said, “No.” And it was fine. It was a very cool thing, and I’m glad I didn’t miss out on it by saying, “Yep. I will probably punch you in the stomach, so you might want to stand back and lean way in.”

My claustrophobia comes into play only when I perceive that I am not in control. For example: huge crowds. Ugh. It’s overwhelming. Get me out. An elevator that’s taking too long to go up three floors. Ugh. Stuff like that. I could fold up and hide in a cabinet with D when she was little, because I knew that I could open the door and get out whenever I wanted.


When asked if I had any motion/spacial issues, I said, “No.”

I went back and was given a sumptuous new wardrobe for the occasion.

"I lost 230 pounds with the MRI-wear life plan! It's like Photoshop for your body!"

“I lost 230 pounds with the MRI-wear life plan! It’s like Photoshop for your body!”

When I exited the room, I was asked if I needed to use the restroom, which I didn’t, but then I remembered what I always used to tell D about going, anyway, and I went.

Next, the guy asked me most of the questions I’d already answered out loud, including two separate times whether or not I’d been diagnosed with cancer, which, I’m not going to lie, freaked me out a little bit.

Then we went in the room with the pulsating noise tube and he put small vial of target fluid (these are the medical terms; try to keep up) on the small of my back.

I had purposefully left my contacts out because I didn’t want to be able to see very well. He asked me if I’d taken off my bra, which I took as a compliment, even in the loose clothing, because, as a woman, I think it’s obvious when I’m packing and when I’m not.

He showed me where to put my head (which I couldn’t see, but I understood) and asked me to lie on my back. I begged patience and got into position. He said, “Don’t take any deep breaths or shift your hips.”

Got it.

Then he put these germ-shielding-cloth-lined noise-cancelling earphones on my head and asked me what radio station I’d like to listen to. Oh, yea! Comedy channel! But that doesn’t come in at the center. Boo. Whatever. Except country. No country.

Finally, he snapped my head enclosure shut (I’d closed my eyes by this point) and put a bulb into my hand.

“Squeeze this if, at any time, you need to stop the exam.”

I’m all, “Dude! Please!” but I just said, “Got it.”

And I kind of wanted to squeeze it right then.

If you’ve never had an MRI,you’ve still seen them at some point, so I don’t need to set the scene too specifically. The thing I was not anticipating was the sound. There is a constant, ambient, rather loud pulsating.

Thus, I was lying on my back, head snapped into place, about to be pneumatically tubed. (Not really, but that’s kind of how it looks.)

The bed started sliding up, and my head was surrounded by the machine. I realized that the pulsating was actually a lot like what I’d be hearing if I was over-exerted or scared, and my heart was pounding in my ears.

At which realization, my heart DID start pounding to match the sound of the machine. I was overwhelmed by panic, which was only kept at bay by the knowledge that all I had to do was squeeze the bulb. Just squeeze the bulb. I have control.

I had been told that the process would take half an hour. I was thinking total, not just for the scan itself. But the scanning took a full half hour. In a tube. With lots of loud noises.

Without further ado, I will now allow my brain to narrate the procedure:

I thought he was going to turn on the radio. Okay. Just close your eyes. Calm. Breathe. But not too much! He said don’t take a deep breath! Ah! Radio. “Good Life.” Nice choice… Moving again!

And stopped. Relax. Breathe. Okay, I can’t keep your eyes closed any longer. Oh! Nice. There’s a picture of, where? Greece? Some pretty city. Not here. That was nice of them. I’ll just look into the sky. Breathe. Stupid heart, stop trying to outdo that noise. Just do your own thing.

This will– WHOA! That’s… well, it’s loud but not too loud. I can see why this freaks people out. It’s on one side, and the other side, and back to the first side, and then over to the other side.

Wow. Actually, NOW I do need to use the restroom. I wonder if the MRI signal is doing something to my digestive system.

Hmm… Think about what that guy’s seeing right now. Wonder if he has an opinion.

What if Daphne’s awake and something’s wrong and she’s texting me, but we’re just getting started and it’s still a half hour before I can answer her?

STOP IT! You’re making it worse. Redirect.

Today, I’m going to Ladybird Wildflower Center. The radio just said it’s 38 but the highs will be in the 70s. What am I going to wear? I don’t want to wear the sweats I wore here, so I will wear… Hmm. I need to throw that red shirt out that I wore at Christmas. I don’t look good in that straight collar. I’ll wear my striped shirt and my grey jeans. That way, I can wear my Sketcher dress sneakers so I won’t get any more blisters.

There. That’s a nice distraction. But I’m done with that. What else?

What if I totally freaked out and started flailing my arms and yelling and trying to get out? COULD I get out of here in an emergency? The sound just stopped. What if there WAS an emergency, just now? Like the clinic is on fire, and the tech’s self-preservation kicked in and he just ran out. How long should I give it?

STOP IT! Oh my gosh, you psycho. That doesn’t help. Redirect.

The house. James is moving. He is moving into a house that needs a lot of work to deal with storage. That’ll be fun. It’s on Nueces, which, according to Google Translate, means “nuts,” and therefore should be named “The Nut House.” We’ll have so much fun making that place a home. Yea!

Ladybird Wildflower Center. What else? I should drive down to the Buda Wal-Mart to see if they have those carts my friend posted about on Facebook yesterday.

And that’s it.

I don’t have anything else to think about… Oh. Moving again.

My legs are really stiff. I think I’m tensing them. I should relax them. Except that he said don’t move. Oh, great. Now they’re trembling? This is too much pressure. I have to relax them.

Ahh. There. OH NO! I just sighed! Is he having to start over?

WOW. That’s REALLY LOUD. It’s like really REALLY loud… I wonder if those first sounds were all just to make me less frightened when THIS sound came on. I can see why people don’t like MRIs.

Interesting. They used that clear medical tape to put this Grecian travel poster up here. Cute. Did someone have to crawl up in here to affix it?

That vent feels nice on my face. Except something about the breeze is making the right side of my forehead itch.

NO ITCHING, dang it! STOP!

Is it better to visualize myself scratching it or to try to divert my thoughts toward something else? I don’t–

WHOA! Loud! And… is it heating up, or am I imagining that? That’s actually okay.

What’s even playing on this radio station? Between the noises, I can’t hear it, but I’m “hearing” Liberace-style piano.

Oh. The sound stopped. It’s an annoyingly-voiced commercial. Interesting. I’ll take the piano back, please.

YIKES! And it’s back. That’s really, REALLY loud.

I’m bored.

God, this is overwhelming, and I ask that you let this NOT be cancer, because I cannot imagine a life full of these kinds of appointments.

What if I had to have surgery on my back and I woke up in the middle of it because they hadn’t given me enough anesthesia?

That guy had better not come back in here and grab my toes as a joke. I’d probably kick him in the face and pass out.

STOP thinking about that. He’s not going to do it. He’s a professional.

If it IS cancer, maybe the resonance will break it up into tiny bits and that will be it?

OH MY GOSH! I *do* have “metal in my body that I was not born with”! Fillings! Duh! I wonder if that’s important. I’ll be sure to tell him when I’m finished.

I wonder when that will be.


Dang it! Hope that wasn’t too much.

Ah! The radio just went off! Does that mean… yep. Heading out. My first words will be, “I don’t think I’d like another.”


Except that, when I got out, I just thanked the guy and went back to change clothes. I was pretty wobbly, but I don’t know how much of that was from release of whatever hormones were playing with me and how much of it was just lying still for so long.

When I was in the dressing room, the guy came by and told me, through the door, that I could throw the sticker from my back in the garbage.

I wondered what it’s like to have his job. I wondered if he could see things and watched people walk out of his lair knowing that their lives were about to change, but it’s not his job to talk to anyone about it.

I’m going to spoil part of this story by telling you that the doctor I saw Tuesday night said he is not worried at all about tumors or anything; he thinks my back problems are due either to a wonky sacrum or bulging disc (which he didn’t feel, so he leans toward the sacrum). He just authorized this and bloodwork for my and my family’s peace of mind.

Now I’m VERY glad that’s over with, because I’m ready to be outside, in the wide open, with some nature sounds!



Peace out!