I’m getting an MRI today. Don’t worry, people with MS get yearly MRIs (sometimes more often) to track the progression of the disease. MRIs are also usually a part of an initial MS diagnosis. In theory, the MRI will show “lesions” or scarring (sclerosis) on the brain and spine. More lesions=disease progression.
In reality, getting an MRI means putting on a lovely hospital gown (ties in the back!), laying on a cold plastic “bed,” and sliding into a narrow tunnel of magnetic activity. It also means having a strange cage-type thing secured around your head and over your face so you don’t move during the tests, and “relaxing” while listening to interesting jackhammer-like and dial-up modem noises for 2 hours. All in all, it’s awesome. **
MS patients including myself also get an infusion of “contrast” during the second set of MRI scans which will make “active” lesions light up on MRI films. I’ve always thought of it as highlighter fluid. I despise needles, so this undoubtedly is my least favorite part of the two-hour MRI process. The needle hurts going in, and I undoubtedly bruise.
The thing with me is that my MRI films never match the way I’m feeling, the degree of disability I’m experiencing, or what I’m sensing is the present state of my MS. My most debilitating relapse coincided with my “best” MRI films-my lesions were shrinking and few
were active, but I could barely walk or see straight. Likewise, my “worst” MRI films were when I was running 3 miles a day and I didn’t see any MS activity for 4 more years. Maybe I’m a cynic, or maybe I’m just a freak whose disease doesn’t match with modern medicine’s tracking tools Sigh.
Either way, my MRI is today, and I’m more annoyed than anxious. I’m annoyed that I had to get a babysitter so I can schlep into Boston for my scans (they frown upon bringing preschoolers to the imaging center…). I had to get a friend to pick Jackson up at his after-school activity because I won’t be back in time due to Boston’s rush hour traffic. I had to get dinner ready early and I had to miss out on a playground playdate. Worst of all I “had” to think about the MRI (and the needle) all morning. And that was pointless.
I know in my heart of hearts that the way I feel is the best judge my MS in this very moment. No machine is going to tell me a truth that I don’t already know. Like so many parts of having MS, these routine MRIs are just annoying.
This disease is so much about control, and I guess getting an MRI is about letting go of that control. I know should be grateful that my sitter was free to watch the kids, that we have such helpful friends who will pick up Jackson, and that I technically will be lying down for 2 hours-but today I’m just not up for being so “up.”
So, I’ll go and get the MRI because I’ve put this one off for an extra year, and my neurologist is getting antsy. But you better believe I’m stopping for Starbucks on the way home, and I won’t be thinking about the MRI for another year.
**(My amazing sister-in-law Mariska Breland recently published a hysterical post on her own PilatesForMS blog titled “Two Hours in an MRI Machine,” describing her recent experience getting an MRI. You should check it out-she’s a riot, and paints a perfect picture of the MR I process. I’ll be thinking of it today during my scans and trying to to