Ten days ago I took my spot and lay, head caged in, on a movable exam table as it eased into the barrel of an MRI machine. I lay as still as I could, with my eyes closed and my ears stuffed with plugs, and my head cadged as well as wedged in with foam shims to keep me from the slightest motion. I think it was my longest MRI ever, lasting over 60 minutes. It was, if I’ve counted correctly, my 16th head MRI.
The technician told me the doctor ordered the thinnest slices possible in order to fully view the state of the radiated skull base tumor in my head.
Usually, when I’m having an MRI, I try to meditate and pray to keep myself calm and still during the scan. My scans have lasted between 30 and 50 minutes on average, with this one being the longest one I recall. Oftentimes I try to focus on a piece of music. I find Taize music particularly helpful as it is simple, beautiful, repetitive and prayerful. I wait for my mind to tell me what song fits, sometimes I start the wrong song or I choose to change through a series of songs.
For this MRI, my heart chose the song for me. I can’t explain it, but it was so right, so comforting, so hope-filled. The song was “Jubilate Deo, Alleluia“, a song I have sung at Taize (this tune didn’t originate there but in the 17th century and credited to Michael Praetorius). The link will take you to a youtube video of it being sung in worship at Taize. “Jubilate Deo, Alleluia” is Latin and can be translated “Shout joyfully to God, Praise God.”
I took it as a good sign that my heart chose this song. And while I would normally get bored with the same phrase being sung for over an hour, for some reason, this time, it didn’t bother me at all. : )
My Angel for the Day (that’s what I call my crew of folk who go to appointments with me) and I had time for a nice lunch between appointments so we went into the adjoining hotel and took in the buffet. Fabulous! Then we hoofed it across campus to the Radiation Treatment Center where I was to see my radiation oncologist. Surprisingly, he was very nearly on schedule for the afternoon! We hardly had to wait at all before they called me back for vitals (weight, temperature, blood pressure and pulse). One of my favorite nurses was there to take care of it all.
As is standard, we first talked to a resident (it’s a university hospital after all!). He told me that the radiologist’s report was not yet ready, but that my doctor was already reviewing the scans. A few minutes later, the intern and my doctor both came into the exam room. We talked about how I’ve been doing the last 6 months, but especially my more recent status, massage therapy, side and after effects of the steroids he had me on, fatigue, speech and hearing issues and improvements, all the stuff doctors need to know to follow the patient’s progress.
And then he said the words I’ve been waiting and wanting to hear, “You’re doing great. And though we don’t have the report yet, from what I see, the radiation killed the tumor. The tumor is dead.”
(“Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life. Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life. Words of life and beauty, teach me faith and duty. Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life. Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.”!)
I could have skipped out the door! Actually, I think I may have. : )
I had more appointments the following day with my ear doctor and my neurosurgeon. They were more conservative in their pronouncements, saying things like “the tumor appears stable” and “I expect it will remain this way the rest of your life.”
Honestly, it was anticlimactic to go to the second day of appointments, excepting for the audiologist who ran my audiogram (hearing test). He was a fairly young man from India, and very enthusiastic. He couldn’t get over how much my ears have improved since last year when my left ear drum barely moved and I was registering a 40% loss in that ear. I now have full movement in my ear drum and have full hearing except for some of the very high pitches (so about 90%).
It’s kind of thrilling to remember it all, though the meaning is still sinking in. I was so pleased and happy that I completely forgot to ask my doctor to fill out the forms that would release me for work again. And now that the future is looking me in the eye, I’m praying that God will give me a clear indication as to what I’m supposed to do next.
Giving thanks today:
411. The “lump of coal” in my head
412. Being able and healthy to go back to work
413. Ears to hear and eyes to see straight
414. Graciousness in the stranger whose car I dinged
415. Two days at the lake
416. Being good news for my family
417. Safe travels and over 3000 miles on my car
418. Kids happy to be back home
419. Friendships made
420. Friendships shared and extended
421. Bullfrogs and butterflies
422. Looking to the future
424. Two rainbows in my travels (one on the way to the beach, one on the way back from seeing the doctors)
425. Songs that choose me