MRI Symphonia

Entrada

Once upon a time, I was a music composition and theory major. Life happened and for a number of reasons, I had to give that up and do something else. When I went back to school years after I was supposed to graduate with a Bachelor’s, the dean asked me what I was going to do with my gazillion music credits. I told him that music would probably be my retirement job. Guess that’s not happening.

I’m getting used to showing up early for injections of nuclear dyes and scans every 3 months. I don’t care what anyone else says. Getting used to doing it doesn’t make it normal. Not in any sense of the word.

When I am prepped for the scan, they call IV therapy to come down and insert an IV either in my port or my arm/hand. Today it was my hand. It hurt like hell.  I am asked what Pandora channel I’d like to hear. I usually pick some sort of jazz. I have close to 70 channels in my collection. The hospital rarely has the channels I like to hear. I can’t bring my own earbuds into the machine area. They’d get sucked out of my ears and onto the machine as would my phone. I don’t bother dwelling on how unfair this is that I have to do this every 3 months when most other people are going on with their lives. When the machine fires up, I’m told how long each part of the scan will take. I just want to lose myself in the music and my thoughts. Things I want to do when I get home if the weather’s nice. Places I still long to go. Blog posts that may or may not ever actually get written. Every time I lay on an MRI table, I think about how I could write a modern symphony-like piece using the rhythms of the MRI machine. That’s probably not going to happen, either. Damn. So many life goals lost to cancer.

Sonate

bird whistle – squoosh bird whistle – squoosh bird whistle – squooosh 
march march march march march march march bird whistle – squoosh
bird whistle – squooosh

bird whistle – squoosh bird whistle – squoosh bird whistle – squooosh 
march march march march march march march bird whistle – squoosh
bird whistle – squooosh

Sometimes the sounds the machine makes remind me Gustav Holst’s First  or Second Suite  for Military Band. Or maybe Sea Songs by Ralph Vaughn Williams 

Other times it reminds me of Stravinksy’s Rite of Spring.

In a lot of ways, this whole process seems like some bizarre rite, A baptism of sorts. One where my brain is bathed in crazy metallic chemicals.  Sure, people have CT scans and MRIs for all kinds of reasons. I’ve had more than a few on my knees and shoulder. Turns out being athletic in any way eventually requires time with an orthopedic surgeon to repair a torn ligament somewhere. If only metastatic breast cancer were that easy. CT Scans. Bone Scans. MRIs. PET Scans. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I don’t dare ask them to find any of these pieces for me to listen to during my scan. I’d be there all day after tapping my foot or singing the parts that I still remember 30 years after playing them last. Funny how memory works. Especially when yours has been messed with by chemo and radiation.

I lie down on the table. It’s always cold and I’m usually shivering. Probably another reason they have to re-do some of the scans. For my brain MRIs I’m usually on the new 7 Tesla machine. No, it’s not named for the car. Tesla was an engineer and inventor. He did a lot of research with high-powered magnets. I get as comfortable as I can on this hard, cold surface. The technician hands me a bulb on a wire. “Here’s the panic button. Squeeze the ball if you need us to stop.”

Allegro

chunk chunk chunk

chunk chunk chunk

ZZZZT ZZZZZZT ZZZZZZT

ZZZZT ZZZZZZT ZZZZZZT

chunk chunk chunk

Tap Tap Tap
Tap Tap Tap
Tap Tap Tap

ZZZZT ZZZZZZT ZZZZZZT

ZZZZT ZZZZZZT ZZZZZZT

I need you to stop. I don’t want to be here. I know I really can’t say those words, though.  I’d love to stop this nightmare and get off of this ride that is metastatic (Stage 4) breast cancer. I am not at the end of this road yet. I don’t know yet how close I am, but I know I have a ways to go.

The voice in my headset says, “This scan will take 2 minutes. Can you hear the music okay?”

Faint tones of April in Paris remind me of a band trip to Northern Minnesota. The night I had a couple of extra gin & tonics so I could hit high “C” on the trumpet. Doc Z was on the piano. It was a good night. We played well. I went to bed happy.

Yes, I can hear the music. I’d love for it to be louder. It’s as loud as they are allowed to make it. Why should I care about my eardrums now? Sometimes it’s like a woodpecker next to my head pecking on a tree. Or maybe my head. It’s loud but it doesn’t hurt. The Cisplatin has already caused permanent hearing loss and damage. I have perpetual tinnitus. I only wish it came from standing within 10 feet of those speakers at the Prince concert those many years ago.

This passage requires me to lie completely still, which means I can’t really nap. It’s usually when I’m worried about twitching in my sleep that I start to twitch in my sleep. I’ve already had a couple of brain scans where they had to do sections over again just because I was breathing. Or shivering. I don’t remember which.  I know. The nerve, right?

Rondo

chunk chunk chunk

ZZZZT ZZZZZZT ZZZZZZT

Tap

Tap

Droning but not like a bagpipe.

Tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap

BZZZZT BZZZZT BZZZZT BZZZZT BZZZZT BZZZZT BZZZZT BZZZZT BZZZZT BZZZZT

Tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap

Can you hear my pulse?

I can’t, but I can hear the machine’s pulse. It’s as if it’s alive as I am. I take a minute to be grateful to have a pulse today. Cancer isn’t always this forgiving.

The technician comes in and injects me with the Gadolinium-based contrast.

I start to wonder why all of these patterns are base 8. Then I think of the programming lessons I got from my dad when I was a kid of 8 or 9 or maybe 10.

Binary. On/Off On/Off

Base 10

Base 8

Binary On/Off On/Off

Now come the long tones.

Trombones. Ready? Euphoniums? Where’s the tympanist?

bird whistle – squoosh bird whistle – squoosh bird whistle – squooosh 
march march march march march march march bird whistle – squoosh
bird whistle – squooosh

Now come the video game sounds. Pew Pew Pew

It reminds me of the Gnip Gnop game we had when I was a kid.

I want to be done. I want to get off this table and get somewhere warmer.
The klaxon sounds and a steady grinder noise reminds me of 2001 A Space Odyssey but without HAL 9000’s voice saying “I’m sorry, Dave. I can’t allow you to do that.” This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.” I hear this instruction in my head. It’s too important to stop. That’s what would happen if I squeezed the ball. I’d end the mission. I can’t do that. I’m not done yet.

chunk chunk chunk

chunk chunk chunk

Anyway… I don’t think about when I get on the table other than trying to hear the music and waiting for it all to be done.

bird whistle – squoosh bird whistle – squoosh bird whistle – squooosh 
march march march march march march march bird whistle – squoosh
bird whistle – squooosh

 

bird whistle – squoosh bird whistle – squoosh bird whistle – squooosh 
march march march march march march march bird whistle – squoosh
bird whistle – squooosh

Scherzo

Gnip Gnip Gnip   Gnip Gnip Gnip    Gnip  Gnip Gnip   This part is sort of Stravinksy-esque. Then back to the video game. I’m jumping and running and collecting coins like a boss while I’m not doing a damned thing except lie here without moving a muscle.

chunk chunk chunk

Now the droning sound

Tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap

BZZZZT BZZZZT BZZZZT BZZZZT BZZZZT BZZZZT BZZZZT BZZZZT BZZZZT BZZZZT

Almost done.

The voice in the headset says, “This last part is 4 minutes.”

It’s done.

It doesn’t seem like it was that long. It actually wasn’t. About 40 minutes. Still, every time I do this, seems a little bit like forever.

Finale

It’s done. The IV is removed from my hand. I give them the earplugs back. I take a minute to sit up before I try to stand. I wonder how many more of these I will need to do. Like the wise owl, I wonder how many more brain tumors it will take before I can’t do this anymore. And I pray for a miracle.

 

 

 

 

About Pink Ribbon Road

This blog is about receiving and living with a breast cancer diagnosis.
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