How are you? How was the MRI?

8 Jun

There’s one of those “definition” questions in Hebrew, that translates something like this: How do you define a “nudnik” (one of those irritating sorts of people who simply gets under your skin) – A person whom you ask “How are you?” – and they tell you, to the very last detail.

One’s asked that simple question “How are you?” all the time. In my case it comes from people with a complete range of information regarding my condition. Many tell me how they know how I’m doing from the blog; some know considerably more because they just happen to be close family or close friends. Some think they have the right to know. They follow up my standard “OK” or “Fine” answer with the ultimate question of penetration: “But how are you – really?” And then they’re still others who I’m not even sure know that I’m ill.

But the question still remains valid – and I often struggle with the answer myself. Many of the experts say it’s your clinical condition that counts. If you look well, feel well and can do some of things that healthy people do some of the time – then you’re probably doing well. But science today has no bounds. We have the technical ability of CT’s, MRI’s, Pet scans and, of course, a whole battery of blood and other tests including markers (the subject of which I posted a blog back in November).

From the early days of my illness, Pam and I took the decision not to share results with anyone. The stress of waiting for the results is bad enough – but to compound it with the interest of well-wishers would be just too much. So we keep the results to ourselves. Last week however, my oncologist decided it was time for some updates of my status; it was time for another MRI.

Why an MRI when a CT could suffice is a story on its own. To make that story short, about 20 years ago I had an anaphylactic reaction (have I mentioned this before?). Anaphylaxis is a severe, whole-body allergic reaction to a chemical that has become an allergen. After being exposed to such a substance – it could even be a bee sting – the person’s immune system becomes sensitised. On a later exposure to that allergen the reaction could occur again – and in severe cases could be fatal.

As a result, my Health Fund no longer authorises CTs that require an injection of material – but will allow MRIs. The first appointment we can get is toward the end of July. But Pam, being Pam, gets on to it immediately and presto, we had the MRI last Sunday. Needless to say Pam’s organisation was so fast that the Health Fund didn’t have enough time to issue its financial undertaking to the hospital. A trivial matter. The hospital simply debits you with the costs – several thousands in local currency – and thousands in any other stable currency as well. The run-around needed to sort out the administrative nightmare would be enough to keep any Olympian fit.

Back to the point I wanted to make about MRIs or any other medical test. These are no normal tests for cancer patients. So many people are limited in seeing the scope of their own problems. They see them in such a narrow context, that they lose sight of their real magnitude. But cancer tests are completely different. I can certainly empathise with my own daughters’ final exams results at University this year and their importance to them. But a cancer patient is literally waiting for the hangman to tell him if the noose is getting tighter. And extended waiting time seems insurmountable.

So I had my MRI. It was for my stomach and chest areas. And Pam managed to get the results in what could well be record time. Only to find out that the hospitable had “forgotten” to do the MRI of the chest area! Go figure.

I have one more chemo treatment in this series next week and if I come through it satisfactorily, we’ll forget about MRIs till the long distant new appointment and, one week today, we’ll be off to a wedding in South Africa – for a well earned break. For Pam in particular.            

 

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