The MRI a couple of days ago went smoothly. For one thing, I’m not claustrophobic, and the other thing is, I kind of enjoy the clanging and banging sounds when I have ear plugs to blunt the noise level. I spend the 40 minutes or so trying to discern a rhythm and make up songs to fit, a bit like composing melodies to accompany jack hammers. This time I didn’t even mind the IV (for sending contrast dye into my veins). The best part, of course, was the post MRI celebratory lunch with John, Judi, and her husband Stan.
I don’t know why I felt the need to celebrate, except that an annual MRI represents a milestone of sorts (may there be many more in my future).
Unlike ultrasound scans, which give feedback in real time, MRI pictures need to be analyzed, then the report is sent to the surgeon before I get to see it. I don’t remember from last year what the time lag is, but I think it’s about a week.
In truth, I’m not sure what results to hope for. No matter what I learn about the size of the tumors, interpretation will be open.
The general prognosis for the Clearing Fire Toxins stage of cancer treatment in Chinese medicine goes like this: as the fire toxins cool down and lose strength, all the cancer cells in the tumor are forced to mature without reproducing, and then the mature cells die because their environment no longer supports them. The body mops up the dead cells and excretes them out through increased urine, feces, sweat, and/or (not this one, please) skin eruptions. The expected healing crisis is tumor enlargement followed by some personal hygiene problems for a while.
So, although it’s been gratifying and reassuring that my tumors have been shrinking, it won’t upset me to learn they are growing. The surgeon has been warned.
Yet, this will be the time when I’ll need a lot of support and self-confidence to keep from freaking out that the tumors are growing oh my god are they metastasizing am I doomed?
“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large — I contain multitudes.” (Hmm, did Walt Whitman have cancer, too?)
If the tumors continue to shrink, that’s also just fine. That could indicate a more relaxed manifestation of spontaneous remission: “The Heart Vaporizing Phlegm in Slo-Mo” (my contribution to Chinese medical metaphors). There’s no explanation for this in Chinese medicine to my knowledge, but I would guess that my wei qi (immune system) is nibbling away at the cancer cells. Or, it could also mean that my cancer cells have had a change of heart and are giving up their rebellious ways and returning to normal, thereby achieving a different type of cell maturity, so to speak. (That’s what I’ve been visualizing.)
Should it turn out that nothing’s changed, that outcome would provide me with another great opportunity to practice the virtue of patience.
So, each of the possible MRI results (larger, smaller, the same) could be a winner.
The envelope, please.