I slid into a tube, on my knees, draped over a barrel. With my head tucked in, arms stretched ahead Super Girl style, my hooters hung out like socks on a clothesline. Headphones in place, I closed my eyes and tried to melt into the techno beat of an MRI machine.
Just before this high tech breast exam started, the technician suggested I not breathe too deeply, because that would move the chesticles and the whole ordeal would take longer.
Maybe the breathing note was the last straw, or maybe the whole scene was written and no amount of improv on my part could have changed the plot. With every whoop-whoop of the machine, I felt the panic rising.
I tried to go to my happy place. I tried not to breathe deeply and yet still meditate. When that failed I tried to sing show tunes, tell myself jokes, sing 99 Bottles of Beer…
Then I heard the technician say, “You’re doing great, ma’am. Only seventeen more minutes. How are you doing?”
Yeah…that’s when I lost it.
In the few minutes that followed, while the techs talked me down from the ledge and back into the machine, I learned 5 very valuable things:
- It does help to focus on the big picture. I was not there for myself; I was there for my family. Truly, if I were a single woman I think I’d have said screw it and left. But with my family history of breast cancer, having this screening is important as both a parent and a wife. So I needed to find a way back in that tube.
- I can handle any of my fears if I can look them in the eye. (When I can’t, I lose my shite.) I’ve long known I’m a bit of a control freak. But as the techs were asking me what they could do to get me to go on with the test, I realized this was more than just giving up control. I was freaked out because I couldn’t use my sight to focus outside of my position. TRYING to look around was my problem. In this situation, I had to close my eyes and rely on my other senses.
- When I can’t see, I need to feel my way. I don’t necessarily mean with my heart. I mean literally. When the tech took my hands and told me I could handle this; even blind and barely able to breathe, I believed her. To her credit, that wonderful lady stood outside the MRI tube, while I held on for dear life. There is great power and healing in the human touch.
- When I really can’t handle my situation, the bravest thing I can do is speak up and ask for help. I am the strong one, the one who endures and tries very hard not to complain. Yet as a mom, I tell my kids when they feel like they can’t be brave, they can lean on me & together we can face anything. The reason, I say, is asking for help shows more bravery than anything else. In the middle of my panic attack, I was reminded mommy is also stronger when she lets herself be vulnerable and accepts that she cannot tackle everything on her own.
- Oh, and the final thing I learned during my breast MRI? Mammograms are NOT the most uncomfortable thing I have ever done with my boobs. Actually, this whole experience was seriously awkward. Physically and emotionally.
Of course, the most valuable lessons are often uncomfortable to learn.
This post originally appeared on Mother of Serendipity. It has been used with permission.