Monday, October 25, 2010

Me and Dr. House

Did you see that recent episode of House where the woman writer decided to kill herself? She put a gun to her head, pulled the trigger, and just as it went off, she had a seizure. Her hand jerked away and the bullet only grazed her cheek. Her housekeeper heard the gunshot, came in and found her boss on the ground, and called 911.

Cut to the next scene. The lady writer is in House's clutches at the hospital. Naturally, he wants to find out what caused her seizure. But she wants to go home and finish what she started. With only a scrape on her cheek there is no medical reason for House to admit her, so he puts her on a 72 hour psych hold to do tests and solve his puzzle.

Unable to determine whether she has Sarcoidosis or Lupus, the team decided to do an MRI. Imagine their surprise when they turned the MRI machine on, and a six inch screw from a former car accident came shooting through her leg.

That almost happened to me!

You see, after my clean bone scan I decided I was done with tests for a while, even though I still have the same pain.   I had an appointment with my primary care doctor and when I told him about my back, he suggested an MRI. I said no. He gave me a flu shot and some samples of a muscle relaxer and sent me on my way.

Why don't I want an MRI? Don't all cancer patients jump at the chance to get these tests to be reassured their cancer has not returned?

Well, it feels like organ pain to me so an MRI won't be helpful. (All my doctors think it's back pain and they know more than I do - remember, I was the woman who spent months thinking visible cancer  was a cyst.) Anyway,   I don't think my cancer is back, so I don't need reassurance.  What I do need is to stay out of machines for at least one month.

I figured I'd behave like a normal, non-cancerous person - the person I used to be:  I'd just ignore it.

It'll do one of two things: get worse and reveal itself, or go away.

At my herceptin appointment last Wednesday though, my nurse asked about my back pain. I told him it was still there. He reported that to the doctor, who told me (still through the nurse) that he was ordering an MRI. I couldn't refuse because I didn't talk to the doctor.

Sigh. More time off work. More time in a machine. And, for results I'm certain will show nothing.

My motto:  accept and adjust. I'm doing the test.

Then, over the weekend, I watched the aforementioned episode of House, and as soon as that screw started wiggling it's way out of the skin of her leg I realized - I still have an expander in me!

That expander has metal in it. My old plastic surgeon had used a magnet to find the domed opening for fills.

An MRI is just a big magnet.

I can't have an MRI.

I googled to be sure,  and with my brand of expander, there have been incidents of super-heating, and expanders moving inside the body requiring surgery during MRI.  It is recommended I avoid them..

The area with the valve (and the metal) is so close to my skin I can trace it with my fingers.  In fact, it's pushing up through the skin, and I can even see the color right through my flesh.  I know if I had I gone in that machine, that expander would have come shooting through my chest wall and stuck right into the sides of the MRI.

And, really, it was tempting to do it anyway like the woman on House  - wouldn't that make a fabulous blog post? I bet if that had happened to me, I could have made the Best of Sacramento.

And, you know, at this point, that expander explosively leaving my body doesn't sound so bad. It was designed to be in me six months and it's been in a year. The mofo hurts. A lot. It burns, it itches, I'm feeling stabbing pains under it.  It is poking through my skin. Hell, for all I know, it might have something to do with my back pain.  Right now, being pulled out by an MRI machine sounds like welcome relief as well as a great story.

But, there are all those pesky blood vessels and besides,  I have enough scars in that area. I guess I'll just have it removed the conventional way, with a scalpel and a doctor.

So, today when the imaging center called me to schedule the MRI, I explained I couldn't.

Dr. House saved me.



  1. Ann, I love it. I'm, also, always looking for any excuse to put off an appointment or test, even though in my head, I know it's good for me. I wish I could up with such a fabulous excuse and truly be able to use it, knowing it's for the best.

    Good luck with getting the expander removed. That will be a happy day. I know.

  2. You made me laugh ... again. Hope you're able to have the expander removed -- "the conventional way" -- real soon!

    I've been having MRI's, alternating with mammograms, every six months since my diagnosis, almost 5 years ago. I can't stand them, but the next time I have the wonderful MRI scan and hear that awful pounding noise coupled with feeling like I'm stuck in a small cave, I'll remember this post, and I know I'll smile through it!

  3. Umm, at your size, it probably wouldn't have burst through your skin. Rather your whole body probably would have been lifted right off the MRI table and stuck to the MRI machine magnet with your expander.

  4. Amazing. You probably saved your own life because of the TV program. I'm a fan of your blog (you're on my blog list!), and I want to congratulate you on your being profiled in Woman's Day.

    When you describe the gauntlet of doctor tests and interactions with doctors, it really resonates with me. I'm a breast cancer survivor who was diagnosed in 2001. I had chemo, radiation, and eventually a preventive double mastectomy with DIEP flap construction.

    I hate going for tests, especially when I used to need MRIs. The doctor cycle never seems to end.

    Thanks for a great posting!

  5. Ann, As one who has tissue expanders in also, I can totally relate to this post! Mine have been in for five months and I still haven't gotten used to sleeping on my back! This post is humorous, but also has a serious message in there - be in charge of your own medical care! Hope you visit my blog and give me your impressions. I like feedback from experienced bloggers. Thanks for

  6. Thanks for this post! House is my favorite show. AND I have been going through treatment for triple negative bc. I, too, have a blog. I hope I can be as inspiring as you are.

    I'm hoping you'll take a look and tell me what you think; it would mean so much!


Thank you for commenting. If the post is over 14 days old, the comment will be moderated and will approved later. This is a spam prevention technique - but I love to hear from you!