Even when the MRI is quiet, it’s making noise. I could be convinced there’s someone running on a treadmill in the same room. There’s a steady thudding like footfalls, punctuated with a beeping like a heart monitor.
thump thump BEEP thump thump BEEP thump thump BEEP
It could be my heart on the monitor, except I’m not hooked up to one. I’m not supposed to be moving, but my breathing is rapid and shallow. I’m trying not to swallow. The last time I had an MRI the technician told me if I swallowed I’d have to start all over, but this one just said try not to move.
I remember the night Sarah went into the ER. I was in the room when she had her MRI. I couldn’t talk to her or touch her – it was supposed to be enough that I was in the room. She said she spent the time praying for her friends who were having a rough time. I spent the time thinking about a script I was writing, and came to the decision that one of my characters needed to die. We joked that she was saving people while I was killing them. The nurses looked at us funny. They couldn’t figure out how we fit together. Apparently even in a city like LA, where everyone’s from somewhere else, emergency contacts are usually family members and not friends.
Dammit, I swallowed. I didn’t even notice until I tipped my head back against the padded bed. I wonder if I moved too much. The technician doesn’t say anything. The machine sounds like Q-Bert, the video game character who would jump on cubes so they would change color. As it ramps up, there are many Q-Berts. Racing, towards or away from each other, I can’t tell.
I’ve been adamant about keeping up my yoga practice, even when the physical therapist frowns at me. He doesn’t understand. The process of physical therapy is too dissociating. It pits your body against yourself, sets them up as opposing teams with only one winner. Yoga deposits me firmly back into my body with strict instructions that we two are to work together and listen to each other for an hour. I’m trapped in my body now. Trying to will it to breathe normally, don’t twitch, don’t swallow, ignore that the right hand has fallen asleep. The fan they have on full blast (I guess so when you close your eyes you can imagine you’re on a mountaintop) makes stray hairs tickle my face, but I can’t do anything about it. Dammit, I swallowed. The machine mocks me.
BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH
My coworker Karen has triple-negative breast cancer, which is apparently the hard one to fight. Her doctor told her on a phone call at the office last week. She’s going to fight. She has to. We can’t afford to lose her, too. Robert was diagnosed almost a year ago. Leukemia. He went into the hospital immediately. A month later, he was gone. He’d been doing well, was in good spirits. He’d reached the point of his treatment where they’d killed off his immune system and he got an infection. Just that quick. We need Karen to stay, but we don’t know what that looks like.
Sarah ran a half marathon six months post-brain tumor. When I tell people the story of that night in the ER, I make sure to work the word “miracle” in. Her tumor wasn’t cancer. She’s doing miraculously well. When my boss asks, I insist the brain scan won’t turn up anything. Sarah had headaches, vertigo. I don’t have that.
I wonder if my doctor will call me in the middle of the day, tell me to come right in. Would she tell me to have someone meet me there? I make a mental list of my friends who might not be working. I wonder whether or not I want something to show up. The things that show up on MRIs tend to be things that need surgery, and I don’t want surgery. But maybe it would be better to know why my body is fighting the physical therapy. Right now I feel fine. Maybe it’s all in my head. Maybe it’s not a big deal. Maybe it would get better if I just went home and sat on the couch watching TV and thinking about other things. That didn’t work before, but maybe it would now.
There’s a sound like someone jackhammering the outside of the tube.