There are lots of clichés people use when they go for MRI scans and massages. I mean, we don’t do these things very often, as a species – perhaps once in a lifetime apiece – so we choose stock phrases in order that we’re ready with something to say to make it all a bit easier.
By it, I suppose I am referring to both the social awkwardness with the member of staff involved, and the processes themselves. And by we I think I probably just mean me and a bit of others. I recently did both in one day, you see. That is, I went for an MRI, then a massage.
So my stock phrase in relation to the MRI, which I had first, that windy Wednesday, was ‘I’ll be fine, I’m just looking forward to a lie down!’ For those who haven’t had an MRI (which stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, and is used to produce images of your organs), they insert you into a massive tube – which NHS literature actually used to compare to a giant packet of polos, so I’ll nick that for clarification purposes – and plonk a pair of headphones on you while a very noisy machine clunks about taking pictures of your innards.
I was having my brain scanned, so luckily I didn’t need to take any clothes off. Doctors were looking for nerve damage, lesions, anything to suggest I had neurological problems. I think I must’ve used that phrase three times that day – thrice – and in a variety of settings and contexts. I cracked it out for the nurse who did my questionnaire, to which he replied:
Have you ever had a stent?
Er, no, no I haven’t.
Have you had a heart attack in the last six weeks?
Ever had any metal fragments in your eye?
Use hearing aids?
Do you use hearing aids?
No (couldn’t be arsed to point out the joke. It’s pretty offensive anyway, not really sure why I did that).
Ok, would you like to follow me please?
We were walking to the Mobile MRI Unit, which boasted more or less the same set up as a mobile library. Think big white container with steps, but no one saying shhh. Another difference was the fact that it didn’t move anywhere. That was the original plan, apparently, but it’s been sat there for over a year and I wondered when it was going to be renamed the Static MRI Unit.
It won’t be. It’s the mobile MRI unit.
That was Peter, the nurse, saying that. He laughed a bit at my question, which made me think, sod the clichés, the guy probably hears how people are looking forward to a lie down all day long. What does he care? He probably can’t wait to go home, lie supine on the sofa and smoke a fat one. He probably thinks, what is it with these morons, waiting to have an MRI before they can lie down?
You have to remove your eye make-up before the procedure. I suppose they don’t want to mistake a slick of Dark Mocha brow bone shadow for a tumour, I mean the shame of it. Peter would be out on his ear, no lying down on the sofa ever again. I whined a bit about not having been out of the house without make-up on for seventeen years, and Peter told me I didn’t need an. And that was incredibly nice to hear, although the risk of believing him would involve Great Change, and no.
I had to listen to Heart FM for twenty minutes as a way of drowning out the sound of the scanner, while in actual fact I think I would’ve preferred the noise of the scanner. It was weird; my thumbs were twitching as if to shuffle the song, and yet I could not! How habituated we are to controlling everything! They give you a squeezy thing that you can use to get the nurses’ attention, because it can be terribly claustrophobic in the polo tube, but I felt I couldn’t very well use it to tell them to turn Kelly Clarkson off while they were knee deep in securing a perfect image of my left parietal lobe. Right?
I liked Peter. He was a Geordie, but he’s been here for 28 years. I’ve been alive for 28 years and I often feel like everything is sort of spluttering to a stop. At times I can drag myself from the brink, like when I’m talking to someone new. Peter made me laugh, and I think I cheered him up a bit, too. Other times it’s tough, really tough, and I don’t know who to talk to about the fact that I look and speak like a normal person but constantly feeling like you have the flu puts a dampener on stuff. I don’t know, what a mess. I am fortunate I don’t have a stent or eye fragments or a hearing aid, but part of me thinks, at least there I is some sort of resolution there, an answer to a definite problem. I walk in and out of different therapies, medical and otherwise, buy herbal things that do not work, and say clichés to people.
My opener to my massage therapist – well friend, really, who is a masseuse – after she told me I did have to take off all my clothes and get in a robe then get out of the robe under a blanket and lie on my front – was, ‘wow, this is amazing, can I hire you?’ I mean this one’s a classic- if you’ve never said it, even to a hairdresser who gives you a cursory head tickle after your shampooing, then you have impressed me. God, it’s such a knobhead thing to say, but I couldn’t help it. Popped out. And I didn’t know whether, because Louisa was a mate, to keep talking. I didn’t really want to because I was so relaxed, but luckily she didn’t make any small talk so I took that as carte blanche to snooze a bit.
If you’re paying for a massage, you have to get over the guilt pretty quickly, like in real time. If you start having thoughts like, I am such a diva, I can’t believe I have arranged for this person to touch my body for an hour, you’re going to give yourself IBS. My massage was the absolute business, I mean, I was in such a daze by the end that it felt like she had about eight hands on my back, and by that time I didn’t want to speak much at all, which they say is normal. I was certainly looser the next day, after an evening of aches and pains; this has something to do with toxins leaving your knotted muscles, but the main thing I took from the experience was the knowledge that I am incapable of demounting a massage table relying on one forearm while trying to hide my boobs from, well, ok, nobody, with the other. I fell on the wooden floor, tits everywhere, whimpered a feeble I am absolutely fine to a troubled Louisa who was waiting in the next room, and dragged my sorry body into the bathroom to change.
And that’s another cliché we bandy about, isn’t it? I’m fine. I’m ok. When we’re not. I love meeting new people and I love trying new things and I like to think I’m jolly, but I’m not fine. And that’s really hard to say.
These are the random paths that chronic illness have led me down; expect silliness and deep reflection in equal measure. Impaired health can bring pain, despair, uncertainty and a bit of unexpected joy; seek solace here if you crave some light relief from campaigning/suffering.