Yesterday was the last of the tests I have to have for the study I am in.
It was down in Frankston, aka Franger (a franger is also a condom, and is pronounced frangga, like singer - remember Australians do not say sum-merr, we say summa). Franger is not kindly looked upon by much of Melbourne. For many years it was a place of cheap housing at the end of a looooong train line. The local council is putting a bit of money into it and has banned alcohol in open air places and is looking to ban smoking in open air shopping areas. Next they will be banning the favoured clothes of the native inhabitants (bogans): flannie shirts (often with a singlet or a heavy metal band tshirt underneath), stovepipe jeans, moccasins, (usually for the male of the species) and inappropriately sized midriff tops/tshirts with leggings with thongs (flip flops) or moccas for the "ladies."
Anyway, I digress. We borrowed a friend's car for the day and trundled down there in record time. Half an hour. I had left an hour for just in case and we didn't need it. We found the place easily enough and even managed to find a car park (not easy at the time we arrived - must've been visiting hours at the attached hospital). Then we sat and waited for an hour. Nathan got a quick lesson in what happens during a CAT/CT scan cos we were right next to the room where the CT scan was and could hear it doing its stuff (whir whir whir, Breathe in! Hold your breath! Breathe!). I had to fill out a form asking if I have any metal in me or any chance of having metal in me. They also asked if I have heart valves, which is an extremely stupid question. Of course I have heart valves. My heart wouldn't function if it didn't have valves. But no I have not had artificial valves put in my heart.
Just as I was about to go eat some lunch, a technician appears. Hooray hooray! I had to change into a medical gown, open at the front and remove extraneous jewellery (rings were ok for my scan). Then I was led to the Heart of the Beast. In went a catheter so they could put contrast in halfway through the process and I was all ready to go.
MRI machines are large, body length donuts with a bed that goes into the toroid. Because I was apparently having a boob scan, I had to lie face down with my boobs hanging in these holes. So very elegant! The holes are ENORMOUS but as they said, they are one size fits all. I am rather glad that I am small (14B/36B) cos if I had enormous boobs I fear they may have scraped on the bottom of the donut hole!
It was not a very comfortable position to lie in. The padding for my face slipped within seconds and the scan takes 20-30 minutes. On went some headphones with the world's crappest music (mix 104) - like either give me triple M or ABC classic FM (scroat/bogan music or classical stuff). None of this stupid boppy dance crap.
So into the machine I went, only able to see a small amount of anything (and gosh did I feel a bit of motion sickness as my very limited view didn't change much but my ears told me I had moved!). The technicians were long gone, hidden behind the shielding. The scanners create strong magnetic and radio-frequency fields. I'm not going to go into how it does it (lots of physics! Read about it in this wikipedia article if you dare or have a physics clue or don't mind being confuzzled) but suffice it to say that really powerful magnets make the hydrogen molecules in your body line up (just like iron filings in response to a magnet) and then powerful radio waves make the hydrogen molecules line up in different ways. A radio receiver picks up the energy given off by the moving hydrogen molecules and that signal is turned into a picture.
In reality? What you hear in the machine is a lot of thudding, banging and in my case, sirens. Oh yes, imagine a cross between the bleet bleet bleet of a warning alarm in a building mixed with a metallic sound crossed with nails down a blackboard. Then how about some evacuate siren noises too. Here's me trying to be good and lay very still indeed when my poor monkey brain is saying "FLEE! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!" The music was inaudible for most of the testing (possibly a good thing!) cos most of the machine's noises are realllly loud. Plus my right shoulder had given up on the idea of being still and had started to twitch cos it was uncomfortable. And one of the RF waves caused something in my gut to pulse in time with it.
This was the most traumatic test I did. OK it was one of the least harmful to my body - no nuclear radiation or anything but as far as distress is concerned? I was worried about being claustrophobic. Claustrophobia was the last thing on my mind as the testing went on. I was more worried about trying to suppress the urge to dash out of the machine, out the front door and down the road wearing nothing bar a hospital gown open to the front and my knickers. RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY! RUN FOR THE HILLS!
When they pulled me out of the machine, I was soooo ready to be out of there. I had started counting seconds just to remind myself that time was passing and I would escape sooner or later. So much relief! They got the cannula out of my arm and put a patch over the hole and I was off the table before they had lowered it and galloping back to my clothes. (One of the techs gave me a 10 out of 10 for my dismount - so quick and "elegant".) I didn't even get much chance to look at the machine or the room it is in or the massive shielding (eg the door is a good 3-4cm thick and appears to be solid metal). I did note it said that you needed ear shielding though. Lord knows how loud the thing would've been without the headphones.
The best bit? Didn't have to pay. It is all paid for by the government grant that is funding the study.
To reward myself for being so good when I wanted to just flee, I had a bag of potato chippies (crisps) from the hospital cafe and then we drove off to a native plant nursery. 60 bucks later we had a heap of new plants for our front yard, or a heap of plants to propogate so that we can put more in the yard. We've got a few bare patches y'see. This nursery has some sad plants up the back which we love cos we get about 50% survival with them, no worse than the $10 plants up the front. $30 of good plants, $30 of sad plants and we are happy :-)
It appears that I will have to give DH driving lessons for manual cars in little Helmet. We are "buying" our friends' second car (Helmet) for the cost of fixing his water leak. They are very generous to us. We need a car, an old bomb will do for the nonce (DH would prefer to not have a car at all but fer crying out loud, I'm on chemo! And walking 2km to do shopping and riding my bike much is not going to be possible as we go on unless I am lucky) and Helmet is looking for a new home, preferably not the scrap yard. This will be my first Holden (GM), but he really is a Suzuki Swift, 17 yo* poor little thing. Still drives ok, barring the water leak. Very honest little car - no frills apart from air con that needs regassing, nothing. Just a basic little ole runabout. Safety rating? What is that?
(* I've been told that Australia has a very old car fleet. I often wondered how this could be the case given the things I've seen on the road in the US, not so much in California but elsewhere like college towns in Oregon and Colorado and Wisconsin. Well shall we just say that salted gritty roads are not cars' best friends and in some places in the US, cars rust out within a few years. Or they fall apart from the crappy concrete roads. In Oz, we don't salt roads (not deliberately, some salt themselves from groundwater salinity) and a car is a major investment for quite some part of the population, so you look after it and hope it won't die too quickly. Some people here trade up to current models regularly but most people will hang onto a car for about 10 years or until it starts becoming unreliable.)
I'll be back with details of my Ravelympic projects :-)