My first MRI will always remain engraved on my mind…
… because it was just so casual. I wasn’t really worried or nervous. I remember my mom warning me that it might feel claustrophobic. But I actually did not mind, on the contrary, I found the sounds of the MRI machine quite intriguing. I recall the nurse telling me to keep my head still as the scans were a bit blurry.
And then it was over. The scans took few days to process and I would see the neurologist after the New Year. I spent New Year’s Eve with my girlfriends. We climbed one of the Prague’s hills (Petřínské sady) and watched the fireworks at midnight.
I was supposed to see the neurologist on Monday and I already had my returning flight to the UK booked for Tuesday. I remember on Sunday afternoon, I was getting bit anxious, asking my parents: ‘What if the scan shows something?’ They were reassuring me, telling me that there was definitely nothing to worry about.
But I had this weird feeling at the back of my mind, like intuition.
That Sunday night, I prayed. I retain this memory very clearly because I would then mentally return to that point in time on many occasions onwards. That was the very last time that I prayed.*
The next day, we went to the hospital. After a short while in the waiting room, me and my mum were invited to the doctor’s office. The doctor had this strange look on her face. I don’t really clearly remember the events that followed, I guess I have been trying to erase them from my memory.
The doctor sat us down and then with this martyred expression told us that it wasn’t good news. She was showing me something on the MRI scan that I couldn’t see and repeating that it was not supposed to be there.
Everything suddenly sounded muffled. My mum started calling my dad. Someone touched my hand, trying to comfort me, and I pushed it away. I don’t think that I was crying.
Retrospectively, in that traumatic moment, I only had one ridiculous thought: would I be able to catch tomorrow’s plane? It has already been paid for!
Then I was rushed to the inpatient ward. They said further tests needed to be done in order to eliminate infection or other diseases. They immediately started to treat me like a patient. They undressed me, inserted iv cannula and, of course, gave me a massive dose of benzodiazepines. I know I was drugged pretty heavily because afterwards they took me for another MRI and I fell asleep in there. That is how high I was. If you ever have a MRI, you will understand what I mean.
Later when the sedatives started wearing off, I was told that they would perform a lumbar puncture in order to obtain clear diagnosis and exclude potential infections etc.
The lumbar puncture was probably the most distressing experience and it still gives me goose-bums when I think about it. It is hard to describe. The procedure is not painful as such but it feels like someone is touching your nerve, literally. Plus, the doctor performing it was probably still learning – bless him – and he did not make it easy for me. Saying all that sounds really stupid because lumbar puncture is quite an ordinary procedure but I suppose the weak execution combined with the wider context of the day made the whole experience beyond traumatic. Still, even today, I shiver when someone tries to touch my spine.
Heavily sedated, I spent the night in the hospital.
In the morning, my parents arrived. The doctor took us outside of the room and sat with us in the corridor. He was young and cocky, wearing those hipster glasses. Again, I don’t remember much from this conversation, it has been hiding deep in my subconsciousness. The lumbar puncture results were in, negative. So, it was brain tumour, I was told.
My parents were trying to comfort me, telling me that we would go through it together. My life was just crumbling in front of my eyes. There were so many thoughts in my head. So many questions. How am I going to finish uni? Will I have to take some time off? Will they allow me to?
One question kept popping up.: ‘So, will I die?’, I asked the doctor.
Stupid question was followed by even more unbelievable answer: ‘Well, we all are going to die one day.’ replied the doctor.
What a charmer. This guy should be giving motivational speeches for living.
I will never forget this exchange. I knew that the doctor didn’t say or mean anything wrong and there probably was nothing adequate to say to my stupid inquiry. He was not lying to me. But I also believe that his approach was very inconsiderate at the time and arrogant.
After that, I burst out crying. You know, that hysterical crying you see in movies. No tears, just those loud moans, trying to catch my breath. A nurse came out to the corridor, the cries were probably annoying other patients. ‘Should we give her something to calm down?’, she queried.
Sometimes, I’m thinking how my parents must have felt. I mean, who wants their child to go through anything like this. My parents have always been the strongest support throughout these years. I know it did affect them greatly. Since that moment at the table in the hospital corridor, they have made many decisions, for which I will always be grateful to them. (I will elaborate on this in my future posts). But that day, they made the best decision of them all – packed my stuff and took me home.
Next article will be about the events that immediately followed my diagnosis and how they changed me.
*I plan to write in more detail about how my beliefs changed in future posts.