A friend called to say she is about to go to a doctor for some serious medical tests. Because I am a competitive dope, I asked, innocently, what sort of medical tests. Because I figured, even where medical tests are concerned, I could compete and possibly win when health is on the table and testing is being used.
She said she would be getting an MRI for the first time. Oh, I said, rather nonchalantly, a tube, acting as if being inside one of these monster machines was something I do on a monthly basis, which in fact is not true. “I’ve done that a couple of times,” I said, which on the face of it is true, but the fact is, I’ve had more than my fair share of MRI testing done.
“Yes, my first one, they are looking for breast cancer,” she said, without a trace of drama.
I asked if there had been other tests and she said there had been, and that this was a precaution. I told her to not worry about the MRI, they are kind of fun, which they are. A few weeks ago I was in the waiting room at a local hospital, waiting for my turn to lay on the platform and be sent into the giant tube. The waiting room is always dangerous because the people waiting for an MRI are almost always like my friend, worried about what the giant tube may be about to surprise them with, because an MRI is like a stalker with X-Ray vision, willing to look at parts of you without acknowledging pain, suffering or relationships.
I sat in the MRI waiting froom with a nice looking older woman who asked me why I was there and I lied and told her I had a headache, and she told me she had some spots on her liver. I reassured her that the MRI would be the perfect tool to find out just what those spots were. In fact, at some point I too had a diagnosis of spots on my liver and an MRI had found them to be just a shadow of something else and nothing important. I told the woman sitting next to me that story it seemed to bring her a momentary sense of calm. She asked me about my headaches and I smiled and told her they were no big deal, she said something about how they were a big enough deal to get an MRI and I said, not really and then the nurse came to take the spotty liver woman into the room with the MRI machine, I walked into the patient dressing room and retrieved my clothes and made my way to the exit. Sometimes testing for some things become more of a headache than the actual tests.
Modern medicine can do many things and then again, it can’t do a lot of things. We do not live forever and one of the things we are reminded of when we are laying on the platform of an MRI machine is that a million dollar machine that peers inside of our fragile little bodies reminds us that we indeed harbor these fragile little bodies and at any minute we might just go ahead and die. Why just yesterday my dog up and died, just like that, one minute she was watching Springer on the TV in Spanish and the next, she was laying on the floor, dead to the world.
Time is fleeting and at some point it’s over. I used to tell my children that it’s not the way you wrap a present, but the smile you get when it’s unwrapped. Even then they would look at me and say, “you really need to put down the pipe” and I would smile back and say “never”.
I called my friend after she had the MRI and she was anxiously waiting on the results, which really is the worst part of all medical tests. I had no words of encouragement for her, except to say that she was lucky to be getting tests and having doctors looking inside of her body and if they were to find something, experts who would prescribe proper medical treatment.
“You sound calm about this,” she said to me.
“I can be calm, I was not the one in the MRI machine.”
“Well, your calming words are welcome.”
“I do what I can,” I said. With that she said she appreciated my words of supposed wisdom and needed to take a nap. She hung up the phone and I sat looking at the wall, which has a drawing of me, my children and our recently deceased dog, all drawn by a very young child, so we are all stick figures and the dog looks a little too much like a bird, but I knew what the artist was trying to capture.