Dance Party in the MRI Machine

Britney-Wax dollEverybody dance now…give me the music” C&C Music Factory screamed in the headphones that the MRI tech put over my ears. I lay on a hard narrow table with a wedge under my knees, about to enter the scan tunnel. “…come on let’s sweat, baby…let the music take control…let the rhythm move you…sweat…sweat”. The music went on. I was sweating a little bit but unfortunately not due to some awesome dance moves. I was getting a brain MRI that my melanoma doctor ordered because of the eye cancer I had. Or have? That was the question. One year and 8 months after the initial diagnosis of conjuctival melanoma and 10 months after its sneaky re-occurrence. This brain MRI was supposedly just protocol for any melanoma on the head, but my mind managed to create a monster beast of an anxiety.

The MRI tech strapped me in and put a white cage like device over my face. I felt like the Man in the Iron Mask. The cage was only about an inch above my forehead, locking me in its constrictive squeeze. This was not a good time to think about my claustrophobia episodes of the past. “Everybody dance now…” the headphones demanded. I can do this, I said to myself, just concentrate on the song.

The machine started clicking around me and then emitted a deep, steam ship like honk that lasted at least 30 seconds. The headphones fought for my attention, switching to House of Pain’s Jump Around. I closed my eyes and saw myself with my High School friends, dancing to this song in one of the many clubs in Prague. It seemed like another life, another reality. The lyrics of another song drifted in my head: “seems like yesterday we were sixteen. We were the rebels of the rebel scene. He wore Doc Martens in the sun…drinking vintage cider having fun. We were…drinking vintage cider having fun.” Dolores O’Riordan could have written this song about us. The machine’s loud click brought me back to reality. Oh yeah, here I was, 20 years later, post eye cancer and barely post breast cancer.

Jump Around faded and a new song started. Jennifer Page with “It’s Just a Little Crush”. Ugh. I tuned in to the MRI machine instead. Definitely louder than a PET scan. PET scan just hums as it spins around you like some futuristic space ship. MRI clicks and honks and screeches and vibrates. My musings over how much of a hearing loss I would incur got interrupted by the MRI tech that I could see in a little mirror right above my eyes. I saw him in the adjacent room, leaning in to the microphone. The horrible song was temporarily muted as he announced that he was going back in to inject the contrast dye. Then the unfortunate tune assaulted my ears again. How many times can one say they have “just a little crush”?

I slid out of the tunnel and felt the tech manipulate the IV in my arm. I couldn’t actually see him because of the cage over my head so I was guessing what was going on. I felt a cold sensation travel up my arm and knew the dye was in. He then pulled out the IV, put a piece of gauze over the puncture and slapped two inches of tape over it.

“Keep your arm bent.” He instructed me as he folded my arm over my chest and I slid back into the machine. More clicking and the infamous ship honk. My headphones let out a first few tunes of a new song and I recognized it right away. Pearl Jam, Even Flow. This was definitely starting to feel like a 90’s throw back. I looked through the white head cage at the curve of the scan tunnel above me and like a movie I saw Eddie Vedder singing the very same song I was hearing in my headphones, onstage, with his famous face grin. What was the first concert I ever went to? I tried to remember. Faith No More. It was 1992 maybe? I was 15 and my best friend and I spent days in preparation, picking out the appropriate grunge outfits.

As if on cue to my thought, the music switched to Smashing Pumpkins and Disarm. Another classic from those days. We used to spend hours walking around the city, crossing the river over the CharlesBridge and hanging out in one of the parks, drinking red wine. Until it got dark and then we would go to a club, all of us dressed in the same uniform of Dr. Marten’s, blue jeans worn out just right and an assortment of jackets and shirts made in Tibet or Nepal.

“OK, you’re all done.” The MRI tech’s voice shot me back to reality. Oh yeah, here I was. So much has changed. I slid out of the tunnel, the tech took the cage off my head and unstrapped me. I looked at the crook of my arm and saw the gauze under the tape was soaked with blood. He ripped the tape off my arm and replaced everything. I walked back to the dressing room and pulled my clothes back on. Jeans, not worn out the right way, no Dr. Marten’s but sensible black loafers and a grey long sleeved shirt. God, I am boring, I thought to myself. What happened?

On the way home from the hospital I stopped by Whole Foods and could not stop myself from buying an assortment of their cookies. I shouldn’t have any sugar I thought, sugar feeds cancer, my mind chastised me. I didn’t care…I was stressed out waiting for the results. Who knew what would happen, I might as well enjoy my life, I argued with myself.

The next day I saw there were new messages for me in the online chart from the hospital. I sat up straight and typed in the login. I took a deep breath. There was an email from the melanoma doctor. It’s subject line read “All is good.” I breathed out and clicked it open. His message confirmed my brain scan was clear. I shouldn’t have eaten those cookies.


  1. I am really happy your brain scan is clear. 🙂 I freaked out on my first MRI. That cage is prehistorical for my taste. The first time they provided some earplugs, but on my second MRI I didnt have such luck. My ears got drilled with those terrible sounds. The contrast dye gave me a hot flash around my chest and legs. I have come to the conclusion that they should make a more advanced MRI machine so people dont suffer as much.
    PS: I really liked that you used the Britney Spears wax figure. 🙂

    • Thank you! I agree about the machine! You would think they would be able to put at least some soundproofing around there. Yeah, the wax figure is from my trip to Vegas 🙂 I hoped people wouldn’t think it was me! 🙂

      • Totally right! Soundproof system would be truly appreciated! I have to admit that I love Britney, thats why I recognized the pic 🙂 I am looking foward to her concert! 🙂

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