Life On Mars?

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A couple of days ago I went to the hospital for my pre-radiation appointments, including a CT scan.  I lay still in the donut hole of the giant machine while it whirred around me, looking inside my body, seeing through my skin, recording the parameters of the radiation site – and I was reminded that so much of this process of testing and treating cancer feels like sci-fi.  Back in March, when a slew of tests confirmed that the lump in Lefty was cancerous, we were also told that an MRI had revealed a suspicious mass in Righty. I was terrified.  Cancer in both breasts? What did this mean about possible tumors in the rest of my body? The words “riddled with” popped into my head and I couldn’t get them out. The doctors explained that testing the mass would require a special kind of biopsy that would take place while I was back in the MRI machine.  They described the MRI-biopsy in detail, though I thought it was overkill to point out that the needle would bigger for this kind of biopsy than the already giant staple-gun-like needle used on me previously.  But if we wanted to know what was lurking in my right breast, it meant into the MRI machine and in with the bigger needle.  So I lay very still, face down in my space capsule, trying without much success to not be terrified. They slid me out halfway and the needle machine went in and out of my right breast six times, buzzing like a dentist’s drill.  I cried the whole way through, my tears splashing into a little pool below my face while a nurse tried to push Kleenex up through the machine to stem the tide.  I was bandaged and bruised and shaken, but in the end they got the samples they needed. That was the first time it occurred to me that the whole process of testing and treating cancer is sci-fi-esque.  The giving over of your body – giving your blood, being tattooed, being injected with radioactive fluid and then scanned in giant photocopier machines – it can feel so surreal. Like alien abduction surreal.  Like being trapped in a bizarre experiment from another world and all you want to do is find your way  home again.  But even the most alienating tests are worth it when you get the amazing, fantastic, happy news that you only have cancer in one breast .