‘Breathe in and hold your breath’ followed by ‘breathe normally’. Those simple words are all too familiar to anyone who has regular CT scans and for me, even just hearing them, I can feel a horrid shiver of fear run through me. I don’t even need to be in the scanner for those words to stop me in my tracks – the waiting room, watching 24 hours in A&E – it doesn’t matter – the words still unsettle me. CT scans at least are pretty speedy and I’ve lost count of the number of them I’ve had since my cancer diagnosis – so as much as I don’t love them I have got pretty good at just getting through them. It’s the MRI however that just fills me with utter fear.
I now have to have a brain MRI every 6 months. Logically it makes sense as melanoma really rather likes the brain and it’s much better to pick up a metastases before it’s become symptomatic as they’re marginally easier to treat. So on Wednesday morning as I lay in the scanner with my eyes tightly closed desperately trying to remember how to breathe properly and not panic I kept thinking ‘breathe in and hold your breath’ which under the circumstances didn’t really help with calming down the panic. The panic isn’t just because I’m pretty claustrophobic – although that doesn’t help – it’s the horrible fear about what the scan might be detecting. Once I calmed my breathing down I then found myself trying to use my magic powers of mind control to make anything that shouldn’t be lurking in my brain disappear.
Thankfully and amazingly today I finally get to ‘breathe normally’ as joyfully my results were good. My brain MRI showed nothing remarkable – which despite wanting a spectacular brain has made me very happy and the CT results showed a combination of stability and a small amount of shrinkage in a couple of the tumours. So I celebrated by spending the afternoon having Pembro no. 8 and sighing a massive sigh of relief that barring any side effects the panic can be put on hold until the next scan in January. That’s a whole other year and so not something I need to worry about just yet. So a big hurray for Pembrolizumab and a major phew hopefully followed by some proper sleep as I can now breathe normally.