Friday, November 7, 2014

Sunnybrook MRI - done!

So today I buzzed down to my new favourite big city and passed the test of the famed MRI.  Mark it on the calendar: I was early. AND they took me early! For the first time, I didn't have to pay the max price for parking! Was in and out of there in record time.

Thanks to everyone for the great advice for the MRI, they didn't let me listen to music, but I quickly learned that I wouldn't have been able to hear it anyway.  HOLY that's loud! Imagine jackhammer/war raid siren/rock concert sound check, in your PILLOW. As the nurse set me up in the head gear and prepared me to go in, asking me if I was relaxed, I said yes and joked that I would be "in" Italy in a few seconds... she said have a great trip!  At the intermission, when she came over to inject the contrast dye, I told her that that was the loudest plane trip I had ever taken, to which she replied "hey guess you got stuck in the cargo hold?!" Just my "luck!!" LOL

So maybe that was a silly time to try to get back into meditation, as my nurse yesterday suggested may be beneficial for a Type A personality melanoma patient. ;-)

I was nervous about the test, but I took comfort in first-hand accounts from several of my friends who have had Magnetic Resonance Imaging and are here to give me great advice about it.  I was also thinking of my Dad a tonne today, as his history is steeped in time spent at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre as well.  

When I was 14 my Dad had brain surgery for a condition that at the time was little known.  I'm sure I could look into it and find far more science on his situation this 24 years later, and I am confident that his experience lent much to that research.  Occasionally I ponder the idea of asking my oncologist if she could help me with poking around in old Sunnybrook records to find out more about the last years of Tom Milner's life.  

My Dad's medical story goes like this: he had a "calcium deposit" in his brain stem.  Not cancer, simply a calcium deposit that had grown over time, and all of the blood vessels and nerves had grown through it and were intertwined in it.  He had major dizzy spells and a couple of minor strokes that caused him the loss of his license (he was a truck driver, so you can imagine the feeling of sudden loss of profession, career, masculinity?). Dad must have been around 49 or 50 years old at the time - I'd have to check his birth certificate.  

His MRIs began around the fall of 1988, after my Dad fell down in the driveway of our winterized cottage on Riley Lake just outside of Gravenhurst, it was a very tumultuous time in my life. 

By autumn of 1989 they had diagnosed the calcium deposit and decided to do what was called "experimental surgery" at the time; I was in grade eight.  My account of it may not be entirely accurate, and I welcome family and friends to comment here or email me if they have details to add that I may not have?  I'm sure I was fed the kids' version of what went on, plus I have a poor memory for details that I don't understand or want to accept (I've identified this involuntary habit in myself).

They removed the calcium deposit in a lengthy operation somewhere in the surgical bowels of Sunnybrook hospital, and it is not lost on me that my surgery(ies) could be in the very same room which held my father.  I remember his account of the story, prior to the surgery he was told he had a 50/50 chance of survival, but he was willing to take the risk as he already knew his life was forever altered and he may as well take the chance.  

He survived the surgery, but what happened after it is fuzzy to me... he had a major stroke (or two?) shortly after post-op recovery time, and he pulled through, but was left in the condition of a stroke victim. He never walked again, completely lost motor function in his left side, his vision was blurry so he couldn't read or watch TV, he needed full-time nursing care for the rest of his days. I wish I knew more about how much was the calcium deposit effects, or the surgery itself, or the reported strokes afterwards, that affected my Dad for the remainder of his short life?

He went from Sunnybrook to a rehabilitation hospital in Toronto (I forget the name.. River-something? I remember being taken to visit him once), and then we all moved to Palmerston, after Dad was found a long-term bed in the chronic ward of the Hanover hospital. 

He lived there for about seven years, throughout which our family history took some unfortunate turns and I ended up being his sole caregiver and executor upon his passing.  It is a time in my life that weighs heavily on me.  I was busy trying to live my young life but I was caught in a quagmire of other peoples' issues.  It is what it is... After years of therapy I have come to terms with the fact that I did the best I could at the time, but I know now that I was so young, inexperienced, and without much guidance - had I known then what I know now I could have handled things so much better. 

Anyway...upon his death in 1998, Dad decided to donate his body to the University of Western Ontario, I'm sure in hopes that he could help others in his situation.  I have remarkably little paperwork detailing this whole ordeal, but I cling to the thought of perhaps he and I sharing an MRI machine today.  Of course in reality I know they must have new machines now but still, it could have been the same room?  I know we have already travelled many of the same steps in the main building of Sunnybrook.  

Myself, my siblings, uncles and aunts, and offspring are also encouraged to keep an eye on our brain stem health, but because I have such vague information on the history and condition, I haven't really pursued it.  It is in the back of my mind, so to speak, so that's why I so willingly accepted the MRI request given to me by my medical team.

We have ruled out blood pressure and blood sugar, so my dizzy spells are most likely coming from the chemical treatments I have been receiving since August, but I don't mind them doing some investigation into my cranium health, just in case.  I was able to confirm with the technician today that this MRI includes imaging of my brain stem.  

Should have test results in a couple of weeks. 

Thank you to all who offered to drive, meet, or host me today. :-) But I needed to do this one on my own.


  1. This is such an inspirational piece of writing, I don't think I would have the strength you have to overcome such a terrible fate. Thank you for sharing this with my husband and I and we pray for your healthy return. Things will work out for you and your family, I know this! Stay positive and god bless you, thanks.

    Kacey @ Glendale MRI

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