BCSM, Breast cancer, Cancer, Chemotherapy, Emotional Health, Health, Humor, Humour, Manchester, MRI, Radiotherapy, UK, Uncategorized, Women's Health

The Trauma Trigger

It turns out the mere mention of the word ‘cannula’ (a thin tube inserted into the vein to administer drugs) is enough to make me cry.

IMG_2358I had gone to the Wythenshawe hospital in Manchester for my MRI scan – a routine check-up on my breasts that’s recommended for women under 40 because it’s more reliable and doesn’t involve harmful radiation.

I have never been one to dread scans or be afraid of them in any way. I sailed through 33 rounds of radiotherapy because it was just a case of going into a room, lying down under a big whirring machine and waiting. No pain, no dark tunnels. So, for my first ever breast MRI on Thursday, I breezed into the radiology department, all smiles and regular heartbeat, expecting to be in and out within an hour or so.

I just had no idea I was going to need a cannula. It was just a pin prick so they could insert some dye half-way through the scan, to allow my boob matter to show up on the images (or something). It was actually the smallest type of cannula available, used for babies, no less. (I say this so that you know just how much of a wimp I am).

But as soon as I heard the word ‘cannula,’ I burst into tears in front of the nurse, because to me, a cannula isn’t just a little needle-like thing. To me, a cannula is synonymous with chemo. Just a whiff of the saline going into my arm was enough to make me want to vomit, bringing with it all the traumatic memories of six months of chemo. The nights in the hospital when it took three different nurses to finally (and painfully) get a cannula into my hand, and the gut-wrenching feeling of those toxic drugs seeping into the veins…

IMG_2361The nurse handed me a bunch of tissues and told me a story about how she can’t go down the catfood aisle in the supermarket because it reminds her of the cat she lost three years ago. This story of association was supposed to make me feel better but, of course, she didn’t know she was talking to Cat Lady Supremo, for whom any tale of dead, unhappy or injured cats is enough to bring on the waterworks. So, naturally, that just made me feel worse.

So I lay there, horizontal, on the MRI machine with my face squashed into a squashy pad looking down at a white space, tears streaming down my face, cannula in arm, strapped to the machine, for about 40 minutes. As we all know, when you cry, your nose runs (especially when you’ve had flu for the last week), and when you’re lying face down, without the use of your arms because they’re strapped to a machine, there’s nothing you can do about it. So I lay and watched a large bogey slowly drip, drip, drip, along with my tears, until it finally hit the machine. I hope it doesn’t interfere with my results.

It really wasn’t a painful experience, and the staff in the hospital were amazing, but sometimes it just takes a trigger to bring back every horrible thing you go through with cancer. I’ve done a lot of reflecting over the past few weeks and I’ve been quite emotional.

The results won’t be back for a while yet, but hopefully it’ll be another all-clear. And – with any luck – I won’t have to go through all that again for another year.


26 thoughts on “The Trauma Trigger

  1. Amy says:

    I just wanted to say that reading your blog has really got me through this year so thank you for writing it. I was diagnosed with bc last dec aged 28 and am coming out the other side but like you, the thought of things like needles, that i wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow to before bring all the crappy memories flooding back. Knowing that others feel the same has really given me strength. This time will pass. Thanks again x

    • Thanks Amy, I’m really pleased to know the blog has helped you, and even more pleased that you’re coming out the other side! It’s a long slog but we’ll get through it. Take care xx

  2. You describe this experience so vividly, I could totally relate (and I did not have chemo!).
    Post-cancer, these tests really are like triggers. Land mines, if you will. Hard to know where they hide and when they will appear. It’s like that cannula was a direct-line plug into a PTSD outlet. Yikers! I’m sorry you had to go through that, and I wish for you unremarkable results from the MRI. {{{hugs}}}

  3. Adriana says:

    Lauri, es tan real lo que contàs que se revive. No sè si te sirve pero no te pasa solo a vos. Y luego de finalizar el tratamiento, despuès de un tiempo, empiezan las reflexiones del tremendo camino atravesado. Asì nos toca a algunos y eso nos hace diferentes.
    Todo va a estar bien con tus resultados, te relajaràs y estaràs tranquila hasta el pròximo año.
    Te abrazo fuerte.
    Besitos, Adri.

  4. It takes a “big girl” to admit she’s afraid. I admire your honesty. And maybe it would help to seek a support group to help you decide how you want to address your understandable but upsetting fear. I haven’t done that yet because of the support I have received from other online bloggers, but I have considered it.

  5. Oh, I so understand those flashbacks and triggers of Chemo and cancer treatment.
    You are not alone! It certainly is a part of it that no one can understand unless they
    have been through it. sending healing thoughts your way.

  6. Kaye leaker says:

    It is amazing what can trigger such a response in us. Well done for coping with your fears a d good luck with the results. Beds ready in Australia

  7. I’m so sorry it was difficult, but thank goodness it’s now over. It’s not easy in that machine for the 40 minutes, particularly since you just cannot move at all – but you got through. I’m sending you a virtual high five, and a hug too. ~Catherine

  8. I am so sorry – you were being so positive and then – WHAM! and those triggers set in. it’s really good that you were able to blog about that horrible experience (plus the nurse’s cat story!) so others who go through the same feelings know they are not alone. I am sending you many warm hugs and powerful vibes for the results to be negative for any cancer.

    love and light,

    Karen, TC

  9. Oh I understand these triggers very well. I have it with many things these days.. clothes, food, even certain tv shows. Yuck. It’s one big flash back some days. I’m very emotional as well. Sometimes the smallest comment about my hair can make me burst into tears. Big warm hug for you!

  10. Vicki says:

    Please pass on this advice. Before getting injections of any kind, or getting blood drawn, just drink 2 large bottles of water. It helped me immensely. It makes your veins much easier to find because they swell. The one time I forgot, it was immediately obvious. I learned this trick from my family. Mother, who lost her battle after 4 1/2 years, father who has two different cancers, and twin sister, who had a different kind of breast cancer than I did. Also there is new technology on the horizon that uses infared light to show exactly where your veins are, which is really exciting. But even if they can be found that way, you want them really plump, so drink your water.

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