A little late…


“Just climb up on the table and place your leg right here. You will just need to relax and lie still, placing your hands on your stomach.”


“You can just take a little nap.”


“Ok. Sounds delightful.”

Eric, the kind technician, then added, “You’re not claustrophobic, are you?”

“No. Not at all.”

“Ok, then. Here are your earplugs. Enjoy your nap!”


There’s a cool breeze coming from inside the tunnel, like the air being pushed through a tunnel before the train arrives. It’s cool and constant, somewhat comforting. It’s hot outside, after all.

Then, Eric’s muffled voice is heard telling me the machine will begin the process of taking the pictures and that I will feel a slight surge as the machine moves me further into the tunnel.

It’s at that point the knocking begins.

The noise.

It’s not too terribly loud, probably because I have earplugs, but, still, I could see how someone would find it disconcerting. Especially, if they’re nervous that the MRI is to determine something deadly….


I had my very first MRI, today. It was for my knee. Nothing major. Probably, the doctor says, a torn meniscus. Don’t ask me what a meniscus is. All I know is, it’s somewhere around my knee. I’m guessing this, since that’s where the pain is located….

So, at the moment, according to the doctor, my meniscus might be torn, which is not life threatening.

Having an MRI makes it seem lots more important, though. Because MRIs are for really serious stuff. At least, that’s what I always think. Right? Many times, if you have an MRI, it can be to find something deeper in the body that X-rays can’t detect. …Bad stuff.

But, in my case, it’s just to find a little tear.



As the machine slowly moves my entire body into the chamber, the noise and vibrations begin to increase.

Suddenly, I’m transported back to a conversation following one of my mother’s very last MRIs.

“I never want to do that again. It was so loud. That knocking. That noise. It hurt so bad. I wanted to cry.”

And, my mother was not a crier.

Initially, as I moved into the tunnel, I thought, this isn’t so bad. It was loud, but not deafening. I had earplugs, after all. And so did she.

I even closed my eyes for a few moments, thinking I might just take a little nap.

But, as I closed my eyes, two tears slowly rolled down the sides of my face, catching on the little earplugs Eric had given me.

I’m suddenly fully aware of what my mother must have felt, listening to the same knocks and feeling the same vibrations, as her middle section was being photographed. Pictures not producing smiles and laughter, like I take for my photography business, but pictures of cancer cells…pictures of tumors that were rapidly spreading and gobbling up her insides at lightening speed.

I couldn’t help myself. I was sobbing while lying still…I couldn’t wipe my tears for fear of messing up the pictures the MRI was taking of my knee.

When I finally opened my eyes I realized how terribly lonely that tunnel is…

I was all alone. …Alone with my thoughts and the stupid, loud thumping of that machine.

What did my mother think of, besides how much it hurt to lie still for so long on her diseased spinal cord?

No wonder it was uncomfortable to her. Excruciatingly uncomfortable.

So, she lay there, in pain, listening to the noise…the noise of the machine, the noise of her thoughts, her fears, reminding her, with each and every vibration, that she was in that tunnel to find out just how bad her cancer was….



How do you explain to Eric, the kind technician, that, no, you weren’t uncomfortable, no you weren’t claustrophobic, no you weren’t in pain?

How do you tell a complete stranger that you were just sad?

Sad that you understand…now.

Only now is too late.



  1. launda

    I have tears streaming down my face as I read your post today. I’ve never had an MRI, so I couldn’t know how alone it made you feel. Alone with your thoughts and feelings and memories. Your Mom would be proud of the compassion that this experience produced in you. Compassion that you’ve always had and that can now be displayed in other peoples lives who are experiencing what you have. And its never to late for that! Have a great day, Elizabeth!

  2. Lana Rush

    Oh Elizabeth – I’m so sorry that such a simple procedure hit you so hard. You just never know what things are going to make you miss your mama, do you? Mine’s still around and I’m thankful. I wish yours was too…..

  3. Pingback: Follow-up «

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