I'm glad that I didn't know I was going to have an MRI scan yesterday until about an hour before I did. There was no time to discuss it with friends or look it up on the Internet – in other words, no time to fret. Because I'll tell you this, I had enough to worry about when I was actually having the MRI. Extra time to create dreaded scenarios would not have been a good thing.

My first thought? Being put into this type of contraption is definitely what would happen to me if I was ever abducted. This is an amazing way to torture someone – it's just like being buried alive in a space capsule. And I wonder why I was breathing so heavy during my first five minutes in there.

I was also sure there must be some shrapnel in my body that I didn't know about. Before the scan they ask you about all the foreign objects that could be in your body. Dental work, IUDs, metal shavings in your eyes (say what?), and of course, shrapnel. What if I have some shrapnel that I'm not aware of? Secret shrapnel. At one point my knee hurt and I was sure it was because some sort of metal was going to work its way out, like in Alien.

The MRI was loud and long – even though technically, it was only 20 minutes. I did lots of slow breathing and pretending I was in Bikram yoga, comforting myself that at least I wasn't also sweating my brains out. But I swear I could feel the liquid in my body sloshing around due to the magnets moving around my body. And I really have never thought I was claustrophobic, but apparently I am and maybe have some other phobias I also wasn't aware of, like shrapnelphobia.

Of course I was cool as a cucumber on the outside, joking with the radiologists about Grey's Anatomy. This is typical of me. No one believes I'm as anxious as I am. "But you are so calm," they always comment. Honestly, I don't know why this is. Perhaps it is one of my superpowers, the other one being my ability to eat more cheese in one sitting than should be legal (all without an ounce of tummyache).

The day started out nice enough. I went to my spinal surgeon appointment (for the background to this story, click here). And even though he actually made me wait for an hour to see him, he was so nice that I felt guilty and easily forgave him.

After listening to my story about the back pain that has persisted on and off since a year ago and examining me (in addition to reading the detailed letter from Super Physio), he said that my symptoms – where the pain comes and goes, often getting better only to get worse again – was consistent with a disc problem. My heart sank. I was hoping he would say the opposite, such as: "No need to get a scan, you sound fine!"

But no, he said we would get an MRI done and take a look at my spine. He added that typically we'd see a bit of damage to my spine anyway, considering I was born in 1976 and it was now 2011 (his exact words – I like the way he phrased it). Over the years it sees quite a bit of wear and tear, he explained, which is kind of amazing as I'm only 35 – what would an 80-year-old spine look like? Or do you see most of the damage in the first 30 years? (Something to investigate, perhaps)

I am kept quite calm by the fact that my physio sent me to a surgeon who she considers is not "knife happy" (her words). Also, that she thinks the most likely scenario would be a shot of cortisone to calm down the inflammation and then continue with the physio I've already been doing. And what the surgeon said, finally, was that we would look at the MRI scan to see how to make my physio work "most effective". That didn't sound like someone prepared to cut into me.

Luckily, I am seeing him on Monday, so will know quite soon what the scan shows. In the meantime I've been going to yoga and trying not to think about it (not really working). But I have to say, if there is a disc problem, I might actually feel happy, as this past year has been quite frustrating. Now that my neck/shoulders are behaving so beautifully and there's no more pain there, I could really do with having my back sorted out too. And the Hub – he'd really like to play tennis with me. It's a small thing, but it kind of represents the difficulty with the situation. There are tennis courts near our flat and it would be really nice to meet after work, hit the ball around a bit and then go get some dinner. It's the kind of thing that most people in their 30s can do without hesitation. It would be nice.

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  1. Have had a couple of MRI's. First time, hard not to feel claustrophobic. There ain't a lot of room in them thar tunnels. Second time... after a while, all that rhythmic thumping almost put me to sleep. Serious.

    Possibly because I was so wired and anxious for days & days before it.

    Hopefully they will find something they can point their fingers on, and you can get to swinging a racket. Good to know that the warranty expires before 35, in which case someone like me (50) is living on borrowed time. All the best to you!

  2. I should have probably explained my comment about the wear and tear better. Apparently whenever you scan a spine, even if you feel fine and have absolutely no pain it's possible to see bad stuff (not sure what specifically). I suppose that's why it's important to stay away from surgeons who operate unnecessarily as they can often want to fix things that aren't even symptomatic! So we're not living on borrowed time (phew). I guess just good to know if you ever actually see that state of your own spine.

    I'm off to the doctor as we speak so hopefully will have some news soon. Thanks for your good wishes!


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