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Monday, October 4, 2010

Question of the Week: Have You Had Too Many Medical Tests?

A needle used for bone marrow aspiration, with...Image via Wikipedia
I've had so many medical tests, I lost count somewhere way back in the 1980's. I guesstimate I've had enough tests for several 'average person' lifetimes. So no wonder along the way I've developed a healthy fear of medical tests, which borders on mild panic and anxiety every time a medical professional decides another one is needed.

The Lowlights

During my second chemotherapy treatment for leukemia, the doctors gave me so many chemo pre-meds that I literally cannot remember an entire week of my life. I don't remember changing my underwear, going to the bathroom, eating or changing my clothes. According to my friends and family who visited me during that week in the hospital, I had lively conversations with them, of which I cannot remember a single word I uttered.

Is it any wonder I don't like being sedated?

During that same time period, I had a Hickman catheter inserted and multiple bone marrow biopsies done. Sure, they use local anesthetic to numb the parts of my body involved, but I was awake the entire time during these procedures. For the Hickman catheter, they put a box with hole cut into it over my head so I couldn't see what they were doing while they worked for about 40 minutes. For the bone marrow biopsies, I needed to lay face down on an exam table and keep still for about 10 minutes.

It is any wonder I get nervous when they want to poke and prod me in the present day?

Getting Through It

Unfortunately, medical tests and chronic illness seem to go hand-in-hand. I have come to accept that radiology scans and various procedures are needed to diagnose or rule out conditions and provide medical treatment. So despite all my traumatic medical test baggage, I've needed to figure out how to endure and survive the medical tests that my doctors and I agree to be necessary and reasonable.

My Coping Strategies

During the week before:

  1. Learn as much as I can about the procedure or test.
  2. As for anti-anxiety medications for procedures like MRIs that provoke my claustrophobia.
  3. Distract myself as much as possible with fun things to do in the days leading up to the event.
  4. If I find myself worrying about the test, I set up a 5 to 10 minute appointment with myself each day to do all my fretting. Any distressing thoughts outside that appointment are stopped and saved until my worry time.
  5. Schedule extra rest in the days leading up to the procedure, since I know my insomnia will be worse the night before my appointment.
  6. Visualize a positive outcome whenever I think about the upcoming test.
On the day of the procedure:
  1. Bring along a family member or friend. Hopefully they will be driving me to and from my appointment too.
  2. Give myself plenty of time to get to the medical facility.
  3. Repeat my mantra: 'I am good, I am fine, I'm O.K." liberally and often.
  4. Bring along my MP3 player or a book to occupy myself while sitting in the waiting room.
  5. Ask if my companion can be in the room with me during the appointment. (My husband actually sits in the MRI room and holds whatever is sticking out of the machine to keep me calm.)
  6. Breathe.

So have you had too many medical tests too? How do you cope when your doctor decided you need just one more? Share your stories and thoughts here and join the discussion on the Oh My Aches and Pains! Facebook page.


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4 comments

Annie said...

I've had more than I can count - including bone marrow, bone scans, MRIs, CTs (head and stomach), gastroscope, colonoscopy, (numerous of both), skin biopsies, EEGs, ECGs, you name it.

So I feel you pain honey.

It blows.

phylor said...

Guess I'm lucky in that I haven't had that many horrible tests done. The worst ones were my first MRI (the microphone didn't work, so I was all alone in there forever getting a head MRI) and having to hold still the whole time. I just keep counting, and closing my eyes. And, in Canada, they don't give you much, if anything, pre-colonoscopy, so they usually had to stop about 1/2 way through because I was screaming in pain from the proceedure (not because anything was wrong with my colon). Atleast in the US, they put you under for it! Prep is about the same: a horrible experience, and now worse than the test itself.
I have trouble lying still with my arms dowm to my side, so any test that makes you lie like that is painful, but usually short -- like my spine xray. I hope to never have to put my head in a MRI machine again! Though, I do hear they aren't as small a space as they used to be.

Brittney said...

Yep and just when I think I'm done with them for awhile I get a phone call saying I need to have another one. Case and point. In the past few weeks I've had an EMG and nerve conduction study, an echocardiogram, pulmonary function tests, way to many tubes of blood pulled, and now I'm scheduled for a MRI of my head tomorrow morning looking for/ruling out a pituitary adenoma. Somedays I think I can't get away from the hospital or doctors office.

Lara said...

I just happened upon this post via Chronic Babe. I'm so glad to read this right now..I'm having a surgical procedure on my pancreas done on friday, and PICC line placed and CT scan Thrus. I'm worried about all of it, have had previous issues with all parts involved. the best way I am remaining calm is that I have a hypno therapist who made me an mp3 for me to listen to before appt.s and procedures. This will be the first procedure (ERCP) that I have the relaxation hypnosis to listen to and really believe it works for me. But I'm still taking a xanax too..

my blog: http://lakettell.blogspot.com/