Scan day. That day you go through every three months, every six months, every year. It's like you spend the two (or five or 11) months and 30 days prior to each scan climbing, climbing, climbing up the "big hill" of the roller coaster of life. Every roller coaster has that one hill that's so daunting (think Raging Bull or Goliath). Every step of that climb, every lurch forward you anticipate what's going to happen, or what might happen. For a split second you think, OMG, when I reach the top of this hill, is the car going to fly off the track? Will we lose control and die? Can I turn back? It's scary, and no matter how many times you ride it, those same fears sneak into your brain.

Tunnel of Love MRI ScanEven eight years out, the anticipation builds as I near another annual scan. OMG, is my life going to go off course again? Am I going to lose control and die? Can I go back? Please? Even though I am (fairly) sure I am out of the woods, those thoughts still creep in every now and then. In 2009, there was a particular scan day experience I’d like to share.

Nov. 11, 2009. As I lay in the MRI tube today, I reflected on all the other times I had been lying in that same position, getting that same scan done and how different it is now. When I first had my MRI (before I even knew I had cancer), it was difficult for me to lie still in that "tunnel" for 45 minutes. What I didn't know is that the tumor was pressing on my femoral nerve, causing ridiculous nerve pain. As the tumor grew (even during chemo), the MRIs became more and more unbearable. The tumor was growing, and growing rapidly, putting more and more pressure on that nerve. It got to the point that I would lie in the tunnel with tears streaming uncontrollably down my face. Every minute was agony.

Today was different. Tears still streamed silently down my face, but for different reasons. There was no more pain, no more agony. Today, the tears were tears of joy, tears of gratitude. I thanked God for taking care of me, for letting me stay on this earth to raise my children — even if for just a little bit longer, for my friends and my family, for how lucky I am to be alive and for how far I've come in such a short amount of time. As I sit here and write this, the tears are falling again. I am so lucky. So instead of being a big scary roller coaster, today I lie in the Tunnel of Hope. The Tunnel of Gratitude. The tunnel of LOVE...

Share Your Thoughts

What is your "big hill"? How have you handled your follow-up scans, tests and appointments? Share your comments below.

About the Author

Maria grew up in the historical village of Greendale, where she and much of her family still reside. In March of 2008 she began to experience pain in her right leg. An MRI showed Maria that there was a tumor in her upper thigh/groin area and that it was likely serious. She was immediately referred to Froedtert & MCW's Clinical Cancer Center, specifically the sarcoma team. She feels so fortunate to be working with cancer patients, offering support and empathy. She is blessed to have the chance to bring them educational opportunities and wellness products and services to support them during and after their treatment.

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Marloe Esch
on June 7, 2018 - 12:24 pm

Maria,Beautiful words and a good reminder of the power of perspective :)