MRI is done

Not me – but similar

Yesterday was a long friggin’ day. I had my MRI at 7:30 a.m., to get it out of the way. It was fine. It was in one of those mobile units, which I suppose are wonders of modern science, but was still basically an MRI lab in a truck. It was fine. Not exemplary, just fine. The technician doing the work was in a mood, and they were just cranking out patients at a brisk clip. They had a bit of a problem with getting the IV in me, which wasn’t my favorite thing. The other weird thing was, I couldn’t feel the saline they put in, or the contrast agent when it went in. The first time I had it done in 2009, I felt everything. But yesterday I couldn’t feel any of it, past the iv going in.

Odd.

Those kinds of things are exhausting for me, because I have to work really hard to keep still. I tend to twitch and tic involuntarily at times, so I have to really focus on keeping relaxed and still. By the end of the hour, I was beat, and I had some difficulty getting on my feet and walking away. It was a pretty involved brain MRI, and the equipment wasn’t exactly top-notch.

The good thing is, I got a copy of it all right afterwards. How cool is that?! It gives me a chance to study my brain before I go to the doctor. Of course, if I find anything amiss, it could throw me for a loop, but I’d rather be thrown for a loop in the comfort and privacy of my own home, than in a doctor’s office.

Anyway, the MRI hadn’t been read and annotated by someone who knows what they’re looking at, so I didn’t really have any points of comparison to go by.

I did pop the CD in my computer last night and take a look. I found one image that looked like I had a bunch of microbleeds going on. There were all these little clear dark spots speckled throughout my brain. I Googled them and found similar pictures of MRIs of people who had microbleeds. That concerned me a bit. But when I looked at the other images, there was no sign of those same dots, so I’m probably not reading it right.   Also, someone told me back in 2009 that those are actually blood vessels, which makes it good to see them.

It’s always nice to know you’re getting blood to your brain.

So, I have the disk, and I have my 2009 disk. I pulled them up side-by-side yesterday to compare how my brain looks. The problem is, different software is used to view the imagery from different years, so I don’t have a simple point of comparison. Also, the way the files are organized doesn’t make sense in the new one.

Although… I could try copying the files into BOTH software, and look at both years in the same program. I’m not sure that would work, because they appear to be different formats. But that could be confusion on my part.

I hope that works, because I really want to be able to see what’s what.

Just from an initial cursory look, it appears that

A) My pineal cyst looks bigger than last time. I’ll have to wait till the MRI gets read and annotated (and then I’ll request another copy with the radiologist’s notes in it).

B) My brain looks a little smaller than last time. There seems to be more space between my brain tissue and the inside of my skull, and my brain isn’t smushed up against my skull like in 2009. There’s more clearance, and there’s also more definition between the different folds (I think they’re called sulci). I don’t know what that means. I’ve seen pictures of people whose brains have shrunken — a lot — and it’s a little freaky.  On the other hand, if I’m losing certain white matter or grey matter, there may be a way to beef them back up. I know that regular meditation increases gray matter — it’s been documented. So, that’s fairly straightforward, I think. Also, certain types of things will actually shrink your brain — depression and stress, for instance.

Anyway, it’s impossible to say what the deal is with me. I’m not an MD or a radiologist, and who knows what the deal is.

The neuro is supposed to call me with the results, so we’ll see. I have no idea when that will be. I guess no news is good news.

In the meantime, I’ll get my systems together, I’ll spend some time this weekend looking at my MRIs, and I’ll see what I can find about fixing whatever I can.

Oh, as a side note, I am not all that impressed by the quality of the imaging taken in the back of the truck. Maybe it’s the type of MRI I got, but the images are not as clear, they don’t have the same level of detail as the 2009 ones, and some of them look “smudged”. It could be because I may have moved, but there is absolutely no smudging in the 2009 MRI, and I was in worse shape then, than I am now.

At least, I think I was…

Anyway, if I ever get that done again, I’m going to a proper hospital — preferably the one I went to before — to get this done. If I’m going to have heavy metals put into me intravenously, I’d better get some damned good imaging out of it in return.

More to come.

Onward.

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“On” day today

Time to hit the “on” button again

Yesterday was a quiet day for me. I rested a lot, did a lot of reading and studying the parts of the brain, and also looked more closely at my MRI. I might be due for another one, because it’s been five years since my last one that revealed the pineal cyst.

The cyst is actually about three times the size of a “shouldn’t be a problem” cyst. It is 1.6 cm and .5 cm is a usual size that shows up. Looking around online at other people’s experiences with pineal cysts, they are experiencing a lot of disruptive symptoms with ones that are about the same size as mine.

I honestly don’t know what to think of this, because on the one hand, all the headaches I’ve been having, along with the vertigo and numbness and tingling in my face and hands *might* be related. On the other hand, I don’t want to start digging around for issues that will raise flags with medical folks and send me down a path of super-invasive procedures, when the symptoms I’m having are actually tolerable.

The headaches don’t make me happy, but they also don’t stop me from living my life. I just recognize that my head hurts, I do what I can to relieve the pain a bit, and I get on with my life.

Anyway, after spending a quiet day yesterday, getting some good rest and taking it easy, I’m ready for a whole new day – out and about. I’ve got a handful of things to take care of — nothing really intense or overwhelming, just stuff. And running those errands will take me into a town with a library that has some books I’ve been wanting to check out, so that’s good.

This seems to be about the right pace for me — not too fast, not too slow, just very steady. I have some intervals of excitement, here and there, but I have also interspersed it with some naps and rest, which is a real step in the right direction.

It’s been great to slow down, but it hasn’t been without its challenges. Stopping moving makes me realize just how much pain I’m in, and the stretching and exercises I’ve been doing have revealed some stuff that I need to work through. The tenseness, the tightness, the limited range of motion, and also my poor posture. I really have poor posture, which is screwing up my back. Not until I stopped going 100mph and slowed down to notice what’s going on with me, did I realize it. But now I realize it. So, ouch. There’s the good pain that comes from sore muscles after exercise. There’s the bad pain that comes from limited range of motion and under-use. Ouch. But I’m working through it.

One of the other things that keeps happening to me is that I keep getting very emotional — tears are coming up, which I hate, because crying gives me a splitting headache and I feel like crap for days afterwards. I have been tearing up while driving, and also while sitting around my house. I guess stopping all the forward motion is causing the emotional stuff that I usually “use” for fuel and motivation to show itself for what it really is. I haven’t stressed about much of anything all week, which is a big change. And not stressing and not needing to keep everything under wraps seems to be making me more emotional.

Times like this past week, when I am not constantly focused on what needs to be done, I get re-acquainted with my TBI issues in a much closer way. The memory problems — I went to the hardware store and bought $75 worth of supplies, but I couldn’t remember what they were, a day later… the fatigue problems — never feeling like I have enough sleep and always been a bit wiped out… the coordination problems, headaches, ringing in my ears, and the difficulty I have getting started on things… Slowing down makes me more aware of these things, and having time to think about my life, also doesn’t really help that much, because I just get depressed, thinking about all the things I was able to do before, but now cannot seem to get my head around.

Well, whatever. I’ve had a few down-time days, which has been good. And now I’m ready to be “on” again. I’ve got my list. I’ve got my plans. I’ve got things pretty much mapped out, and that’s good. I can’t sit around anymore and feel bad about my situation. That’s just no good.

Now, onward – the day is waiting.

Diving into my brain

Check out what’s in there…

Time to break out the old MRI again. About five years ago, I had a series of weird experiences that other people assured me were seizures. I honestly didn’t know what to think — my eyes would start jumping rhythmically back and forth, I couldn’t keep them focused on any one thing at a time, and I had these extreme and overwhelming floods of emotion that really leveled me. I even went blind for a few minutes, one afternoon while I was spending time with family.

After talking to a bunch of folks, including epilepsy doctors, I had an MRI and an EEG, and nothing came back definitive, other than a pineal cyst — which is common in the general population. About 40% of autopsies uncover a pineal cyst, but it doesn’t seem to make a ton of difference in quality of life, other than headaches and other issues in extreme cases. My pineal cyst was fairly small, so the doctor just told me to keep an eye on it and get re-scanned every couple of years to make sure it’s not getting worse.

I haven’t been back since, as I’m not having any symptoms or issues that seem worth the trouble. Also, the contrast agent they pump into you to make things light up made me sick, and there have been lots of reports of bad side-effects, so no thanks.

Anyway, reading about dopamine and how it’s produced in the body and the parts of the brain that are involved, I’ve dug up the old MRI files to look at, and it’s as fascinating as ever. The thing is, my brain doesn’t look like the textbook images — I must have lay on my back a lot as a baby, because the back of my head is flattened and the cerebellum is pushed forward and up. I have found other images on Google that look like me – and we certainly don’t look like what’s in the Netter’s anatomy book I have.

Fascinating. Not that this means there is anything wrong – it’s just different.

So, anyway, I’m looking at the physical structure of the brain, trying to see where all the action takes place. There’s a ton of stuff going on in there – it’s hard to distinguish between the different pieces, based on my limited knowledge, but I guess the most important thing is that everything is intact — and I have the capacity to explore and question and discover for myself.

That, in itself, gives me a rush, which is exactly what I need.

I need a rush that is for something meaningful and useful. For years, I devoted hours and hours of my time to activities that just took the pressure off and distracted me from what was really going on — writing for hours and hours in journals which never served any useful purpose, other than providing a rhythmic, solitary activity that would soothe my jangled nerves… studying history and obscure facts in order to better understand life around me (had limited success with that)… and drifting from one project to the next, each time convinced that I was going to hit the big time and make a fortune, then dropping each undertaking in due course because I got bored or it didn’t pan out the way I expected. I was really quite aimless — in large part because I only wanted to take the pressure off my head and my heart… not actually do anything with my life.

I suppose it was good for something. The interests and the discipline I developed over the years have stood me in good stead, with researching my TBI issues and figuring out how to address them. So, it wasn’t all for naught. But I spend a whole lot of time doing a whole lot of nothing — mainly because I just needed to take the edge off my anxiety and depression and low energy levels.

Now I’m able to focus that attention and activity in a productive direction. And getting the hang of tweaking my dopamine levels and increasing my general feelings of well-being, is just the ticket. It’s fascinating to me, and that can’t hurt.

So, the day is waiting. The brain is an enormous domain that’s full of all manner of fascinating areas and abilities. Looking at the anatomy can be overwhelming, but when I think about the dynamics of it — just how it works, and how I can better use it — a lot of it makes more sense.

Time to dive back in and get fascinated again.

Onward.