Imagine you are a seven year old boy with a brain tumor, locked in a tiny space, not knowing when you can come out. This is what the MRI is like for Thomas, our 7-year-old boy being treated for brain cancer at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Thomas is strong. He completed chemotherapy, took his radiation treatments non-sedated and has been getting MRIs since he was diagnosed with a tumor 6 days after his 6th birthday. On MRI days, we prepare for a difficult day with an anxious little boy. As parents, there is no greater pain than seeing your child suffer.
He needs to get an MRI every 3 months. The process lasts from 1 to 2 hours, depending on how well he lays still and whether the MRI is brain and spine or just the brain. As much as we try to prepare him, too often the procedure has to be stopped and reschedule for another day. Complete sedation has risks and we continue to push him to get the MRIs non-sedated. We don’t want to add more risks or side effects of opiods to a brain cancer survivor’s long list of complications.
Each new MRI is a challenge. He knows it will be long, uncomfortable, boring and very scary. He knows he will want to get out! As parents, we have our own anxiety waiting for the results. The worst has already happened once, but can happen again, if the MRI brings with it a picture of more cancer.