Time to Visit the Aviation Medical Examiner

My wonderful oncologist, true to his word, got me in to the Senior Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) to work with me on getting back to flying.  I was so excited to have this appointment scheduled; I couldn’t wait to go.  It’s probably the first time that I’ve ever been anxious to go to a doctor’s appointment, especially lately with my recurring list of appointments.  I’m beginning to feel like an old person that has to plan their week around all of their medical appointments.  Geez…

I liked him immediately.  He’s a pilot too, and he understands my concerns with getting back to flying.  We talked a bit about my flying, where I’m at in my training, and what had happened to me since being diagnosed with breast cancer.  I was also excited to tell him that I would not have to have chemo or radiation therapy.  With that news, he said it should be relatively simple to get me cleared by the FAA again.

He said there would be paperwork that he would file, and see if they had any concerns.  He did say that I will probably be granted a Special Issuance Medical Certificate that’s good for one year.  I’ll have to renew it once a year for most likely five years, then I could go back to the normal Class 3 Medical if all is well after the first five years.

I was grinning ear to ear after I left his office.  There was definitely a new hope that the FAA will probably clear me to fly again once I complete my follow up surgeries.

A couple of days after I saw the medical examiner, he called me to let me know that he had already talked with the district FAA medical office.  That was quick, I thought.  The FAA said that’s great that I’ve been scanned from my neck to my toes for metastatic cancer but they want proof that there’s no cancer in my brain.  They have requested that I have an MRI done.  We don’t believe there’s any chance the cancer is there since it’s no where else, but in order to get cleared, he scheduled me for a brain MRI.  The FAA said that if that shows clear, they will allow me to fly once my physician releases me after my surgeries.

The morning that I was scheduled for my brain MRI, I remembered that I have a metal port on my expander that the plastic surgeon is using to fill me.  I realized that I probably can’t have an MRI with this inside my body.  I quickly started making phone calls to confirm.

Thank God that I know enough about medical equipment and MRI’s to know that you can’t have any ferrous metals near the magnet.  It could overheat inside your body or worse, get pulled out of your body in a very abrupt sort of way.  I was horrified to think what could happen if I’m not supposed to have this procedure done right now. I’ve added this great video from You Tube of what happens when metal gets near an MRI.

Sure enough, after three phone calls and a call back, I was told, “Absolutely not to have an MRI at this time.”  After breathing a sigh of relief that I was smart enough to ask the questions prior to going on site, I settled in to the fact that I can’t have an MRI until I have my reconstruction surgery completed, and the current expander with a metal port removed from my body.

I’m okay with that, at least now I know there’s a path to getting back to flight training.  I know it’s still a ways to go, but at least I know what has to happen to get there and that’s the best news I could ask for.


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