It begins with flashing lights. Always on the left side of my field of vision. I can’t read. I can’t see clearly. I rub close my eyes. If I can get to the Tylenol, I take a couple. And if possible, I lie down. The lights flash across my forehead, so to speak, from left to right. In a half hour they are gone. And I can see again. Afterwards, I have a headache, sometimes mild, sometimes a little stronger.

The episodes were increasing, from maybe once or twice at most a year, to a recent series of four of them. One night I had such a pain in my head, I woke up, turned over and then it went away. Lately I have a low-grade headache that comes and goes during the day, never strong enough to require Tylenol, however.

What is going on? I go to the doctor to find out. He tells me we better have a look. I go to the MRI lab. I read about the procedure. “Our unique Philips Gemini GXL PET/CT system has both PET and multi-slice CT components….” “…multi-slice…?” Good grief, did I bargain for this?

What is PET? I read on. “PET (Positron Emission Tomography) is a powerful diagnostic tool…” I’m sure. What is CT? “CT stands for Computed Tomography.”  I am convinced. “CT is non-invasive, painless and relatively fast.” I remain hopeful.

I am laid out flat, inserted into a cylinder and then the music begins—bam, bam, bam; boom, boom, boom, drilling and more drilling, beep, beep, beep, drum rolls, squeaks, rat-ta-tat tats—again and again in progressive waves for forty five minutes.

Before it begins I am asked if I want to watch TV. Sure I say. So there I lay watching CNN and they are blasting my head with this Schoenberg. How am I expected to hear Wolf Blitzer when they are pounding my head with Arnold Schoenberg?

I am told it is over. They hand me a CD of the results. I say, what is this for? So you can see the images. What will I be able to make of them? Well, you can take it to another physician one day if you need to. I know that is something I am going to have to do for the rest of my life anyway.

I go to the doctor. The report has arrived. There is no evidence of any “cerebellopontine angle lesion, although “mastoid disease is present and possible medial temporal lobe atrophy.” There is also a “mild vertebrobasilar dolichoectasia with slight chronic indentation of the ventral margin of the pons in the right paramedian location by the basilar artery.”

I am thrilled by the news, although can’t make heads or tails of it. It is suggested that I take some Tylenol. No more flashing lights, no more headaches. The wonders of placebos.