Thursday, February 13, 2014

A (Short but) Very Stressful Trip on the Cancer Rollercoaster

Yesterday I went to have my annual check up with endocrinologist. When I first saw her about five years ago, I was sent for a baseline thyroid ultrasound because I hadn't had either an ultrasound ever or an endocrinologist in a very long time (decades?). Big surprise there when they found a 'something' in the thyroid bed where the thyroid used to be but wasn't supposed to be anything.

We started following it with ultrasounds to see what it was. It was clearly in the evil category of 'big enough to see but too small to do anything about'. So six month and then, as its stability became established, annual ultrasounds were the result.

I ran into friends entering the hospital and then was a little late for the ultrasound but still had to wait a few minutes. I didn't have any great expectations of issues with the ultrasound. They finally called me and I went in for my turn. It met my expectations of no problems. I went on to my endocrinologist appointment to get the results and talk about my thyroid or lack of.

While in the waiting room, I ran into another friend (see what happens when you are a frequent patient - your social life happens at the hospital?) and we were chatting away. Then a doctor showed up in scrubs and asked the front desk attendant for me because of the innocuous reason that 'the doctor needed more pictures'.

My stress level grew. Immensely. No cancer patients ever want to hear that. They sent me back to the ultrasound waiting room for a few minutes and my stress level continued to grow. I was the only one in the waiting room - me and my mind which quickly goes down that evil little road to hell.

After a few minutes they called me in again. Another tech started another ultrasound and would only tell me that 'the doctor had requested more pictures'. After a few minutes of clicking away on her screen and squishing the side of my neck with the stupid wand thing, she left to check with the doctor to make sure they had enough pictures.

My stress level grew some more. I was in tears.

The attendant came back with the supervisor/instructor. They resumed the ultrasound and whispered away while clicking and and pointing at the screen. I was more stressed.

Finally they decided they had enough pictures and sent me and my kleenex back to endocrinology where I was greeted with 'there you are - we called you and you weren't here even though you had checked in'. I was told to take a seat, no they would take me, not sit, no go in. Eventually they said go in. The nurse said she had forgotten I was sent back over to ultrasound....

She stuck me in an exam room and attempted to take my blood pressure. I have no idea what it was but I bet it was a bit high. I stressed.

Then the doctor came in and apologized and said everything is fine. She told me to take a few deep breaths. My stress level started to go down. She told me she could not imagine what I went through as even she was very surprised to learn that I was sent back to ultrasound. She wasn't the doctor who wanted more images, it was the radiologist so she was surprised as well. My stress level went down so more.

What happened is that the evil little something they were following was not found in the first ultrasound. The tech measured something different which was a completely different size. They had to go back and find what the first tech had measured and then to decide that the evil something was no longer there. Great big sigh of relief. That was about 45 minutes of sheer hell on my part. Then I went to the gym to finish destressing.

I do not blame the techs as they were doing their job and I do not expect them to tell me what they see as the doctor needs to put it in context. I'm just glad I had the results of the ultrasound about 10 minutes after it ended.

This is a day in the life of a cancer patient. Every test no matter the expectations can quickly go to hell in a hand basket. If you haven't walked the walk, you have no idea what its like.


Norma Jean said...

It would be so nice if they could just say something like, the images weren't clear enough and we want to make sure they are, something to help ease that panic level. Sometimes a few small words are better than no words at all.

Jim's Girl said...

Once you've been down this road there is no more blissful ignorance, is there? ~Kate

Unknown said...

I'm happy that the tests turned out okay for you

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