April 9, 2009

Aerial Lake by Night

Worried about my ultrasound appointment (a re-exam, triggered by my mammogram), I went on the web to look things over and look things up. Apparently there's only two categories: good and bad. The bad category, from what I could tell from the photos, looks kind of like flying over a night terrain, all the little cities and streets and streetlights a meshy web, with a meshy blob in the middle.

The good category, is the same night terrain, but with the looks of a lake in the middle of that city.

It's unnerving, really to be put in a place where no information is given to help the patient process, digest, figure out, think about, mull over the situation. As teachers, we are used to being the Momma bird for our baby birds, gathering the information and making it palatable and digestible for the ones we are trying to teach (even though sometimes we feel like flying off and leaving the nest for good). We are used to teaching, imparting information, making ourselves clear, with a healthy dose of Are There Any Questions?

Any questions I asked last week resulted in the technician pointing to a well-worn piece of paper tacked to a cabinet that stated: "We are technicians only. We are not allowed to discuss patient results." Yeah, okay. Since they won't answer questions, and the paper clearly said that they hadn't sent the films up yet as it was a Radiology issue, my doctor wasn't an option. Where else could I turn?

So, properly internetted up, I went to the appointment.

I asked the tech if she could explain the process. Her hand was midway to pointing at the sign, when I said I knew she couldn't discuss the results, but some information would be helpful. I acknowledged that she wasn't in the business of diagnosis, but really, didn't we both know that patients do better when they have enough and the right kind of information? It had been a long week, I told her (trying to keep the tremor out of my voice), and somewhat stressful.

Yes, she said. Most of my mammo retakes are pretty stressed out when they get here.

Given the terse language in the recheck letter I received, it's no wonder.

During the exam, I asked her what she was seeing, craning my neck to see if I had a landscape of streets, or if there was a dark lake.
I'm not allowed to. . .
Yes, I know, I interjected. I just wondered if you could describe what you see.
I'm not allowed. . . she began again.
I know, I said.

She kept dragging the ultrasound wand, clicking on her keyboard in the dim room, making little notations on the screen.

I know if I fall apart, I said, it's better to be in the doctor's office, but I just wondered. . .

She paused, zeroing in on something. Oh, that probably won't happen, she said, then fell silent.

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of a lovely lake in the mesh of streets and highways. I didn't ask any more questions.

I drove home, rounding the corner to see my neighbors Tom and Dee out looking at their sprinklers. After some conversation (they're both really busy and we only catch up every once in a while), she allowed that she'd had a lumpectomy last week, and was still a little sore. She was upbeat and was soon starting chemo. We talked shop--er, breasts--and then we both moved on. Them, to their yellow spots in their lawn, and me, home to bake chocolate chip cookies.

2 comments:

  1. I can imagine a mammogram being kind of scary, but a follow-up mammogram would be very scary! Congratulations on your clear lake! They really should at least have the doctor come in and say you are OK (or not) so you don't have to live with the suspense.

    Thanks for the quilt advice. :) I have a hard time making decisions sometimes.

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  2. I think you did a really good job recreating this experience for your reader, Elizabeth. You and the technician and your suspense and stress feel very real and present to me.I've read this post a couple of times over the last few days.

    I'm glad you left with a feeling of good news, if not the news itself. Take care.

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