The other evening on my walk home from work in the beautiful summer warmth I started thinking, “What if learning about a serious diagnosis could be empowering, and life affirming rather than terrifying?” What would that look like? Here is the first installment of the story I imagined. I will add to it in the coming weeks. Sort of like an old fashioned serial novel.
She hadn’t been feeling well for awhile. Little things, that at first were easy to ignore. However, the general sense that something was not-quite-right grew, until she couldn’t brush it away. So She made an appointment to see Her family doctor, Her PCP. Just a check up, just a physical, just to make sure everything was okay. Probably the things She had been noticing were just the inevitable symptoms of getting older. “A little less energy, a few aches and pains were normal right?”
That’s not what happened.
The day she arrived at her PCP’s office the Nurse who called her back had Her pee in a cup, brought Her into a treatment room, took Her vitals, and drew some blood. Before he left the room he asked Her if there was anything of particular concern, to which She said “Well I guess I’ve just been noticing that I’m really tired lately.” “I let the Doctor know” he said as he departed.
During the exam, while she was talking to the doctor, the Doctor paused, her kind face concerned, and asked some probing questions. She suggested that perhaps it might be a good idea to order a few tests, a few images. “We don’t know anything until we know something.” she said. “Think of these tests as expanding our options – they will either give us more information, or reassure us that you just need to take some time off. Expect a call in the next day or two to schedule the tests.” She ended with a bit of advice, “I always encourage patients to bring someone when they go, the waiting is more enjoyable that way.”
The next day She got the call from the hospital to schedule the tests. She decided to go alone, after all it was sure to be nothing. An annoyance more than anything else. When she arrived the Nurse who brought her into the dressing room asked Her to remember to keep the opening of the gown in front, and informed Her that after getting an ultrasound, that they would like Her to wait until the radiologist had a chance to read it before She got dressed again, just in case they needed additional images. “Oh, and here is a robe to wear over your gown.”
The room was cool and dim, The Technician gestured for her to lay down on the table. “Do you feel warm enough? If you feel cold we can bring you one of the pre-warmed blankets anytime.” Said the ultrasound Technician. The Technician chatted with Her about her children, her cat and even her favorite movie. All the while there were lots and lots of clicks. “I’m just taking measurements” she said, “Sort of like drawing a map.” When she was finished , she reminded Her that the Radiologist would be reading the images – “Reading the map we just made of your body” she said, and led Her into the behind the scenes waiting room.
There were magazines and two other women in robes. The room was warm enough. There was tea. She could almost imagine She was at a spa, except for the fluorescent lights. “Okay, Okay, No problem She said to Herself.” And She settled down to wait. Listening to the chatter of the other two women in the room while She flipped through a magazine, She wished that She had brought someone with Her. She kept thinking about all those clicks, and wishing She had asked more questions, or at least asked to look at the screen.
Look for the next installment, Chapter 2: The Doctor of in the coming days.