Typically, I’m a morning person. But requiring my presence at 6:45 a.m. – for a medical procedure, no less – is borderline rude. Even more disheartening is that moment when I realize I’ve pulled into the wrong parking lot. Perhaps it’s too early in the day to expect full brain function or maybe brain fog is more recurrent than I’d realized, but the Imaging Center is the next street over… M follows me as I drive in circles. I resort to using Google maps to navigate my own hometown, because I can’t, for the life of me, remember how to get one street over.
When we arrive, it’s 6:45 on the dot. “Not so bad,” I tell myself, “Still on time.” We begin making our way to the door and notice a handful of people standing around awkwardly.
Why would you require people to be here at 6:45 if you aren’t going to open the door for them? I don’t say this out loud. Instead, I choose a spot away from the smoker that’s claimed the right side of the awning, prop myself against the brick wall, and wait. Not long after, a sweet-looking lady does come and fidget with the lock. I notice her flowery capris and admire the sky-blue shade of the shirt she’s wearing under her pink cardigan. One lady is determined to be the first in line and stands nearly nose-to-glass with the sliding doors. This effort is in vain though, because once inside, she’s told that her appointment is scheduled for tomorrow, not today. I don’t know whether to giggle or to nod appreciatively, because I understand her frustration. I stare down at my phone while she walks back to her husband, mouthing loudly that she’s “gotta ‘nuther ‘pointment at 10” and doesn’t know if she’ll be able to wait to be worked into today’s schedule. Attached to the wall behind us is the TV playing Good Morning America. They’re excited about the World Cup and I can hear Robin Roberts discussing Team USA’s chances.
But this is all bogus. Simple distractions. I pay attention to these things because I don’t want to think about the fact that I’m in a doctor’s office again, waiting for more tests. I don’t want to consider all the possibilities that come with the unknown. See, there are medical tests that you take to confirm suspicions, and some that test how well you’ve healed. These tests can be happily anticipated because they show progress, you know what to expect in the results. This test today though, happens because something is wrong. It’s about discovery. It’s about waiting.
They call me back.
I’m led to the little dark room and shown to the sterile little bed. She gives me the little rolled towel to lay on top of my pillow and under my neck. I get situated, just as I know how, so my chin is up and my neck is stretched. She stuffs a napkin in the collar of my cardigan and I remember how I had the foresight to wear a scoop-neck tank. (That ultrasound goop would be quite unpleasant to wear around all day.) She squirts the warm jelly and smears it around with the transducer. I cut my eyes up to the screen, but remind myself not to strain so she can get clear pictures. There are spots. Some of them glow blue and red. Some are big. Sometimes, there aren’t spots. I can see my throat. My heart sinks a little as I begin considering possibilities again. Those spots – what are they? Is it back? Do I need to be re-treated? Can I be re-treated again? Will I need a new treatment? External radiation? What if it’s more persistent than we thought? Should I go back to St. Louis? Or be treated here? What would that be like? Would it be better? Would I like being home? Or would it be weird? Would I have to watch normal life continue without me? Is that why I liked St. Louis so much? Because my life was allowed to stop, slow down? Because my stopping didn’t interfere with “real” life?…
The technician interrupted my private spiel, “Where do you feel it?”
“On the right,” I say, “near my throat. I can feel it when I swallow…well, really, even when I’m not swallowing. All the time.”
“Mmm,” she says, and moves the probe to the spot I’ve indicated. She takes lots…lots of pictures. There are no more words until she says, “Alright. You’re all done!”
I wipe the goo from my neck and grab my purse. She leads me to the waiting room, where I go to Mitch.
“Are you ready?”
He looks up from his phone, “Yep.”
Once out the door, he grabs my hand, locking our fingers. “There were spots,” I tell him. “I don’t know what they were, but they were there.”
He nods. “I love you,” he says, squeezing my hand.
“I love you, too,” I say.