You. Are. Scaring. Me.

Attention all medical professionals–doctors, nurses, especially those working in imaging facilities: your questions frighten me.

I used to think MRIs the most serious and nerve wracking of all imaging tests, but now I think ultrasounds are just as bad. I’ve had a few of those–first to find my breast cancer back in 2010, then all throughout treatment in 2011-12, to monitor my heart’s reaction to damaging cancer treatment drugs. The ultrasounds for the heart weren’t so bad; maybe because it was so clear to the techs why I needed the test. But my first breast ultrasound was pretty upsetting. Lots of questions, bringing in other techs to view the images, and just a general atmosphere of “something is wrong”.

The same things happened today as I had to undergo an ultrasound to find out what my worse-than-a-UTI problem actually is. As she applied the gooey wand, the first tech asks have I had many UTIs? (No, my very first was last September, and the second wouldn’t go away it seemed, and that’s how I wound up here.) She brings in the second tech.

I understand the second person is needed, in fact, I think my first tech was an intern who needs her work checked, even if she performed her tasks correctly. But I’m sure “Seinfeld” or “Friends”, or both, covered that issue of having something so bizarre or serious that other medical personnel want to see it. It was funny on those shows, but not funny in real life.

So the second tech begins waving the gooey wand and watching whatever images the inside of me put on that screen. “So have you had kidney stones?” Great, another question.

NO!

“Your questions are alarming me,” I said as matter of factly as I could.

“Oh we just have to tell the radiologist what you say–he’s gonna ask about it,” she chirps.

“But you are not recording  my answers,” I pointed out. Please, I cannot remember whatever I want when I enter a room without making a list these days. I do not expect any medical professional, with a million patients running around, to remember one darn thing. So, please, jot down my answer when you ask me a question, especially if you claim the info needs to go to another person.

Dead silence. Did not even bother to answer me.

I admit, I’m a naturally anxious person and I tend to let even simple things ruin my day, my week, my month. And a health concern is not a simple thing. So I’ve walked out of the hospital today completely worried. I’ve no idea when I can expect to learn about my results. Yes I have a follow up with the urologist in 6 weeks–but that is if all went well with this test today–and I don’t think it did.

It is possible I am imaging problems where there are none. Maybe I don’t like ultrasounds because the person administering the test is so close and I’m trying to “read” them. I cannot help myself. So when I’m asked if I’ve had recurring stones or UTIs, all I can imagine is that they are thinking stuff like: “OMG, her kidneys/bladder are a mess. How could she go so long without problems? Why did she not get to a doctor sooner?” And of course, as a cancer patient, even though no one has said “cancer”, I cannot help but wonder if they are thinking, “look at that huge tumor.”

In short, the questions scare me.

In addition to my own self-made panic, another, more logistical concern grips me. I realize that the urologist (or whatever doctor) writes an order for a test, but why is the other, relevant information not communicated to the poor sap who has to look at the images, interpret them and report findings back? Shouldn’t the people making and analyzing the images know what is going on with me? As in why on earth are they looking at my bladder and kidneys? What are the symptoms or concerns that put me in that room with them? Is this some kind of freakin’ treasure hunt or detective game? It’s as if the doctors are saying, here, look at this person’s organs and see if you can find anything wrong–but we’re giving no hints.

I confess this is a rather irksome issue for me. I cannot help but think back to my very first mammogram, that resulted in a false negative. I know, I know, I should let that go–after all, the tumor was discovered just a few weeks later, and I lived, so I should shut up about it. But humor me. I went to get that mammogram not because I had any symptoms, but because I had a strong maternal history, because my aunt was just diagnosed at age 50–a below average age for breast cancer. I was 38, below the current recommended age for getting annual mammograms. I was being proactive. So did the radiologist see my age, know the family history, and just blow off that big white spot as density, when it was really a tumor anyway? Or did that information not reach him, and he just saw 38 year old white female with no symptoms, and maybe he thought–oh they always have dense breasts, no worries? And please know, the tumor was not hiding IN the white area, it WAS the white area. As mentioned if previous posts, I have trust issues when it comes to tests and such, and this is why.

I know it would not change anything to have been diagnosed a few weeks earlier. What happened, happened; and I am still here. Maybe I’d be a little less angry, who knows? I am curious to know if background history gets communicated to imaging personnel, and if it is factored in. If it isn’t, um, is there a petition I can sign to change that? Maybe some patients think all that information sharing between doctors and medical facilities is invasive. Not me–I think of the very thick file that followed me at the infusion center, I think of all my discs containing images from various facilities. All of that is me, my story, and I have no idea what parts are relevant for this moment, this particular problem. Is that not why my records exist…in recorded format?

So, again, to those doctors, nurses, imaging techs: asking questions–and worse, not answering them, and how you behave, even your face, I’m over analyzing all your actions. Maybe most patients do that, maybe not. As a cancer patient, well, these situations take on a higher terror level for me, and I’d guess many other cancer patients. It doesn’t matter if YOU don’t say cancer–I’m thinking it. And even if it isn’t cancer–well, I’m in a center, getting a test, I’m thinking the worst. Please understand that.

And I walked out of the hospital today frightened.

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Author: Cancer Curmudgeon

Oct 2010 diagnosed with Stage 3, HER2+ Breast Cancer. Completed treatment Jan 2012. Waaaaaay over pink. Applying punk rock sensibility to how I do cancer.

8 thoughts on “You. Are. Scaring. Me.”

  1. I had a US that scared the crap out of me in February. In the end, it showed good news – the suspected area had disappeared. But damn they scared the crap out of me. I was in tears.

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  2. I feel for you. The people who have done my ultrasounds have been hit and miss when it comes to bedside manner, although I definitely knew when the first one asked me if I was on any thyroid medication that something might be up (I wasn’t and they were scanning my thyroid at the time), or maybe she was trying to make conversation…poorly. I know I’m also in Sherlock mode when I go in, which sucks cuz all you want are answers and everyone is mum. I wish they would just have someone in there who could just tell you something instead of having to wait. Good luck with everything. Hope it turns out easy to fix you up. Oh, and if you find that petition anywhere, I’d sign. 🙂

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    1. Yes, I thought to myself–are they just trying to make conversation? I guess I understand why they can’t tell a person anything–they are not the person reading the images, nor are they the doctor who requested the images….but still!!
      Thanks for reading and your kindness!

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  3. Cancer messes with the mind big time, so of course you do your share of “over-analyzing” and worrying. It’s understandable, especially considering that mammo experience you had. I’m sorry you walked out so scared and I hope you get some good news. Don’t wait six weeks either. There’s gotta be more info you can get before that. Good luck.

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  4. They scared me before the salpingo-oophorectomy because US showed some activity that could only be distinguished from cancer once removed. It wasn’t cancer thankfully but I could’ve done without the extra worry. Whatever is going on with your UTI I hope its simple, straightforward and nothing whatsoever to do with cancer and in the meantime I hope you manage to keep the worries at bay.

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