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The “B” word

March 19, 2007

I went in for my regular annual checkup last week. OK, like every other regularly scheduled appointment in my life, it has really been two years, way past time to go. Waiting an extra year carries with it a bit of inherent worry. The system has taught us that if we go every year like clockwork, we can catch most of the uglies before they’re really bad. So, I’ve been a bad girl and skipped a year. I was hoping it would be no big deal.

This checkup is one of those things where you want to get in, get out, and move on. It’s like getting on an airplane, having someone check your oil, the nurse putting something in your IV line. Uneventful is good. At no point during any of these things do you want someone to say “oops” or “interesting…” or “hmmmm….”. My perfect annual checkup involves someone doing the necessary looking around, writing some stuff in my chart, and saying, “See you at this time next year.”

This year’s exam did not go that way. I got BOTH “hmmmm…” and “interesting…”. In fact, I’m such an overachiever that Dr. A had never before seen this particular anomaly (pronounced “nodule”) and wanted Dr. Z to take a look.

“Do you mind if Dr. Z comes in to take a look?” she says.

What are my options, here? It’s the same question, really, as “Why don’t you have a seat?” while you’re waiting to renew your tags at the DMV. You’re not going to tell them that you would prefer not to have a seat and you’ll just hang around the desk until they’re ready for you, even though you wish they would staff the DMV adequately so that you don’t have spend half a day in the aforementioned seat. You just resign yourself to the wait and take the seat. It’s a rhetorical question.

In this situation, I certainly wish there were no anomaly, and no, truth be told, I don’t want Dr. Z to look at it. But, look at it she must, so I say, “No, not at all.”

Dr. Z takes a look and has the same reaction as Dr. A. More “hmmmm….” more “interesting…”. Then, the coup de grace… “I have never seen anything like that before, either.” Wow. Not only am I an overachiever, but I am SUCH an overachiever that Dr. A has never seen this before and would like Dr. Z’s opinion, AND Dr. Z, in twenty plus years of practice, has also never seen this before. Why can’t I just have a normal exam like everyone else?

After a little conference in the hallway, Dr. A returns and suggests that we do a biopsy. The “B” word. I can’t stand that word. A few years back, I had the same recommendation, although for a different part of the anatomy, and I dread the procedure. More than I dread the procedure, I dread the wait between the procedure and the answer. I think there should be a law that says you can’t mention the “B” word to someone unless you can have a definitive answer within five minutes.

Dr. A goes on to assure me that this is most likely nothing and the “B” word is just precautionary. But just to make sure that I understand the possible ramifications of not having the “B” word, she throws in a story about someone she saw recently that had normal test results. They saw something that looked “just a tad out of the ordinary” and it turned out to be malignant. So just to be cautious, I should go ahead and have the “B” word. I’m on board.

“How about now?” I suggest.

“Nope, can’t do it today. We’re all booked. But check with the receptionist. She can square you away.”

I head for the receptionist and, because the “B” word has not quite sunk into my brain yet, I schedule for several days out. I try to fit this “little procedure” into my very busy work/kid/husband/life schedule and that’s the only time I can find. I go on my way, with the “B” word in the back of my mind.

My husband is not pleased that I have chosen to put this “little procedure” off and he gives me the third degree when I get home. My mother, a nurse by trade, is also not pleased with the delay. Between the two of them, they convince me that I should bump it up a slot or two (or ten) on the to-do list, that no one will die of starvation in the time it takes to get it done, that the folks at my place of employment will not miss me for the hour or so I have to be gone, and that the world as we know it will not cease to exist if I actually take the time to go make this happen, RIGHT AWAY.

I call the receptionist the next morning and, miracle of miracles, they can fit me in that afternoon.

That was last Wednesday. The procedure was not fun. I didn’t expect it to be. Anytime someone cuts something out of your body, it’s painful and it takes some time to recover. But the physical part is a little like stubbing your toe right before you fall and shatter your ankle. The toe-stubbing hurts, but the ankle shattering, the mental part in between last Wednesday and now, that is agonizing.

That is why I hate the “B” word.

The “B” word isn’t such a bad little word on its own, but it leads immediately (or pretty quickly) to thoughts of the “C” word. The “C” word leads to thoughts of everything else catastrophic that might happen. I picture myself going through chemotherapy, radiation, losing my hair, whatever. I wonder if I’ll be around long enough to see my kids grow up, go to college, get married. Will I be around to meet my grandchildren? All these questions from that one, small, “B” word. I convince myself in my scared-to-death, illogical brain that because neither Doctor has ever seen this anomaly before it must be suspect. I surf the web and get so much bad news I can hardly sleep. I vow to never surf the web again. I throw myself into work. I keep myself busy at home. I zone out in front of the TV. I do whatever works to keep my mind off of it.

It’s been five days now of living in “freaked out” land. I worked all weekend, I’ve slept very little, I’ve stressed a LOT, and I’m so tired today that I figured I could stomach the news without losing what was left of my mind, whatever it happened to be. So I called the office, just to see. Dr. A was busy with a patient, but the receptionist assured me she would call me back as soon as the results arrived.

Sure enough, when I got home this afternoon, the phone rang. My heart pounded, I could hear my pulse racing in my ears. I felt the adrenaline rush. I dreaded the voice on the other end but, at the same time, I prayed it would be good news. I wanted the news, whatever it was, because it was so much better than the things my mind had been imagining for the past several days. I took a deep breath and answered.

It was good news. Just an anomaly, cells are normal. No trace of the “C” word. Thank God! I thanked Dr. A profusely for the call, hung up the receiver… and wept.

Once I got past the tears of relief, I started thinking. Perhaps I can study the process behind the “B” word and find a way to narrow the delay between the question and the answer down to less than five minutes. If that doesn’t work, perhaps some sort of new legislation is in order. Perhaps I need to surf the web to find out what other states are doing about this agonizing wait. Perhaps the whole system needs an overhaul.


Perhaps I need to turn my brain off for a moment and look to God for reassurance. Perhaps I need to refocus and look heavenward, instead of inward. Perhaps the past few days would not have been so difficult had I turned to God in the first place. He knew what I needed. He knew what I was going through. He heard my prayers, even when I didn’t know what I was asking.

Maybe the “B” word isn’t as evil as I’ve made it out to be. Maybe I need to slow down and realize it’s the “Me” word that needs an overhaul instead.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” Romans 8:26

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Lynda permalink
    March 20, 2007 5:04 pm

    I’m very happy that the news was good! Love you lots!!

  2. March 20, 2007 11:11 pm

    Thankful for your results being cancer free! Sorry for the ordeal, but thankful for the insight you shared, thanks for being vulnerable, I’ve had waiting moments for news like that, too – it’s tough to find the place of “resting in and trusting in” the Lord!

  3. Christine permalink
    March 21, 2007 4:11 am

    Oh honey, I’m just sobbing for you! I’m so thankful that everything came back clear, but I can just picture you going through these last days with such stress and anxiety. I wish you would have called me… but then again, I would have stressed too. ILYMF.


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