Monday, February 12, 2007

Don't Believe Everything Your Mind Tells You

I was terrified today. More so than usual.

This morning was my unofficial, one-year-checkup with my oncologist. I say "unofficial" because of the damn scare back in August, that set the original one-year template askew... so my official one-year "anniversary" is now in March. But today's appointment with Dr. B was the 12th time I entered his office since January 2006.

As I walked in for my appointment this morning, I really thought -- I really KNEW -- that Something Was Wrong. I spent the entire weekend holed up in my apartment contemplating it. It feels different. Malformed. There's a hard spot that wasn't there before.

Oh my God, it's spread to The Other One.

Without getting too personal here... which is difficult, given this particular area of my anatomy... when a guy loses a testicle, the other one changes. It steps up to handle the increased workload. That means it gets bigger... and it goes through a series of spurts getting there.

There isn't a whole lot written on the subject; I didn't know it was going to happen, expect for Dr. B's assurances that I shouldn't freak out if I notice that Something Feels Different one day from the next.

Oh, and DON'T CHECK EVERYDAY. You'll drive yourself nuts doing that, he told me (OK, so he didn't go for the pun.)

I was expecting that early on. It didn't really happen, though, until about three months after the original surgery. As expected, it freaked me out -- and again later in the year. Both times, Dr. B sent me for ultrasounds to calm my mind. One I cancelled; the other I suffered through, while the whole "spot on your lung" scare was going on. Nothing amiss.

I freaked out today when the nurse found I'm running a slight temperature: 99.6. I calmed a bit when my blood pressure, surprisingly, read normally. I'd lost six pounds since my last visit; I'd wager most of that came this weekend, from worrying and not eating (quite an effective diet plan, really.)

The nurse led me to the examination room, to wait for Dr. B. I picked up a Time magazine and nervously thumbed through it. I didn't notice the cover story.

Dr. B walked in a short time later. He was smiling as he asked "how are you?" -- a response, I assumed, to the fact I'd managed to lose weight.

I nervously told him I thought something was wrong. "Which isn't new for me, I know," I said more bravely than I felt.

He thumbed through my chart. "I don't see your x-ray results here," he said, getting up. "Let me see if it's on my desk." As he walked out of the room, he pointed to the magazine cover:

Why We Worry About the Wrong Things

"See?" he asked me.

"You planted that, didn't you?" I replied.

The x-rays hadn't come back yet. He went through the normal exam -- feel for lymph node growths in my neck, armpits, and chest; listen to my breathing and heartbeat. All was normal.
Then came the dreaded Exam -- with the big "E". I've gotten used to the rather humiliating "grope and feel" that comes with each appointment. As I'd told him I had noticed some unusual things, Dr. B spent more time than usual on this particular portion of the exam.

Calm down, I told myself. It doesn't spread that way; if something was there, it would be a new cancer, not the old one... which hasn't come back in the year since the original diagnosis. 

Yes, it's possible something new could show up... but it's also highly unlikely. Something probably would have shown up on the blood test before you felt it, anyway.

Calm down, dammit!

"Feel anything?" I asked nervously.

"Nothing unusual," he replied.



A pause. "You sure?"


I laughed nervously. "Well, you're the doc..."

I admit, I asked Dr. B once again if he was "sure" before the appointment was over. He looked at me with a mixture of amusement and exasperation. "Do you see me sending you for an ultrasound?" he asked.

"Point taken... thanks, Dr. B."

As I walked into the appointment this morning, I really thought -- I really KNEW -- that Something Was Wrong.

It wasn't.

Oh, and the chest x-rays came back fine, too.

Sometimes, you can't believe everything your mind tells you...

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