Monday, May 14, 2012

X-Ray Adventures

This afternoon I saw an article about x-rays on my iGoogle Sydney Morning Herald widget. It's an alarmist type story.  

Thousands of x-rays in Australia are not being read by the proper professionals.  Ailments are being missed.  People are being misdiagnosed.

The article was extremely timely for me.

Here's my tale.

It's kind of funny now that it's probably (hopefully) over.

Last Monday I had my yearly physical.  Before I saw the doctor ,the nurse asked if I had any concerns.  I mentioned a mild pain I had been having on my left side since Friday...below my ribs.

Later I talked to the doctor about it.  She didn't seem very concerned, and even asked if perhaps I brought it up because I felt pressured to come up with something when the nurse asked for problems.

I tried not to be annoyed, and told her this wasn't the case.  Although that being said, I doubt I would have gone to the doctor for the issue if I hadn't already had an appointment. It was one of those things.  Well, since I'm here, I might as well mention it.  

After our initial brief chat, the doctor checked my eyes and nose. I was very fine there.

Then she did the stethoscope stuff.  She did a more thorough check than usual.

She asked me to cough, which she usually doesn't request.

I didn't think anything of it, though.  I thought she had just tweaked her procedure a bit.

But then she explained that she heard a noise in my left lung. She wanted me to cough because sometimes coughing would clear the lungs. That didn't happen.

She requested that I get a chest x-ray, and also decided it would be a good idea for me to get my blood work done.  That worried me a bit because the doctor doesn't usually suggest blood work.  And yeah.   I usually don't need my chest x-rayed.   

On Thursday I spent a big chunk of the day doing the medical tests.  By then, I was fairly convinced I was deathly ill.  I had done some research on the internet.  I couldn't quite find a match for noise in the lungs minus coughing and breathing difficulties, but wondered if I could be some kind of medical anomaly.
Plus, I realized I HAVE been more tired than usual the past few weeks. I've been more lazy with exercise.  And I've had a mysterious weight loss and some loss of appetite.   

I asked the medical test people about result times.  They said it would take them 24-48 hours to get back to the doctor.  I figured if I was fine I'd hear from the doctor about it like 3 months later.   So unless I heard something fast, I'd assume I was in good health. My doctor's office takes a long time to return healthy test results.

On Friday I got a message from the doctor's office.  I had missed the call. They asked me to call them Monday morning.  I figured I must have SOMETHING.  My experience with this particular office is that they don't call when everything is okay.

I knew it couldn't be a dire emergency.  Otherwise they wouldn't have me wait until after the weekend.  But I figured it still could be something awful.  I'm ignorant about these things really. My guess is that there ARE serious illnesses that aren't treated immediately. I also guessed maybe they were trying to give me a peaceful happy Mother's Day before my life turned to medical hell.  

I don't know.

A lot of shit was going through my head. 

For the most part, I kept it to myself.  I didn't want to make other people worry, and even more so, I didn't want my feelings belittled.  I didn't want to be made to feel that I'm a drama queen.  Well, because that's how I'm usually made to feel when I bring up any health issue I'm experiencing with my family.     

I did bring it up briefly twice and there was no indication that I had made the wrong choice in mostly keeping it to myself.



I put on a brave face and played the Happy Mother's Day game.  Despite my worrying, I did actually manage to have moments of joy.  Every so often I could even forgot my worries. But those moments were rare.

I had a lot going on in my head.

As the hours went by, I became more and more convinced I was sick.  I started feeling pains in my chest; my left side of course.  Now I was somewhat rational and figured it COULD be my imagination.  At one point, I thought about how I could be totally healthy but end up killing myself just by worrying so much.  Getting concern from a doctor could be like an Aborigine pointing the bone at you.  

By Sunday night, I was feeling awful.   I was crying a lot and really wanted to talk to someone. But I didn't know who to talk to.

I wiped away my tears and managed to not kill myself with stress and despair.   

Early this morning, I added to my weight loss issue by having to use the toilet about every 30 minutes.

I wasn't in great shape.   

I called the doctor's office at 8:30 and waited to hear that I needed to come in today, or I needed more medical tests.

It took me about an hour to actually connect with someone.  There was some phone tag going on.

Finally, I talked to the person I was supposed to talk to. She told me I was fine, except for a minor bladder thing that doesn't even need to be treated as long as I'm feeling okay.

She was very suspenseful about it though.  She could have just said, I'm just calling to tell you you're fine except for a minor bladder issue.  Instead she went through each test. We got your chest x-rays back....(dramatic pause).  Everything is fine there.  We got your blood test back....(dramatic pause)...everything is fine.  

A few hours ago, I was too relieved to be angry, but now I'm kind of annoyed.  And I'm also annoyed that they didn't just leave me this message on Friday.  Do they not understand how much agony they put people through when they act so mysterious?  Why couldn't they leave a reassuring message.   There's no need to worry. You're fine.  Just a minor bladder issue. Call us on Monday.  

The only excuse I can think of is that I made a mistake when signing the privacy forms at the office.   There was something where you give permission for them to leave detailed messages on answering machines.  Maybe I forgot to check it off?

I don't know.

And maybe it's good for us to have these medical scares sometimes.  It gives us a chance to appreciate our health.

There's the x-ray article, though. That reminded me of the fact that doctor's don't know everything.   They get it wrong sometimes.

Tests don't catch everything.

And we might not get the test that we needed.

Then there's the fact that I could be in perfect health today and get horribly sick next week.

I might be fine and someone I love might come down with a deathly illness.

Or one of us could be hit by a truck.   

We can be relieved for only so long.

In the end, death is going to get us...along with everyone we love.  

At least for today though....I'm going to be happy, relieved, and grateful.  I'm going to look forward to lots of wonderful things like our upcoming trip to Disney World and a possible future trip to Australia.

Later I'll go back to being paranoid.