Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Sometimes I think we would all be better off if we could emit a signal when necessary as follows:


I needed that signal this morning. I needed everyone who came into contact with me to know it. That I was fragile. To handle me with care.

It started before 7am when I became terrified of a lump in my neck.

I had felt the lump for weeks but since I had been nursing a sore throat, I figured it was just a swollen gland. I didn’t worry too much about it, which is to say that I worried about it often but in a way that was not completely debilitating.

I hadn’t assessed the lump in a few days and because I had expected it to be gone, when I found it still there, I freaked out. I rushed to Brian who was heading out the door to school. "Do you feel it?" I asked him.

He did. He told me I should call the doctor this morning. My legs felt weak and my stomach felt nauseous. It had been a while, but I had a keen memory for that feeling.

Dr. Bunnell’s office opens at 7:30am so just after that, I dialed the number. The answering service picked up, one I had not heard before, and I left a message. I tried to compose myself to say hi to my dear friend and Annabel's morning babysitter (Kendra) and to say goodbye to my little girl. I didn’t last five minutes before I fell into a heap of tears on Kendra’s shoulder.

On the commute into work, I called Dr. Bunnell’s office again. Just in case the answering service did not work properly. I left another message and made sure my phone ringer was on its highest setting.

When I got to my office and set my phone on my desk, I noticed that I had missed a called from “Unknown” (Dana-Farber). How could that be? How did I not hear it ring? I may have cursed out loud because I know that missing that call meant I would need to place another call and wait for someone to respond. It would be at least another hour.

Soonafter, I heard the ding of a voicemail and I listened to it. The nurse said that should would call me back in five to ten minutes. I was so relieved.

I checked my phone ringer again. It was on and at the highest setting. Just to be sure, I tapped into the little grey Settings button to make sure that the phone would ring through to me. Everything indicated that it would.

With my phone by my side, I did my work. Fifteen minutes later, when I had not heard back from the nurse, I checked the screen. Another missed call and voicemail from Unknown. My heart sank. How could this happen? Why did it not ring through?!? I wanted to cry. I listened to the second voicemail. The nurse explained that she had one appointment open but I had to answer unless I would not be able to be seen today. I almost lost it.

I tried calling the main number for breast oncology again but it rang through to the outside answering service. I told the man that I had just missed a nurse’s call and that I needed to get in touch with her immediately. He said that they were having technical difficulties and that he was not able to get a message through to the doctor. I asked him how that could be. “How am I supposed to reach them? I need to reach them.”

He was silent. “Um. I don’t know what to tell you. There is nothing I can do. We are having technical difficulties.”

I am not often rude, but I had no ability to edit. “Well that is something they really need to fix!” I asserted before hanging up on him.

I tried the main number again. Answering service. 

I tried again. Answering service. 

I was in full-blown tears by now.

I tried the number once again. Someone answered, and by her introduction, I could tell that I had not been switched into the outside answering system.

I tried to compose myself enough to tell her that I was trying to get in touch with a nurse. The woman referenced the nurse’s last name so I knew I had made progress. She said she would call me back. I gave her my cell (again) as well as my office phone number. I explained that I was having issues with my cell phone so please try the second number if the first did not work.

I sat, my office door closed, crying and waiting for the nurse to call back. Less than a minute later I glanced at the phone screen to see a message: “Missed Call – Unknown” It seemed like a cruel joke. The phone never rang.

Thank goodness, the nurse had tried the second number and I picked it up before the first ring even ended.

I explained what I was feeling in my neck. The nurse seemed sure it was a swollen gland. She said I could come in if I wanted to have it seen. I did. Better yet, I so deeply didn’t, but so definitely did at the same time. I took the 12:30 appointment. And so I sit and wait.

Wanting to warn everyone around me...

Fragile. Handle with care.

*   *   *

I wrote the post above while seated in the waiting room at Dana-Farber this afternoon. I re-read it in the exam room and published it a few minutes before Danielle came in to see me. 

When Danielle felt my neck, I could not contain my sheer terror. I cried. I knew that I would so I hadn't even bothered with eye makeup this morning. 

Danielle felt the lump and explained it felt like an enlarged lymph node. She asked me when I first felt it. I cried more. 

Danielle explained that it is normal for a lymph node to swell when the body is fighting an infection. I explained that I had not been sick for a few weeks. "Why would it still be swollen?" I asked. Danielle explained that it could take that long for a node to return to normal size. That my body may still be fighting the infection even after I feel better. 

Ultimately, Danielle suggested that we wait a week. She scheduled an appointment for me next Wednesday although she expects that the lymph node will decrease to normal size by then. If it is still enlarged, she will order additional testing. 

Sometimes it seems like the Intruder is stuck in my basement and will never go away.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Tara, I'm here if you need me and while you wait, I'm holding you in the light of love.