Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Week in the Life of Waiting...

During my week of waiting for my pathology reports to come back, I was thinking a lot about my up and coming gig at the local high school, where I will be presenting about sun safety and melanoma.  What I was trying to figure out, was how to convey the fear/insanity I feel each time I wait for that phone call from my doctor, as a way to illustrate that this disease is a life long diagnosis.

Of course, having LOTS of time in my own head (never a good thing!), I became aware of some "interesting" insights: 1) that the intensity of a waiting period differs each and every time (for reasons I can't explain), 2) that I seem to follow a fear-driven pattern, and 3) I'm not sure I could paint this picture verbally, during a presentation....so, I'm doing it here, where they (the teens from the high school) can come to read about it.

Here's how it goes....the fear ride that occurs after every biopsy...while waiting..for the call...

Tuesday- YAY!  I get to see my dermatologist!  Yes, that thrills me, actually.  I crave the physical check and the mental check in...for my doctor is amazing with both!  My doc studies my body, doing her meticulous investigation of every pigmented cell on my skin.  She agrees that 4 of the moles I have circled, need to come off.  My heart speeds up, as she usually tells me, "That one looks stable; you get to keep it." ...and  rubs away my pen mark with rubbing alcohol. It's like she can't win, really.  If she doesn't take anything off, I worry she is missing something....And if she does feel something needs to be removed, then I worry there is a serious reason behind her decision. So there's that- stuck in worry.....either way.

I leave there with a little extra adrenaline pumping through my veins... no, not from the injections of lidocaine with epinephrin...because actually we use pure lido, but  because I am pleased to have 4 less moles on my body.  I am smiling.  I am happy.

Wednesday- All is well.  I have no expectation of hearing from my doctor with results.  I live my life...I am productive.  I am smiling.  I am happy...with the tiniest wisps of worry making very brief appearances...ever so slightly.  

Thursday- All is a little less well.  The worry visitors start to get comfortable in my mind...they take off their shoes, their coats, as if to say, "We are here to stay awhile."  And they do.

Friday- Ok, so here is the day I DO have an expectation...that my doctor WILL call...and that I WON'T have to wait through the weekend.  The "scenario a cappella group" takes up full residence in my brain...singing every possible thing that my doctor might call and say...ranging from the song about "everything is benign" to the scariest melody about "it's another melanoma".  The clock becomes a huge part of this day...as the hours go by, and the phone does not ring.  And then, in between the songs, I manage to have the argument with myself about whether or not to just make the call myself...ya know, to help her out...and call her.  Back and forth, back and forth...

Of course, I call.  I hang up when voice mail picks up.  I call again.  I leave a message.  And the rest of the day is me trying to keep busy, going through the motions, but all the while, watching the clock, and trying not to call again.  I call again.  And hang up again.  And it's 5:30 pm and I know....I'm not going to know!  

Saturday- The mean reds are here, and without the hope of a phone call.  NO HOPE.  The day drags.  The smile is fading to nothing.  The motions are less. The fear, more.

Sunday- This is getting unbearable.  That fucking a cappella group is launching into endless new songs, the smile is gone, I don't want to do anything.  

Monday- Stomach aches.  Edgy.  Going through the daily grind physically, but mentally NOT there at all.  The phone.  It's pissing me off...every minute that it does not ring.  I can't help myself...I call.  I call again.  I leave a message. I call again.  I get a nice young girl on the other end...I try to tell her calmly that I am waiting for pathology results, that I left a message earlier, that I need to know soon or I'm going to go insane (as if I'm not already there!), and proceed to ask her if she can check the computer, EVEN THOUGH I know she can't tell me what those results are.  She checks.  Nothing in the computer...that she can see.  What does that mean?!?!? The clock says 4:30, I'm pretty much frozen with fear...that I will hear and that it's bad ...or that I won't hear.  HOLY CRAP, this brain is verging on insane.

~My Graphs~

At 4:56, she calls!  Irregular heart beats become apparent.  I answer.  She talks.  I hear good news.  My heart finds its way back to normal.  My smile returns.  I'm not exhausted.  I want to do things...like make dinner and talk to people.  I remember ME.  I remember that this is not really who I am, just what I go through each time I wait...even though, when in the midst of it, it feels permanent.  I'm back.  I'm happy.  I'm happy to be back!  

Photo by Robert Sturman


  1. It's crazy how nerve wracking those days can be when you're waiting for a call back from the doctor! I think you do a great job of capturing the feeling in this post.

    1. Thank you, Katie! It's crazy how it doesn't seem to get any easier either. This is our deal....FOREVER!

  2. I love the graphs! Very accurate portrayal. Around these parts the wait is an agonizing 2 weeks!! yikes.

    1. Thank you, Pam. I know....it's all too long, the waiting period. I always think, "If someone wants to become a hero AND make a ton of money, they should invent an INSTANT pathology tool, that reads ALL path results right then and there. Period!"

  3. Maybe it's a similar feeling to when I was a jr in high school and asked a guy to a dance. I left some silly setup at his house one evening and then he made me wait THROUGH our spanish class the next day AFTER lunch before he told me he would go with me. Just to make me squirm. Obviously not the insensity of melanoma waits (my MRI wait last week drove me to the breaking point!) But perhaps it's an example of anxiety teens could identify with?