“But I thought…” The admissions secretary’s voice trailed off, a touch of confusion on her face as she studied my appointment on her computer monitor.
“I’m exceptional,” I half joked, half explained.
“I thought you were getting a ‘normal’ ultrasound,” she continued, as if there were such a thing. Not helping.
I have a small lump behind my right nipple that hurts when I poke it or when I play my guitar, which is how I’d discovered it. I know guys get breast cancer — I know a survivor. Ignoring the lump wasn’t working so I made an appointment with my doctor and saw him last Friday afternoon. This breast ultrasound was the result, along with an inappropriate exam request sheet.
My check-in complete, the secretary directed me to check in on the third floor, where I was sent down a hallway to a small waiting room.
The wall fountain was a calming touch. All the women’s magazines, not so much. Fortunately, I’d brought my own book. I sat down a few chairs away from the only other person in the room and started the charade of reading.
A door opened. “Brent, we’re ready for you.”
I followed her down a windowed hallway to a room with a low, narrow bed next to an ultrasound machine.
“Hi, my name is Jenny.1 I’ll be doing this procedure. Take off your shirt and lie down here.”
Jenny went behind a curtain shielding another door and darkened the room. I did as I was told.
Jenny returned. She held a bottle over my chest. Squirt! Ah, it’s warm. They’ve done this before. Jenny warmed the probe with her hands, then pushed it around my chest.
Slide. Beep. Slide. Beep.
Wordlessly she recorded image after image. I couldn’t see anything on the screen from where I lay. Probably intentional. But not helping.
“Have you taken Spironolactone?” she queried.
“No. I don’t think so.” Does it cause cancer?
Slide. Beep. Slide. Beep. Slide. Beep.
“How long have you had this mass?”
“Maybe a month?” Why? Is it so huge that you wonder how long I waited? Mass? It’s massive?!
“Wait here. I’ll be back with the radiologist.”
Minutes pass. I sit up and look at the ultrasound screen. There’s no image or obvious diagnosis. All I recognize is my name on the left side of the screen. I lie back down, close my eyes and wait.
I hear the door open. Jenny enters and introduces the radiologist who extends his hand.
He tells me it doesn’t look like cancer. He’ll forward the results to my primary care physician. He gives me a six-syllable diagnosis.
“Google it,” he suggests.2
- Not her real name. ↩
After a conversation on Facebook, I realize I may have left the wrong impression. Here is my response:
I’m sorry to have left the impression that the radiologist didn’t do his job or have good bedside manner. Maybe I need to edit my post. I was happy to get the results directly, rather than having to wait until they were forwarded to my primary care physician and my consult with him. He also asked if I had any questions.
I think he was being realistic and smart to recommend that I take some ownership in understanding the diagnosis. Don’t rely just on the “experts” but go study a little bit. Not bad advice in my book.
Maybe I just need to copy this comment over… ;-)