Three weeks ago I realized I detest both hospital waiting rooms and airports equally. I’ve been in and out of the doctor’s clinic: lying down in examination beds – being poked and prodded by gloved hands.
1. Doctors are masters of half-truths. They don’t tell you the whole story. Their sentences are careful and calculated. The silence is awkward and deafening when they’re reading your radiology report. I try to judge their honesty and trustworthiness based on their word usage, tone of voice, and the way they treat their nurses. I am most worried for the things they don’t say. Thus, you need to ask, ask, ask. Most of the time they use medical terms. Few of them are personable. I guess either they’ve forgotten or are too lazy too explain in layman’s terms.
2. Nurses, I’ve learned, can make the experience lighter or worse. On most parts, I’m glad they made it lighter.
3. Getting an MRI scan is claustrophobic. I was underneath this magnetic monolith that’s three inches from my face. I wanted someone to stay with me. The radiologist was perceptive (or trained enough) to reassure, “Don’t think you’re alone in here. I’m just outside the room, on the other side of the glass,” at least that’s comforting. I was underneath that ticking and banging for forty-five minutes. I may have looked calm, but I teared up a bit. The tight space made me anxious, and I felt alone, plus the room was cold. Halfway through a nurse came in and injected a fluid that would make clearer images of my insides, “Where you from? Philippines?” she asked, her attempt for a small talk. Then commented about looking for a good vein. I was grateful for the human contact. This tumor is taking a toll emotionally. And leaving me alone with my thoughts is not helping.
4. I had more company during my CT Scan, but it’s still unenjoyable. After I went for an initial scan, they made me drink one liter of medicated water and said they’re to inject another fluid after the second scan. I had to drink 100ml every ten minutes. It was horrible, left a bitter, bile taste at the back of your mouth. I had to muster up courage on every gulp. After an hour I wanted to throw up. Sitting there in a leather coach, surrounded by strangers, and drinking bile water, I realized it’s these moments that exhaust the spirit of a patient: waiting, arguing with administrative people, talking to doctors, the numerous injections, test after test, and the various objects that offend and aggravate your senses. The nurses at least make your life easier.
5. Google is your friend. Sure, webmd.com will tell you you have cancer. But I’m mistrustful of people. Also, Google is the biggest library there is. Besides people stress me out, too many opinionated individuals saying, “your report says this, this word says this, go to this doctor, visit this hospital, don’t go to too many hospitals, talk to this, etc.. etc..” they all added to my anxiety, and yet most of them were dead ends, and I was still alone in the doctor’s office. Twice now Google pointed me to able surgeons: the only hospital in Dubai that does a Whipple’s procedure, and the surgeon in St. Lukes Global City who suggested we do the procedure in PGH. It saved me plenty of time, money, and unnecessary anxiety. For my last consult (and thank God we’re now finally going somewhere) I wasn’t alone anymore. Mama was with me.
I’ll probably be in the hospital the next time you’ll hear from me.
written Oct. 19, 2016