Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Waiting and Writing

I'm not a white coat syndrome kind of girl, but certain doctors' offices inspire anxiety in me nonetheless. Simply pulling into the parking lot at the ENT makes my stomach do flip flops. Flip flops are one of my favorite things, but not when they' re in my stomach.

I associate this office with only bad things. The polyp that I feared would mean I'd never sing again, or, worse yet, rob me of the ability to watch my daughter grow up. The unpleasant treatment for vertigo that helped tremendously, but took away my sense of control. The record high blood pressure taken in the hallway outside a treatment room by a nurse who didn't seem to care what the numbers said.

And so here I sit today, familiar symptoms having prompted a visit I didn't want to make. I try to both prepare for bad news and not borrow trouble. I'm here for information, I tell myself, and there's no sense thinking the worst when no evidence -- nothing quantifiable, anyway -- has presented itself.

Waiting and writing, I watch people come and go, gratitude rising. I'm able-bodied and middle-aged, not a small, scared child, or an older adult straining to hear whether or not the name the nurse just called was mine. I calculate the number of people in the waiting room divided by the number of doctors in the practice, trying to determine how long beyond my scheduled appointment I'll have to wait and whether or not a delay is a good thing. I ask God if another medical diagnosis is really what he has in mind for my family at this time, wanting desperately to believe that the answer to that question is no.

When it's my turn, I go in. The nurse asks me to step on the scale and I kick off my shoes, seeing the sign that requests patients not do so only after I've stepped on the scale. I apologize and she takes my blood pressure while I run the song I heard in the waiting room through my head, concentrating on anything but the computer-operated cuff that never seems to take a reading the first time. She sprays the numbing solution into my nostrils, and I feel a strange sense of relief, grateful for anything that will make this easier.

The doctor looks exactly as I remember him from our last encounter -- a post-surgical follow-up when he told me the polyp on my vocal cord was not cancer, but "just one of those things," and something he didn't expect would happen again. In my trepidation, I'd forgotten his kindness, his willingness to listen to everything I want to share, his reassuring manner. Uncomfortable procedures and callous staff members swept those good things away, and I'm happy to experience their return.

The procedure is less terrible than I remembered, and the news is good, the symptoms easily explained. No polyp, no cancer, no surgery. I need to cut back on chocolate and caffeine, but I get to keep my voice, my job, my hope for the future.

As I leave the office, a burden has risen from my shoulders. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I have something to be thankful for -- a rather substantial something, as a matter of fact. This year has been difficult in many ways, but there are also many things to celebrate, not the least of which is that I don't have to return to this office again in the near future.

It's the things we take for granted that are most easily threatened. Tomorrow, those things will be
among the things that I'm happiest to celebrate.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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