The Scare: There’s No Drama, Only Calm
After checking in for the CT scan, my husband and I found a seat to wait. Soon a door opened and my name was called. I stood up, released my husband’s hand and smiled after seeing that reassuring wink of his.
As I walked alongside the nurse, she reconfirmed what I’d been told. The scan would be conducted after injecting a contrasting dye into my system in order to highlight specific areas so the organs, blood vessels, and tissues would be more visible.
Although I wasn’t thrilled about having a shot, I was willing. However when I saw the nurse preparing an IV, my willingness began to waver.
For the record, I’m not a fan of IVs. If given the choice, I’d rather not have a needle inserted into my hand. None-the-less, there I was sitting with a seemingly qualified nurse as she continued on.
Perhaps she sensed my discomfort because immediately the one-sided conversation went from what would come next to what has happening in that moment. She told me in complete confidence, in all the many times she’d inserted IV needles, no one had screamed, fainted or otherwise reacted violently. For a brief moment I felt excited believing I’d be the first to offer her such an experience but to my pleasant surprise, I would not. In what seemed an instant, she had the IV line inserted without any desire on my part to display tantrum-like behavior.
I was then instructed to lie on table which would move me through a machine while hundreds of images would be taken in rapid succession. As she continued to connect tubes here and there, she did her best to demystify other elements of the test.
Although I’m sure she said a lot, here’s what I heard: painless, she’d be by my side throughout, and I’d experience a rather intense warming sensation from the injection. To note, the part about the warming sensation wasn’t to be misunderstood because within minutes I felt as though I was in a sauna.
The lights went down and the test began. As I watched this scanner going back and forth over my body, I felt something other than heat; something I had not expected.
I felt calm.
I wasn’t expecting calm. I was expecting anxious tears to cascade down my cheeks, yet they never came. Before I knew it, the lights came on and the nurse was releasing me of the IV.
As I walked back into the waiting room, there was my husband offering his reassuring smile and his hand to keep me grounded as we walked quietly to the car.
A few hours later, my cell phone rang. The doctor confirmed the mass on my left lung was about an inch in diameter and in addition, the scan identified a spot on the right lung as well as one on my spleen.
The clocked ticked. The phone remained in my hand and against my ear. I remained calm.
The doctor would go on to explain I’d need a pulmonologist for further investigation and evaluation, suggesting I might be required to have a PET scan and a possibly a biopsy.
After thanking him for his immediate attention to my results and wishing him a nice weekend, I hung up. I felt my foundation firm, my breathing peaceful and a willingness to do what was suggested.
Yet I stared at the phone thinking, what was happening here? Where was the drama I’m so used to at times like this? Why am I not freaking out with fear? Isn’t this a perfect opportunity for me call everyone I know, alerting them to “Alison’s Crisis”?
I thought nor felt any of that.
The clock read 6pm which on a Friday afternoon meant any attempt to set up a next step appointment would be futile. I’d have to wait until Monday morning.
Déjà vu led me into the family room where I once again brought news to my husband’s attention I hadn’t anticipated. When I finished he asked if I was OK because like me, he was mystified by my lack of panic and fear. I smiled and said, “You know what, from this point on, no matter what happens, we’ll be OK.” He then smiled and said, “You’re right.”
That immediate unified front didn’t require any other words because both of us, in our own way had proven, together and apart, we are survivors. Throughout our 14 years of marriage we’ve weathered deaths, job losses, financial insecurity and perhaps most profoundly, my two addiction recoveries.
This health scare would be weathered too.
Although my husband hadn’t sat in countless support group meetings, talked infinitely with a sponsor or shared a cup of coffee with a newcomer, he received the gift of recovery through its powerful ripple effect. As I began to change by following the lead of those who had ventured the path of recovery before me, our relationship changed and in a sense our marriage went through recovery too.
That night as my husband slept soundly beside me and the only light in the room was the glow from my iPad, I closed my eyes and thought of my Dad.
In the quiet stillness I heard him say the words he had offered me so many times as a little girl, “Slow deep breaths honey…everything will be OK if you just take a deep breath and tell me how I can help.”
One powerful exhale and I realized he already had.
Up next … realizing what kind of support is needed.