My oncologist called me, or rather sent the news via my chemo nurse, to let me know that I needed to go get a pelvic ultrasound because of an inconclusive PET scan.
This was on late Friday afternoon, so I spent the whole weekend thinking I have uterine cancer, alternating between crying uncontrollably and feeling like I didn’t give a crap about anything.
On Monday morning I called the hospital to set up the appointment and was lucky enough to get the same day slot.
Fully expecting the type of an exam like from the movies where eager parents watch the first black and white blob appear on the screen, I was dismayed to see in my online chart that my appointment was for a trans-vaginal ultrasound. I didn’t like the sound of it. At all. Then I pondered about who would be doing this. I didn’t have the luxury to demand a female technician, did I? Were they going to have some students needing to watch? How exactly was this going to work?
I arrived at the hospital, signed in and attempted to distract myself with my tablet. I blankly stared at my Facebook page, reading the same posts over and over again, never remembering what they said. Finally, they called me in.
“Hi Ee-va, I am Liz,” Said a middle aged lady and lifted her nametag badge with her fingers. She led me to the changing room.
“Take your pants and panties off and put this gown on, it opens in the back. And here is the bathrobe. When you are done, put your shoes back on and sit in this chair and wait for me. My name is Liz.” And she lifted her badge off the lapel of her lab coat again.
I did as instructed and briefly wondered if some creep installed a hidden camera in the changing room that resembled a department store fitting room. I sat in the designated chair and felt the pit of my stomach starting to hurt. My hands were cold and I started to sweat. I could see my heart beating through the gown. What was I going to find out in just a few minutes?
Liz came back to lead me to an exam room. She ushered me onto a bed and turned off the lights. The computer and the ultrasound machine emitted a cold blue-ish grey glow. She asked me a few brief questions and introduced me to the chaperone who was a lady in her forties. She wore a white lab coat, black stockings and sat on a swivel chair close to the door. I was a prisoner of the ultrasound room. No way out.
“Lay down on your back.” Liz instructed.
“First, I am going to do your ultrasound by moving this wand on your belly. Then I will ask you to go to the restroom. Then you will come back and we will use another wand to insert in your vagina.”
Oh god. Not only I had THAT to look forward to, now they were doing TWO tests? I swallowed rapidly. Did that mean they were expecting something to be wrong?
“Are you allowed to tell me about what you see on the ultrasound?” I asked Liz.
She smiled. “No, no I can’t. The radiologist will have to look at it, then he will call your doctor, and the doctor will call you.”
I wanted to smack the smile off her face. What the fuck was so funny about the fact that I would have to spend another agonizing night of uncertainty? I needed to know NOW what was going on. I fought back my anger and the tears that were pushing their way in my eyes.
“Well”, I said trying to steady my voice, “I have been kind of freaking out about this exam since Thursday last week. Is there any way I could find out anything today?”
“I mean, I can see if the radiologist would give me a word or two when we’re done here but he leaves at 5, so we may not be done on time.” Liz retorted as she squirted some gel on to the wand.
She proceeded to move it across my lower abdomen, pressing harder here and there, angling it, all the while pressing different buttons on the machine. I couldn’t read her face for clues. Like other doctors and technicians, she mastered the poker face. I did see a small furrow between her eyebrows here and there. Each time, I would look at the monitor but all I saw were grey smudges. How could they tell anything from this?
“You must be really having a hard time with the allergies outside right now, aren’t you?” Liz asked cheerily.
WHO THE FUCK CARES ABOUT MY ALLERGIES?!!! I wanted to rip the wand out of her hand and stuff it in her mouth.
“I don’t know, not really.” I said with what I hoped was a tone that conveyed ‘I-am-being-polite-please-stop-talking’.
She finished the belly ultrasound and handed me a towel to wipe the excess gel off. Then I was ushered to the bathroom to pee. I closed the door behind me and suppressed the urge to punch the wall to prevent myself from crying. I walked back out and was asked to lie on the bed again.
This time, Liz asked me to separate my knees and lift my hips. While I was in this awkward position, she inserted a wedge underneath my butt. Then she pulled out the OTHER wand and squirted more gel on it. It resembled a hair curler. Or really, it resembled a really skinny penis…it was about half an inch in diameter and widened to about an inch at the end.
Liz said: “Put your hand between your legs. I am going to hand this to you and you insert it in.”
“Uhm, OK.” I said as I awkwardly scrambled under the sheets waiting for the ultrasound dildo to touch my hand.
I did as instructed and Liz started the second exam. I am not sure if whoever came up with this exam didn’t understand physics, but apparently a trans-vaginal ultrasound consists of tilting the wand in ALL directions imaginable. Even the ones that don’t naturally exist in the body. There were a few times that I thought that if I could see my belly, I would probably see the tip of the wand poking out like an arm of an alien. Feeling Sigourney Weaverish, I clenched my teeth as Liz tilted and probed and concentrated for way too long on my right side. That couldn’t have been a good sign.
Finally, she started pulling the wand out half an inch at a time, snapping last minute pictures. I mentally urged her to hurry up and get that thing out of me. How many pictures did one need?
I was then ushered to the bathroom yet again ‘to clean up’ and handed a small cloth rectangle. I wondered how many times it was already used for this very purpose and how good the hospital washing machines were. I opted for the paper towels.
Liz then took me back to the dressing room and said she would go talk to the radiologist if he could let me know something. I just sat there, not moving, shoulders slumped, staring at the wall in front of me. I wanted to wake up and realize all this was just a bad dream. The whole two years. No eye cancer, no breast cancer, no possible uterine cancer. I blinked. I forced myself to take two deep breaths.
“Eva?” A middle aged man, who pronounced my name correctly, peeked around the corner.
He wore a striped dress shirt and a tie and had Andy Rooney eyebrows. He introduced himself as the radiologist but all I could concentrate on was his face. I tried to gauge the expression for good or bad news. Fail again. Did all the hospital employees take a poker face course in Vegas? We shook hands and he showed me which way to go to his office.
I entered a room with a desk that wrapped around three walls upon which sat three large monitors. All lit up with black and white smudges.
“Take a seat”, he offered, and then probably because of seeing my strained face, he quickly added, “everything looks good. There is nothing to worry about.”
My eyes filled with tears instantly. He furrowed his brows and tilted his head in confusion.
“I am sorry”, I sniffled, “You don’t understand, I already had the eye, then the breast and now I thought I was gonna have this…” My voice trailed off.
“It’s OK.” He said and swiveled towards the monitors.
He then proceeded to explain that the uterus picked up the tracer because it was a muscle and that while there were some changes due to the anti-cancer drug I was taking, those changes were normal and I had nothing to worry about. He told me I had some cysts on the ovaries but that they were very common and come and go frequently.
I stuttered my thanks, saying something about being grateful that he stayed overtime.
“Oh, we stay very late sometimes.” He said cheerily as he swiveled back to face me.
We looked at each other from our office chairs. Nobody said anything for three seconds.
“OK, well, thank you again.” I rose from my chair.
He looked a little surprised. Did he want to say something else? Was I supposed to say something else?
He got up too and we shook hands again. I stepped out into the brightly lit hallway and felt the tears fill my eyes again. I put on my sunglasses and walked out into the waiting room. The receptionist gave me a peculiar look. We were on the basement level of the hospital with no windows. I didn’t care. I didn’t have third cancer!