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The Paranoid Moments

Eric Lagergren

October 9, 2008

The blog entries for me, weekly as they are, are often something I think about on and off for a few days. I’ll contemplate what’s gone on in my life that’s diabetes-related and if/how I can stretch that into somewhere between 500 and 1000 words. Those of you who know my blog know that it comes out on Thursday, often in the afternoon (though I think a lot of people read it the following Wednesday, when the Diabetes Self-Management e-mail newsletter comes out).

Today I’d planned on writing about blood glucose, something about times per day I monitor mine. Believe me, I figured out how to get quite a lengthy entry out of that one. Instead, though, I’m going to write about the ultrasound I just returned from less than an hour ago. My reaction, my on-the-table moments of anxiety, my worries about what I may hear. And that’ll probably be it. No grand insights (as if), no wonderful narrative (ha), and no deep contemplation of things such as ultrasound gel, black-and-white computer imaging of the inside of my abdomen, and so on.

Last week, I mentioned that my doctor wanted an ultrasound of my liver because my liver function numbers (ALT, I believe) have fluctuated some in the past year and a half. No huge swings. I think they’ve gone from normal range up to the low 50’s, back to the lower range, then up. At the last visit they were back up again, and so as a precaution, I was given a referral to the radiology building and today was the day I stopped in.

I’ve never had an ultrasound before, and so I have nothing to compare it to. An ultrasound of my liver: To my mind, this was a quick run of the wand over my liver to snap some pictures, and that would be that. Instead, it turned into an hour’s worth of lying on my back, rolling onto my side, rolling onto my other side, holding my breath, exhaling, holding my breath, waiting for the tech to confirm that the images were suitable for the doctor to look at, and then lying on my right side again and holding my breath.

Total number of images taken (because I looked at the monitor and counted the thumbnail tags on the right side of the screen): 68. Yes, 68! And many of those were of my kidneys. And, so, halfway through the ultrasound my mind began to wonder “what if?” Of course I started thinking about cancer, about other complications, things that might be going on that blood tests and doctor’s exams don’t indicate.

I started to scare the hell out of myself. And it seemed, then, to be an interminably long ultrasound session. Why would the tech go back over the spot so many times and take so many pictures? Thorough? Was she seeing something that gave her pause? I knew she wouldn’t be able to tell me, but I tried. When she asked how long I’d had diabetes, I told her (about a year and a half), then I asked, “Are you just making conversation, or are you seeing something that’s causing you concern?” She deflected and said that the doctor had to look at the images and she couldn’t say anything.

So, yeah. Mmm hmm. Probably nothing. I hope nothing. But when she left the first time to confirm the validity of the images, I lay in the room, lights low, hum of computer equipment to comfort me, and panicked slightly. What if? I mean, really, what if? How do I tell people this? How do I deal with this?

But with what? I don’t know anything. I have no reason to believe there’s anything wrong.

But what if? My wife, my family. My great life: wonderful dog, house, garden, career, friends, and on and on…

Irrational? Sure. But there you go.

And she comes back in and tells me to roll back onto my right, the side I can lie on and look at the screen. I read “kidney” among the text at the bottom of the screen, and as she slides the wand over my left side, asking me to stick my belly out, hold my breath, and so on, I see that she’s pausing the image and highlighting an area about the size of my thumbnail, clicking the cursor on the four quadrants of this thing, running the wand over and taking more pictures.

I’m not a doctor. I don’t read ultrasounds. Kidney? I think that’s what it is I’m seeing on the screen (I think this because that’s what the text says!), and so: kidney cancer? I don’t hear that often. Renal failure. Other kidney problems. Stones? What is it?

She leaves one more time to confirm the images, and I wait. I lie there. And I’m thinking, “I have to write a blog. I can’t write a blog entry today. I want to go home. I want to avoid thinking about this. I want to close my eyes and go back to sleep. What if…”

And then she returns (the little knock-knock on the door before entering) and says I’m free to go. I put on my shirt, head out into bright sunlight, and head to work, where before settling in for the day I write (without editing) today’s blog entry.



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