Saturday, September 11, 2010

I have cancer again, don’t I?

Toni: Deep breath, Jennifer. I am telling you that I’m 99% sure this is NOT cancer. This is what we call folliculitis. It is basically an infected pore where a hair is.
me: It sounds like cancer. But my lymph node…
Toni: Yes, the infection has backed up into your lymph node and that’s why it is swollen. Use some hot compresses over the next few days and I’ll give you an antibiotic to take if it does not go away.
me: But what if it’s cancer. (*tears started pouring down my eyes*)
Toni: Jennifer, look at me. I will not lie to you. It is NOT cancer. (*Toni wrapped her arms around me and let me cry while having a panic attack.*)

I blushed and glanced down at the ground in embarrassment as I finished telling my oncologist, Dr. Heyer about my hysterical visit to my primary care doctor, Toni Nelson. Right before I left for Stone Harbor over Memorial Day weekend I found a dime-sized swollen lymph node on my leg and demanded an emergency appointment.

Dr. Heyer looked at me with sympathetic and honest eyes and said, “Do you want to know if this feeling and reaction ever go away?”
I nodded.
“It never goes away, Jennifer. I have patients that have been in remission for decades who come into the office with a bump, scar tissue or other anomaly on their body and their knee-jerk reaction is always cancer.”
“I don’t want to always have this reaction.”
“Jennifer, it’s normal. Now the anxiety you feel when waiting for test results will get easier over time …”
Doubtful, I thought to myself.
“… but the other reaction won’t. And that’s ok. That’s why we are here. If you ever want me to just look or check out something you are concerned about, you can always pop in here. We understand and, believe it or not, it happens often.”
“Well, at least I know I’m not the only crazy patient with in grown hairs.”
Dr. Heyer smiled in a very non-judgmental way, which I appreciated at the moment.

My exam ended with Dr. Heyer believing that I had no need for any imaging since I seemed to be in superb physical health and no oncology appointments for six months. What am I going to do with all my free time!?