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“You should go to the emergency room…right now”

10:37am. April 3rd 2014. Doing whatever I can to not touch my hair

How I’m feeling: Really sad because yesterday I discovered that my hair is slowly starting to fall out, already tired from doing nothing, excited for my first day since being home from the hospital of doing nothing (other than dinner plans with a friend tonight) 

March 11th 2014. A regular Tuesday afternoon. It was sunny and I was so happy because of it. I was on my way to teach one of my business classes at Humber College and had planned on doing the usual on my commute: listen to voicemail messages and finally get around to responding to the less urgent emails and text messages.

As soon as I settled in on the bus, I took my phone out from my purse and hit the “New Voicemails” button. There were 4 new voicemail messages.

Three of the messages were from my doctor’s receptionist and they went something like this:
“Hi Carolyn, we’ve received your lab results. Dr. M would like to see you today. Call us back and let us know when you can come in”

…the next two increased in urgency and went something like this:
“Hi Carolyn, It’s important that Dr. M see you today. Please give us a call”

The fourth and last message was from Dr. M herself:
“Carolyn, we’ve been trying to call you. I did receive your x-ray results and it’s really important that I see you today.”

This was around 2:00pm. Four attempted calls and messages by 2:00pm? I wasn’t panicking but I did think it was unusual. I remained calm and returned the call to try to make an appointment for after my class. I knew that there would be a small window as my class ends at 6pm and even if I were to end the class early, it would take quite some time for me to commute to the doctor’s office.

The receptionist asked when the earliest I could come in was and I told her “5:15pm or 5:30pm at the earliest by the time I end the class really really early and take a cab there” I stressed to her that I would make it there as early as I could and that alternatively I could make it in first thing in the morning the next day. She seemed to ignore the second part and proceeded to tell me that while Dr. M had to leave at 5:30pm that they will see me then.

A few minutes later, I received a call from that same receptionist asking if I could come in earlier. There was no chance as I was already en route to teach my class and there was no way I was going to cancel it at the last minute. I was already trying to figure out how I was going to condense my 3 hour lesson in an hour in order for me to make it the 5:15pm appointment. I once again told her that I would try my absolute best to make it there as soon as possible after my class.

I started my class by telling my students that I was going to keep it very short as there was a health emergency that I had to attend to. For the short 1 hour I taught, my mind was completely distracted. The entire time, I was thinking to myself:
“Wait a minute. Four calls and messages by 2pm? What the hell?”
“Dr. M was pretty insistent that I come in, wasn’t she?”
“Today? Why did they want to see me TODAY? Could it not have waited until tomorrow?”
“At this very moment, other than this stupid annoying cough – I’m feeling O.K. What’s with the urgency?”

It was 4:30pm. I apologized to my class once again for having to cut the lesson short, wished them an excellent week and dismissed them. As I left my classroom, I called for a taxi cab to pick me up from the campus. It arrived shortly after I arrived at the main entrance. As we headed towards the highway, traffic was building up as far as I could see. S%$!. I had completely forgoten about rush hour. I explained to the cab driver that I had to leave my class to make it to what sounded like an urgent doctor’s appointment and that I needed him to get me there asap. And of course he mistook me for a student, as everyone tends to do. I love it when that happens 🙂

It quickly became 5:00pm and we were nowhere near downtown Toronto (My doctor’s office is at University and Wellington) I gave the doctor’s office a call and told them that while I was on my way, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it there before Dr. M had to leave the office at 5:30pm.
“It’s ok. Come anyways. Dr. M said that she’s not leaving until she sees you” the receptionist said. “Oh….ok. See you soon.” I said before hanging up.

What? She wasn’t going to leave until she saw me? She’s a freakin’ doctor who had already been working 12+ hours. Why couldn’t I just see her first thing the next day to discuss the results? What was the big deal?

I just couldn’t understand. And I started to get a little frustrated. I just really hate inconveniencing people and there was no way I could get there any faster.

As we pulled up to the doctor’s office, the cab driver said “It’s ok. Just go in. Find out what’s going on. You’re young. You’re healthy. You’re happy and you have a great spirit. I can feel it. Whatever it is, you can get through it. Trust me” I gave him one big tip for keeping me calm, cool and collected for the entire ride there and said “Thanks! Wish me luck, ok?”. “Good luck, dear” he said as I gently shut the car door.

I waited for about 10 minutes in the waiting room. The receptionist called me up to the desk and quietly said to me “Dr. M just wanted to let you know that while she cannot stay for very long, she felt that it was very important that she see you today. She just wants to let you know that while she can’t spend too much time with you today – she doesn’t want you to feel like she’s rushing through things. She’s going to discuss the results with you and then you can book another appointment to further discuss. She just wanted me to let you know that” I was a little taken aback by this but was really appreciative of the message. My doctor really is the best. I’ve mentioned it before but she really does have the perfect balance of being empathetic, objective and professional. She really does care about her patients.

I was called in to Dr. M’s office by Dr. M herself. The first thing she said was “Ok, sit down” She started off by re-iterating the message that the receptionist passed on to me and apologized for rushing me in but expressed that she really did want to call me when she received the results at 12:30am early in the morning. She paused for a moment, looked at me smiling up at her – and then proceeded to tell me about some fluid they found causing pressure against my left lung. While she remained very calm, I could tell that the results were also a little unexpected on her part as well. “I called the head of thoracics at Toronto General to ask him for his opinion on this and he advised that you head to the emergency room” I just sat there, nodded my head and said “ok”.

In all honesty, all I heard was…
“Cancer”
“Lymphoma”
“We want to make sure”
“Emergency Room”
“Toronto General”

I definitely missed a bunch of information because it wasn’t until Dr. M paused for a moment and asked “Ok. Wait, how are you doing? How are you feeling with all of this?” when I felt a huge rush of warmth from my tears pour down my face and then on to my chest. It was almost as if she had released me out of a trance. Every blink of my eye and big heavy tear drop rolling off of my chin moved in slow motion. Dr. M gave me a big hug and asked me if I had someone to call and to go to the emergency room with me. “Sure. I mean, I can call a good friend. I suppose I should call my mother? or sister? Is this a calling my mother or sister sort of situation?” “Should I go to the emergency room right now? As in, right now at this very moment?” “Yes, I really think you should. And yes, call Cathy or your mom” Dr. M said.

I didn’t really understand and couldn’t believe what I was hearing. In fact, even as I reflect back to write this, I’m feeling a little numb. I walked out of that doctor’s office like a zombie. I could barely feel my legs, the cold air against my skin. I just couldn’t feel anything. I don’t even know how I managed to wait at and cross each intersection. I don’t know how I didn’t bump in to people as I walked. I remember thinking to myself  “I can’t even go home and walk my dog? Leia is going to piss herself and then be so upset at me!” “Dammit. Does this mean I’m going to miss dance rehearsal tonight? I think we’re learning some new choreography for our show. I wonder if I can make it back on time”

I walked on over to the Second Cup and Adelaide and University to charge my phone at one of the power outlets so that I had just enough battery to text my sister and mom. I purchased a bottle of water, sat down and tried to call my mom. After no answer on my mom’s home phone, I texted my sister (Start at March 11th text message):

Screenshot_2014-04-03-17-44-08

After I texted my sister, I received a call back from my mother. As soon I picked up the phone, I cried and somehow managed to get out of me “Mom?… I think I have to go to the emergency room” She immediately said, “Ok, go hun. I will meet you there and find you” After I hung up the phone, I just sat there for at least 20 minutes. I didn’t understand what was about to happen. And I kind of didn’t want to know. I couldn’t move. I just couldn’t get myself up on my own feet. If it wasn’t for the lady at Second Cup kicking me out because they were closing – I probably would have just sat there for another hour or two.

That’s all for now. I’ll tell you about the walk over to Toronto General and what the next 10 hours at the emergency room was like another day.

5 replies »

  1. Wow, your strength is amazing through this difficult journey and your insight and sharing is so eye opening. Stay strong Carolyn, one day at a time.

  2. Thank you that was helpful and has inspired me to get immediate care and address my lumps I found….wwas to scared before and feared the worse…..but you helped me to realize I vcan make it through anything andbto just have faith.

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