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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Guest Post: The Week of Living Nervously (Part 3 of Urology Series)

Reed Soper was born and raised in southern California. He considered attending the Lord's University but opted for BYU instead where he met Kathryn Lynard doing his home teaching. They married in 1992 and have seven children. Friends and loved ones often describe Reed as "difficult" or "a slow learner." In his spare time, he likes (virgin) pina coladas and getting caught in the rain. Don't miss Reed's previous guest posts.

The doctor's office can be a perilous place. I'm never quite sure when I go because I feel ill just talking about the symptoms or probing them out. Annual physicals are even more capricious in nature, at least from my experience. Sometimes physicals are at the request of a new health insurance company, sometimes because of volunteering for Boy Scout service, and sometimes just because you reach a milestone age. Each of these occasions bears its own "form" – a piece of paper outlining the battery of tests to be performed. My real question on these occasions is what sort of indignity will I be asked to submit to.

I fancy myself as a shy, somewhat reserved person. I tend to not speak or write about things I deem personal until sufficient time has transpired and then, only if, I can mine the experience for some comedic value. (1) Let's just say that I was at my doctor's office getting my 60,000 mile servicing several years ago. The doctor ran through his list of places to poke on my body. Then it came to the part of the exam that I was secretly hoping would not occur. I thought the doctor and I could remain in the "friend zone." Nope, drop your drawers Soper. He needed to check something. I cleared my throat and put my hands above my head, closed my eyes and began to think of England. I'll try to be more gentle in my description than the doctor was in his investigation. He was checking for issues in the "area where Lance Armstrong had cancer." (2)

I glanced down and saw a furrowed brow on the doctor's face. He told me that I had something going on in the “AWLAHC." He assured me that this was by no means a diagnosis that I had cancer in the "AWLAHC," but that it needed to be followed up on. I was to be scheduled for an ultrasound.

If I ran the world, when a doctor told someone they might possibly have cancer, especially in the “AWLAHC," you wouldn't have to wait very long for the ultrasound. Sure there are more pressing medical emergencies -- I'm not saying I should have been transported immediately by ambulance or helicopter to the closest medical facility with an ultrasound machine and immediately whisked into the room, like a Disneyland patron with a park hopper pass. No, I am not proposing that at all. It would be nice if you didn't have to wait nearly a week, walking around wondering if you might have cancer in the "AWLAHC."

In this particular case, I had to wait five days. Not an eternity by any stretch, but they were still five days. I considered my options. Maybe I just blow off the ultrasound and live my life and hope for the best. Or, I could assume the worst and go bungee jumping, parachuting, and eating nothing but McDonald's food for a month because, hey, I might have cancer in the “AWLAHC." Life is short. Let's get some excitement going. At the very least, I should have created some sort of bucket list, you know, just in case.

But I did nothing of the sort because along with being shy and reserved, I'm pretty boring and obedient. The procedure would take place at the hospital near my home. I checked in at the appointed hour and told them what I was there for -- an ultrasound of the "AWLAHC." I went through a series of waiting rooms until I finally made it into the ultrasound room. The tech entered. He was a youngish man who seemed all business. He told me to remove my pants in a way that no one would ever want to hear that phrase said. He got out the ultrasound goo that is dispensed from a container that could, in another life, hold mustard and told me the phrase I had heard many times before, "this is going to be cold." If there are women and especially mothers who are reading this, please, by no means do I want to even offer the slightest suggestion that my experience and yours leading up to childbirth were the same. There were no stirrups for me at any part of the process. What I do have is some measure of compassion for you knowing what "this is going to be cold" feels like.

I was sort of sitting/slouching on the end of the exam table, pants down, ultrasound goo in place with the tech pressing down really hard on the "AWLAHC" with the ultrasound wand (?) (3). I saw him look on the screen, the same screen where I had seen little tiny hands and feet of my gestating children of the past, head profiles, spines and sometimes even the “AWLAHC." The picture was different this time. Much more foreign than even those grainy black and white images of offspring yet to be born. I was trying to process it all (4) when the silence was broken by the tech emitted an audible "whoa." I'm no expert, but I think "whoa" is not something you want to hear during the course of any ultrasound or any medical procedure. I think "whoa" should be reserved for when you are trying to stop a horse and that is it.

Anyway ... "Whoa," he said. He went on saying that there were two, no three masses he could find beyond what was normally expected in the "AWLAHC." (5) The tech assured me that this might mean nothing and I shouldn't be overly concerned. Yeah, dude, maybe you should leave out the "whoa" if you don't want people to be overly concerned. He told me that a doctor would examine the results of the ultrasound and let me know his diagnosis in a few days.

I quickly did some re-calculations. Maybe I should at least get some paper and a pen ready for a bucket list or find out where bungee jumping was happening, just in case. I gave them my cell phone number and waited.

Three days later I was in Richfield, Utah for work and in a pretty important meeting when my cell phone rang. I saw it was the hospital calling so I thought it would probably be okay to step out of a meeting to take a call if this is when I find out if I had cancer in the "AWLAHC." I answered and the doctor quickly spoke up. He said that I had three cysts, all apparently benign, in the "AWLAHC." I asked him if there was anything I needed to do to remove this "excess baggage" and he said no unless they started to grow really big. I love doctors. In a matter of less than a minute he calmed my cancer fears and gave me a new one, that my cysts in the "AWLAHC" have the possibility of growing really big. But that is a fear I can live with.

1. You, fair reader, may question whether anything I produce has value on the comedic scale, and I respect that. I tell and/or write jokes because I think they are funny -- if you think so as well, that is a bonus but not a requirement. Anyway, back to being shy and reserved.
2. Or the AWLAHC.
3. Is this really called a wand? Like something a magician would use? Seems a little suspect to me.
4. I'm pretty sure by this point I was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. I had begun, just a little, to identify myself with the tech.
5. In case you are wondering, the standard number is two.

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