Once, there was a guy who went on vacation. Before he left, he recruited a friend to look after things at home. He'd been gone about a week when he called his friend. The conversation went something like this:
Vacation Guy: Hey dude, wassup? How's everything going?
Dude: Your cat died.
Vacation Guy: (Gasp!) You know, you really shouldn't spring something like that on a person. You should lead up to it slowly.
Dude: Oh man, I'm sorry. What should I have said?
Vacation Guy: I dunno. Maybe you could have started by saying something like ... The day was really hot, so I had the windows open upstairs. Your cat was asleep on one of the beds, but then she wandered out onto the roof. I tried to get her to come back in through the window, but it wasn't working so I called the fire department. Then, before they could get here, the cat tried to jump into a tree. She didn't judge the distance right though, so she fell. She seemed pretty hurt so I took her to a vet. The vet tried everything he could to save her but it didn't work.
Dude: Yeah, I see the difference. Again, man, sorry.
Vacation Guy: It's okay. Now that we've got that over with, how's my grandma doin'?
Dude: Well--the day was really hot ...
So. My son had a doctor's appointment yesterday. Just his every-six-months regularly scheduled check up, CAT scans, bloodwork, the usual. Except, it didn't feel so usual.
The doctor took a long time looking in his mouth, feeling his tongue, looking in his mouth again. Then she reviewed the scans. She took her time going through the head and neck one, grumbling a little that the perspective wasn't exactly the same as the last one, so they didn't compare perfectly. (She's generally not much of a grumbler.) She used words like "fine" and "okay" to describe what she saw on the screen, and she qualified it all with "I think". The words she usually uses are more like "great" and "perfect" and the qualifiers are normally absent. One thing I love about her is the overwhelming confidence she usually exudes.
She looked at the chest scan next, flipping through that one much quicker. By the time she finished, the radiology report for the chest was already online. She read it to us: "No evidence of metastasis. Blah, blah (wonderfully boring) blah."
She clicked back to the head/neck scan again, looking for the report on that. It wasn't there. Then, here's the thing -- she scrolled through the scan one more time -- then told us they'd call with the final results.
I could be building mountains where molehills should be, but it felt very wrong.
And it didn't feel any more right when she scheduled us to come back in six months. And it felt even worse when she mentioned that he'd need more scans next year because - here's the other thing: On his last appointment she'd said that if everything looked good the next time (that being THIS time) my son would be done with scans and he would move to a once-a-year schedule of check ups.
There's a saying in the cancer world that goes: It's not cancer until they say it's cancer. There's another saying that goes: It's not back until they say it's back.
The doctor DID NOT SAY it's back.
But what if felt like she said was:
The day was really hot ...