Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)

Dear Readers, here I am, back in East Finchley after a visit to University College Hospital to check out my thyroid again. Regular readers will remember that I’ve been for a raft of tests on various things that were kicked off back in March when I was referred for a CT scan following a persistent cough. It found all kinds of things, including a congenital heart defect, but I have been waiting for a second ultrasound and possible biopsy on my poor old thyroid gland, which apparently has many nodules. Who knew that you could even get nodules in your thyroid? This health stuff is an education for sure.

There is nothing more humbling than waiting for tests in an NHS hospital. I was seated next to an elderly lady who had been referred for an emergency biopsy today. She was with her daughter, who had an appointment elsewhere in the hospital coming up, and was therefore very anxious about the timing of the procedure, as she wanted to be there with her Mum. The older lady was very relaxed about the whole thing, though, as people often are when they’ve spent a lot of time in the medical system and have pretty much seen it all. She was doing a word search puzzle, while her daughter was getting more and more anxious.

Just up the way were three generations of a family – a toddler, a young mother, and her mother. It was the young mother who was going in for an ultrasound scan. There was a brief flurry of excitement when her first name was called, but it turned out there there was more than one person with the same name, so we all settled down again. There were not quite enough seats so we were all swapping around and I was checking how long I could squat for (answer, not as long as I used to be able to). The baby was charming everyone who looked at him, beaming and grinning as if each new person was the most wonderful thing that he’d ever seen. Then the young mother was finally called, so gran looked after the baby. When the young mum came out, she was crying. As they walked to the lift, all I could here was the anxiety in gran’s voice as she tried to find out what had happened. Then the lift doors shut, and that little family and that story were gone, and none of us will ever know the end of it.

We all looked at one another, and then I was called. The doctor performing the ultrasound was brisk but efficient, and with the waiting room full of anxious people I could see that he wanted to get through as quickly as possible.

Five minutes later he pronounced my nodules benign, a biopsy not necessary, and no need for any further investigations. As I was wiping ultrasound lubricant off my neck, I ventured that it must be good to be able to give a bit of good news.

” We are the centre of human misery here”, he said. I wondered if he was thinking about the young woman who’d been in before me. What a toll it must take, being the bearer of bad news over and over again.

As I walked back, I gave the thumbs up to the elderly lady and her daughter as they stood up to go through for the biopsy.

“Good luck”, I said, and the elderly lady gave me a thumbs up back. It’s extraordinary to me how quickly camaraderie grows in these waiting rooms and queues and wards. We seem to become humbler,gentler, kinder versions of ourselves when we’re exposed to our own mortality and that of others. And after all, today I was lucky, and I am grateful to be able to wander into the garden and admire the butterflies, but  each of us is only a diagnosis away from something that changes our lives utterly. How precious it makes this sunny summer evening as the soft light makes the red brick of the houses opposite glow, and the bees browse drowsily on the buddleia below my office window.

7 thoughts on “Lucky

  1. Anne

    You are right about the camaraderie that develops during tense times. We experienced that recently too during the train strikes in England that had us stranded on platforms more than once!

  2. Alittlebitoutoffocus

    Yes, thumbs up! I’m glad you had good news too. I had an ultrasound scan a few weeks ago, on a lump which has appeared just in front of my ear, in my salivary gland. (A pleomorphic adenoma is the fancy term!) Thankfully it’s also benign, but still growing. When I first noticed, late last year, it was about the size of a kidney bean and, when scanned (mid June), it was about 2.2cm wide. (In my head I imagine it’s about the size of one of those sherbet space ships we used to buy as kids). I now await an appointment with the ENT people to decide what they are going to do about it. It’s not painful, but it’s certainly become very noticeable and I’m starting to get self-conscious about it. I mean, how do you tell people “Oh, by the way, this lump is nothing serious….” 🤔


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