By Lauren Duffy
Around three weeks ago, I got a voicemail from a nurse from one of my doctor’s offices that told me to call the office back to discuss something urgent. Scared but calm, I called the office back immediately.
The nurse began the conversation by saying “I don’t want you to panic too much.. yet.. but…” that’s when I started panicking. She continued with a bunch of big words and medical stuff that I didn’t really understand, but what I did understand was “you have an early stage of cancer.”
I was shaking, but I kept my cool and stayed calm on the phone. But on the inside: “Um… what? Wait… WHAAAAT?!? Am I going to die?! I’m too young to die! How did this happen? What the heck is going on?!” My mind was racing and I was assuming the worst, and I think the nurse could tell. She kept saying that she knew it was scary and that she knew that I must be overwhelmed. (Uh.. yeah… DUH!) Her calm but somber tone was the most alarming part.. I felt like she was telling me that I had six months to live.
I set an appointment at the hospital for a procedure to be done almost two weeks after I got the phone call. The nurse warned me that “this will be incredibly painful and we cannot put you out or give you any kind of numbing.” (Oh.. grrrrreat!) If she thought she was being comforting by giving me the heads up, she could not have been more wrong.
So those two weeks leading up to the procedure were naturally the most stressful weeks I had experienced in a long time. My parents and friends kept reminding me that staying positive and refraining from panicking was key, but the word “cancer” was too scary to ignore. I tossed and turned each night, I distracted myself with schoolwork and random tasks, and I tried to remember a friend’s words: “early is good.” Nothing worked. Internally, I was freaking out.
On the day of the procedure I was a complete mess. I was shaking and sweating like crazy, and all I could think of was the pain that was ahead of me. The procedure lasted about a half an hour and it was simply awful. It hurt more than I was prepared for and the doctor was incredibly rude. Not fun. But it was over.. it was all over. I just had to wait anxiously for the results. But when the pain was over, I could finally breathe again, and that felt good. Thank goodness.
Five days later I got the results. I’m not in the clear, but I only need to be checked on every six months– no treatment necessary, and no need to freak out. But the most important thing is… I do not have cancer! YAY! I feel awesome! No more procedures and no more nightmares! I was dancing around the room when I was on the phone with the nurse again, then she said the words “We were never really that concerned, so this is what we expected… We knew it wasn’t cancer” and I almost dropped the phone.
Hold up wait one second stop in the name of love shut the front door ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?! They knew it wasn’t cancer? They knew everything was fine? They made me feel like I was dying! I was literally sick over it all from a loss of sleep and my stomach pains from stress!!! I tortured myself for two weeks and they KNEW it was fine?! Well. This, I have a problem with.
Why in the world was that necessary? What was the point of making me freak out for two weeks? Doctors believe that the more they make something sound urgent, the more serious patients will take it. And honestly, that’s very true. No one is going to ignore something that the doctor makes sound horrible, but is it really worth the stress?
Doctors also feel the need to make things sound exponentially worse because if it is bad, then they are covered because they gave you fair warning and you’re not surprised by the results. They’re protecting themselves from getting sued by angry patients with serious illnesses. It makes sense for liability reasons, but the stress it causes is out of control!
Being stressed about a procedure and its results (or any kind of stress) can cause you to have stomach issues, anxiety, sleep loss, and ultimately sickness. So you can get sick from a doctor telling you that you may be sick, but then you find out from results that you’re not sick, but you got sick anyway over the idea that you may be sick. Think about it…
It’s incredibly annoying, but the doctors have to do it. Ultimately, I’m glad I underwent this nonsense so that I could know the extent of what was going on, but I just wish they did not have to cause me so much anxiety. They did what they had to do, and I have to accept that. But on a positive note, I think I learned how to deal with this kind of situation…
If you ever face this kind of scare, the only advice that I can give you is… don’t panic. I know, I’m totally contradicting myself because clearly I could not stay calm, but seriously, don’t panic. Here’s why:
- More often than not, a doctor will not tell you any serious news over the phone. They’d much rather sit down with you and explain things. So if they call you and tell you everything over the phone, don’t panic.
- Any medical expert will tell you that the earlier something is caught, the easier it is to treat. Like my friend said, “early is good.” So if the doctor uses the word “early”, don’t panic.
- If a doctor calls you and says that they want to schedule an appointment to investigate something further because it’s a serious matter that they are very concerned about, they will schedule you for an appointment immediately. If they give you a week or more before they schedule anything, don’t panic.
- Doctors nowadays need to investigate everything just in case. They may overdo it sometimes, but it’s for your own health and safety. Today there are more precautionary tests done than serious diagnoses. So keep this in mind, and don’t panic.
If you’re anything like me and you think you’ll panic anyway, just ask your doctor “how concerned about this should I be?” and they should tell you like it is. Or, if a nurse calls you, it’s completely acceptable to ask the office to have your doctor call you so they can explain it a little more. Finally, if you’re going to Google whatever your doctor told you you may or may not be diagnosed with, please use reliable sources. Some websites will make you think you’re going to die a slow and painful death. Obviously, this is far from helpful.
Again, if your doctor calls, it’s okay to be scared, but please don’t panic. Panicking was the worst thing I could have done. I was sick to my stomach and shaken beyond belief. I wish I could have realized this before I stressed myself out so much. In order to maintain your happy and healthy lifestyle, the best thing you can do for yourself in this kind of a stressful situation is remain calm and don’t let it get to you too much. This goes for anything in life: the more relaxed you are, the easier something will be.
Stay healthy, stay happy, stay calm.