It’s that dull silence on the end of the phone – not exactly dead but humming unnervingly with what must be the sound of worry, if it had a sound to go with the sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that settles like a stone later. Still on-hold. Then the medical receptionist says she needs to run the results by the specialist – she’ll call you back. And you WAIT.
I’ve WAITED for so many test results in my life. Worry is always wasted. I remind myself, over and over. Almost every medical test I’ve ever had has come back negative – Phew, you say. Expect most of the results I’ve waited on were to see if I was pregnant, when I so desperately wanted to be. But No. Negative. The reverberating thud of that word – I want to hear it now. Because negative when we talk medicine means you’re OK – it’s so strange the way people test ‘positive’ for cancer, or diabetes or whatever, when there is nothing positive about being ill, about fighting for your life.
I’ve had some good, positive exam results that have come as a surge of excitement, a slight surprise that I’d done better than I’d expected. But that’s different – not so ‘black and white’. I was never in danger of failing, success was always relative. I’ve been successful at job interviews and missed out on others – when that happens it’s usually a creeping realisation and you resign yourself to it.
Of course I’ve been glad to have had negative pap smear results, negative mammograms, negative HIV tests that I knew I would be negative so I didn’t even bother worrying (this test being a prerequisite for IVF treatment that needed to be repeated every 12 months, go figure!).
I’ve WAITED anxiously on test results for my mother (all good, no bowel cancer). Years later test results came back to confirm she’s a Coeliac, but that’s nothing on being diagnosed with bowel cancer. Unfortunately some of my Dad’s test results haven’t been quite so good, but he’s doing OK now.
You won’t be surprised that I worried more than a little as I WAITED after Mr Yang shot himself in the chest with a nail gun – a three inch (yes I did say three inch) nail missed his heart by a centimetre and pierced his liver.
Still. WAITING. If you read this blog post you would know that I could have written a thesis on impatience, if only I’d been patient enough. I re-read the post now to give myself something to do.
By far the worst I’ve felt WAITING was on the worst day of my life, which I’ve determined not to call the worst day of my life anymore because I now see that alchemy, magic has somehow transformed the baby we discovered we no longer had on that day, into the life of our Little Yang. Loss into gain – you see we would never have stuck out the long journey to adopt our son had the baby we realised we’d lost that day actually been born. But the WAITING, which turned into three surreal days of slowly unfolding tragedy as my ectopic pregnancy edged ever closer to an emergency, was the cruellest of tortures. That I will never forget.
I’m still WAITING, and writing my way through the WAIT. Writing away the worry?!? What else can I do?!?!. Writing like this now, not exactly nonchalantly, but with some degree of detachment (or at least distraction) is a way of recording the undeniable truth that ‘all worry is wasted’ – because it will have been, I’m sure, when the doctor’s office calls back to say that everything is fine. Isn’t it?
I distract myself in the kitchen by cutting myself a thick slice of my favourite cheese, the sort I was reserving for wine and cheese with friends for Christmas drinks this week (OK, I don’t usually reserve wine for special occasions, but I do try to be good with the cheese). It’s now 2.55pm and I’m thinking of having a wine now too, to go with the cheese and to wash down the worry. It must be wine-o’clock somewhere in the world.
In approximately five minutes I will have been WAITING an hour I reckon. I didn’t take any notice of the time I called the doctor, but it must have been a bit before 2pm. I was on hold for almost five minutes and the eerie silence led me to believe my call must have been forgotten. So I phoned back and waited another four minutes or so before the medical receptionist informed me (casually, dispassionately?) that she needed to run the results by the doctor. She’d call me back on my mobile. What does that mean?
I’ve poured myself just a small glass of wine, to settle the nerves. It might have been a bigger one, but I have to take my daughter to swimming this afternoon. In fact, I’m supposed to be leaving soon.
Surely they should have phoned back by now. It’s just plain rude to leave people hanging. I’m annoyed enough already at the specialist for charging so much for a simple procedure to cut out the mole on my neck – I was in and out within half an hour and it still cost me $460. The dermatologist said it looked fine, exactly as he’d expected, not bigger or nasty-looking. I didn’t even worry about worrying. In fact I’m proud of myself for not stressing at all, for following the mantra I’m happy to preach – ‘go with the flow’, along with its sidekick ‘worry is always wasted’.
When I went back to get the stiches out this morning I was so unconcerned I forgot to even enquire about the pathology results and no-one bothered to mention them. It was only this afternoon that I remembered and called to double-check all was OK.
I guess I’m expecting to hear back quickly because it must have been an oversight for them not to have given me the results this morning and such oversights don’t happen when something is wrong – do they?
And now it’s 3.25pm. We really need to leave for swimming in 10 minutes. I have to wake Miss Yin because she’s been napping after having a friend sleep-over last night. I’m nagging her to get ready, and I still have to wake Little Yang to take him in the car. Did I mention I’m still WAITING.
I’ll stop writing now – we are now running late for swimming – maybe it will distract me. Driving and all!!
4.36pm. I phone the specialist because I’m officially stressed now. Swimming has finished and they still haven’t phoned.
She’s all bubbly and whatever (indifferent) and says she hasn’t had a chance to discuss the results with the doctor. I tell her that she’s had me worried all afternoon, should I be worried? And then she says ‘I wouldn’t worry, yet’. I’m a bit angry and say, ‘well I am worried’. She doesn’t apologise for the wait. I’ll just have to hang on until the end of the day when she’ll see the doctor and then call me back. He’s with patients, she’s almost indignant – note to you stupid bitch – I am a patient. And I’m fucking mad.
Anger is good. Anger is better than worry.
4.59pm – nothing.
I have to eat a few pieces of the fatty Cabana sausage I cut up for the kids and I swallow the rest of my wine from earlier and pour myself another glass. This is hunger or gluttony, not worry, not emotional eating. I waited until just before leaving for swimming to ring Mr Yang but he didn’t answer. I thought it was for the best – no point worrying him (turns out he was at a big fire).
I’m hanging to ring him. Instead I’ve dropped the f-bomb in front of the kids (a couple of times) in frustration which by any other name would be worry. Note to self – it is always wasted.
5.13pm – nothing.
I will have to leave in 20 minutes to pick Mr Yang up from work.
5.21pm – Mr Yang rings. I have to tell him of course. And now I have to leave to pick him up.
6.02pm – We are home. I have phoned the clinic and of course they have the answering machine on. Nobody has bothered to call me back or even text me to explain the delay. All must be OK, Jon reassures me. But will I have to wait overnight to believe it?
Surely everything must be fine, I think again, and again. It’s not as though they’ll ring me in the morning and say ‘sorry we just didn’t get a chance to ring you back but BTW, you have melanoma’.
6.16pm – She rings, Miss Indifferent or maybe she is more pleasant than my worried-self gave her credit for. Everything is OK, but the pathologist wants to ‘keep any eye on things’ in case something pops up next to the cancer that was taken out – so not nothing – but not something either. We schedule an appointment in three months. And I’m trying not to be angry with her for the long wait in letting me know – they must have had a big day. And I’m really trying not to worry.
Because worry is always wasted – isn’t it!
To avoid sickness, eat less. To prolong life, worry less.
Chu Hui Weng
I’m still pissed off, but relieved. And maybe just a teensy bit anxious.
PS – This was yesterday and today I phoned to speak to the doctor to clarify the pathology results, but my call hasn’t been returned.
Love to know how you handle waiting for news that could be good or bad, how you stave off the worry?