Thursday, March 29, 2018

So Why Did It Take Four Calls and 24 Hours?

Terrified. Weepy. Furious. My moods swung like mad last Monday, and all those moods were passionate. My doctor was supposed to get back to me with my test results, and my next steps, once she reviewed the lab report.

I took Monday off as a Personal Day because I didn't want to discuss my health in open forum. We have what is euphemistically called "open seating," which means there's no privacy whatsoever. If I had bad news, I didn't want an audience.

So I spent Monday waiting to talk to my doctor. Waiting for a conversation she and I never had. And that left me bubbling over with anger.

I got up Monday, took a shower, and called my doctor's office. It was about 10:15. The receptionist said that either the doctor or Gwen, her nurse, would call me back as soon as my results were available.

Around 11:00, Nurse Gwen called and said, "It says here there was blood but no infection, so don't worry."

"But the doctor told me that infection was the most likely option because it would explain the blood." That's what I said. What I was really thinking was: Cancer bleeds but cancer is not infection. I also asked if I was supposed to keep taking the prescribed antibiotics. After all, they treat infection, and she just told me there was no infection.

"Oh," Nurse Gwen said, sounding a little less confident. "I'll have Doctor call you."

"Thank you," I said, looking forward to the conversation. I love my doctor. She helped change my attitude toward my health care. I'm a better consumer now. After all, my doctor is the one who has said, "It's not enough to know what's not causing this. We need to know what the problem is." She's the one who always gives me "next steps," even if that "next step" is "Remember to make an appointment because I want to see you again in six months."

All afternoon, my phone was silent.

All day, my thoughts and fears bounced around like a pinball. It's nothing. I'm going to die. I have no one to call for help if I need surgery. If I have something serious, I hope we find it before I lose my job and my insurance. I'm fine, there's nothing to worry about.

And why the fuck isn't my doctor calling me?

After a day of this -- after a wasted day off -- I called her office again at 4:00. "I asked her to call me," I said, "and she never has. When can I expect to hear from her."

"Oh, don't worry!" the receptionist said. "Nurse Gwen is in there with her right now. Doctor will call you before she goes home. But Monday is her late night. She sees patients until 6:00."

At 5:45, I called the office a fourth time. I got the answering service! She had gone home for the day. Oh, and guess what! Tuesday the doctor doesn't have office hours! She and Nurse Gwen are at the hospital all day every Tuesday.

I tried not to start screaming. I'm not entirely sure I successful. I made it clear that I wanted my doctor to get this message in the morning -- somehow, some way -- and that she should know I've called four (count 'em! 4!) times.

I slept about a half hour Monday night. Tuesday, as I was getting ready for work, I called the doctor's office one more time. I explained my situation -- my day and night of terror and my concern about privacy at the office. The receptionist put me on hold and came back with my chart.

"Your file has a note that says you spoke to Gwen and there's no reason to call you back."


"So," I blurt, "I could have cancer and no one wants to answer my questions about it?"

"No. No, no," she said. "That's not how it works! If there was anything serious in your results, the doctor would have called you herself."

"I have questions that Gwen didn't answer."

"I'll see what I can do," she said.

Another physician in the practice called me back. Dr. Burn had seen me in 2016, when she was subbing for my doctor during my battle with c diff.

"First of all, stop taking the antibiotics," she said, as imprudent use of antibiotics has been tied to c diff. Nurse Gwen didn't tell me that.

"Your results don't show 'no infection,'" she clarified. "The results are inconclusive for infection." Nurse Gwen didn't tell me that, either. The doctor said it could be all the fluids I'd been drinking or the OTC meds, but while blood was evident, there was no clear reading on infection.

"This is consistent with kidney stones," she said. My age, my weight, my diet all put me at risk for kidney stones. My symptoms, the location of my pain, the blood in my urine  .... that's what she thinks the problem is.

"But to be sure, let's wait a week and run another test."

A next step! I love having next steps!

Looks like Door #4

When I went to the doctor last Friday morning, I thought I'd been suffering cramps and bloody urine for one of these three reasons:

•  A bladder infection
•  Prolapsed bladder
•  Bladder cancer (gulp!)

The results were inconclusive, and that gives us a fourth possibility: kidney stones.  My second doctor looked over my chart and says it's likely that last Tuesday I passed "a minute one." She wants me to wait until next week, submit another urine specimen, and see if she's right.

We have a plan. I love a plan.

Plus, I feel better. I love feeling better.