I had an ultrasound yesterday. I have one every 6 months now to check my thyroid bed and the lymph nodes in my neck. In between ultrasounds I try to focus on the future and not dwell on my cancer experience. But when it gets close to my next ultrasound I’ve noticed a stirring of my emotions, especially fear, which turns into a bit of hypochondria. I start to worry about lumps and bumps, wondering if they’re cancerous. I wonder about what’s going on with my lymph nodes (thyroid cancer commonly spreads to the lymph nodes). I book the appointment as soon as possible after I get the test order from my doctor because I just want to get it over with.
Yesterday I was lying on the ultrasound technician’s hospital-style bed while she moved the ultrasound wand all around the front of my neck. At the beginning of our appointment we were chatting about new mammogram technology, and about how physically demanding her job is – especially because that same day she’d had to do an ultrasound on a 500 pound man. That procedure required her to push the wand through layers of fat, move gas pockets, and attempt to get clear images of the site to be tested. It was nearly impossible.
As my ultrasound procedure continued, the technician began focusing on the monitor, typing, and taking measurements of the lymph nodes in my neck. She grew silent, our conversation stopped, and the only sound in the room was the tapping of her fingers on the keyboard and an occasional loud beep from the machine. It’s in these moments that my fears take center stage. My mind races, wondering what’s showing up on the screen. What do the measurements show? Is that bad? My world suddenly becomes enclosed in the 4 walls of the ultrasound room, and it feels like my fate is in the hands of the ultrasound technician.
My ultrasound technician yesterday was obviously used to this kind of tension, and was aware that the procedure can be worrisome for patients. She finished one side of my neck, and before she switched to the other side she looked at me and said, “Well, I’m not allowed to say anything, but…” and gave me the thumbs up. I relaxed a little… one side was good. The cycle repeated itself during her examination of the other side of my neck, and once again at the end of the examination she gave me the thumbs up.
I very much appreciated the humanity and caring my ultrasound technician extended to me yesterday. I understand the radiologist has to interpret the results and the doctor always wants to be the one to give the patient their results, talk through any issues, etc., but the ultrasound technicians are the ones that see tumors, cysts, nodules, fluid accumulation, enlargement, strange shapes, and so on day in and day out. They know what problems look like. The technicians are silenced by rules and policies, but I’m certainly glad my technician sidestepped that for a moment and reached out to comfort a fellow human being. I’m grateful for the peace of mind.
If you’ve had someone surprise you with comfort, I’d love to hear about it. Please leave a comment.