Last Thursday, I woke up with this very large lump behind my right ear. It was painful to the touch, and because of its location, I could not see it. All morning at work, it plagued me with pain. Every time I touched it, it felt like it had grown another centimeter, and to be frankly honest, I was alarmed by its gargantuan mass. At lunch, I asked a co-worker to look at it.
“Ummm, I’ve never seen anything like that before. I think you should call the doctor,” he said to me.
I thought he was kidding. “Really, what do you think it is?”
“Cheryl, I am not kidding. It doesn’t look good.”
Of course, my stomach clenched and my mind immediately went to the worst: brain tumor. I was walking around with a brain tumor. I suddenly felt light-headed and my vision didn’t seem right, obvious symptoms of a brain tumor, I was sure.
I sat down, I took a deep breath and regrouped. Knowing that I am quite the hypochondriac, I did not want to allow myself to coax my mind into the labyrinth of fear and worry over what probably was nothing. I chose not to call the doctor and continue with my day.
The next morning, it seemed a little smaller and a little less tender to the touch. Surely, brain tumors do not shrivel up and go away, now do they? Yes! I knew it was not a brain tumor, but what could it be?
- Maybe a spider had burrowed a hole in my head in the middle of the night and laid its eggs! I saw that once on television, and it was totally disgusting, watching hundreds of spiders emerge from a person’s skin.
- Maybe it was a boil that needed to be lanced.
- Maybe it was an ingrown hair that got infected, so the tenderness was really just the pus that surrounded said hair.
- Maybe it was a swollen lymph node… uh oh, doesn’t that mean cancer?
So there I was, back to thinking I had cancer and worrying about spiders crawling around my skull. I went through the entire day thinking that it might be my last. I thought about sleeping in my bed until Tom came home and having Chipotle as my final meal. Yes, if I was going to leave this world, I was going to do it on my terms.
As much as my family got a good laugh out of my catastrophic demise, I survived until Saturday. Carson was a bit bummed because I verbally willed her my shoes and my car. She wanted my iPhone, but I told her that it is just a 4 and she should wait for the insurance money to come in and get a better one. She agreed.
Saturday evening, we went to dinner with friends who happen to be doctors. Through the course of Saturday, the bump abated more, but I had started to develop a horrible cough with tightness in my chest. I asked my friend to quickly look at my bump, and she said it was a swollen lymph node, and it probably was the precursor to my chest cold. She told me to give it a few days, but if I did not feel better, to call the doctor.
Relieved, I enjoyed some delicious Thai food and good company and conversation.
Sunday, the rate of my coughing escalated, and I could not fully catch my breath. By Sunday night, I was wheezing. Clearly, I was going to see the doctor sooner rather than later.
I called the doctor early Monday morning from work to make an appointment.
“Hi, I am wheezing, do to a pretty serious chest cold. Can I get in to see Dr. K. today?”
“Well, let’s just see,” the kind scheduler said on the other end of the line. I heard her tapping away at computer keys. “Hmmm, it seems that Dr. K is booked solid until November 7th. Would you like to come then?” she asked.
Umm what? I thought. I just said I was wheezing. Doesn’t that mean I am not getting enough oxygen in my lungs? Potentially, I really could be dead by then!
“I could check if there is another doctor available today,” she added kindly.
“That would be great.” I am sure my tone was a bit standoff-ish. Could she not have led with this solution?
“Dr. S is available at 2:20. Would you like that?”
It was perfect. I would be able to teach all day, even though I was coughing horribly and wheezing. Short breaths and student-centered activities could get me through until 2:00! I called the secretary, and took a quarter day off, and I went about my day.
When I arrived at the office, I waited a bit to get in to the doctor. I didn’t mind. Knowing that assuagement was in my near future offered me enough comfort to wait in peace. After almost a half-hour, I was finally ushered into a room. After a quick, “What are your symptoms?” by the nurse, she exited, and almost immediately the doctor walked in. He asked me virtually the same questions.
“What have you been taking for this?” he asked.
“Nothing.” I said.
“Nothing?” He looked from the computer to me, gauging the sincerity of my response, I imagine.
“Yes, nothing. I am not really a drug girl unless it is prescribed.”
“Not even cough syrup?” he asked.
“No. Last time I had my daughter to the doctor, they told me that cough syrup only masks symptoms and does nothing to actually abate the problem.”
“That’s true,” he contested. “I’m not an over-the-counter drug taker myself,” he admitted.
“Oh, then you understand,” I said.
“No, not really,” he responded, which left me totally confused.
In the end, he prescribed a steroid and an antibiotic, clearly indicating to me that neither Robitussin D or Dayquil would have helped, anyway.
Luckily, I am not dying. I hopefully will live a long, happy life, and as for the new phone for Carson, she is just going to have to wait!