Radiology SNAFU and contemplations of potential terminal illnesses

I attempted to go to the radiology location close to my apartment yesterday after my pulmonologist appointment, and although chest x-rays are usually drop-in and don’t require an appointment, I apparently came on a bad day. I knew it was a bad day immediately as I entered the facility. There were so many people in the waiting room that all the seats were taken, and at least a dozen people were standing and waiting. Plus, the line for the receptionist had at least half a dozen people there. When I finally got to the desk, they told me that today was an unusual day: they were behind by over an hour, and so I’d have to come back tomorrow. To be safe, I made an appointment for 9am and returned today… to find out that the x-ray machine was down at this location, so I had to go down to Chelsea. They claim they called me twice and I never answered, but I know this was false because a) I never saw any missed call, nor any voice message (hello? isn’t that medical protocol to leave a MESSAGE?), and b) at least seven other people were standing there, yelling at the front desk workers because they said they never received any calls or voice messages. These are people who had commuted out of their way and weren’t anywhere as young or mobile as I was. Plus, from the pamphlets they were holding, they seemed like they had far, far worse, more serious conditions than I had.

Annoyingly, I made an appointment at their Chelsea location and hopped on the train downtown. And as I sat in the waiting room, I noticed the patients around me waiting to get called in for their x-rays. And they were holding pamphlets about everything from breast, lung, to pancreatic cancer. Lung cancer is the most deadly cancer in the U.S. Breast cancer unfortunately is more common than it is not. And pancreatic cancer is known to be one of the most painful cancers in existence. All I could think when I saw all these people around me was: wow. I just felt so terrible to think they were all looking at these x-rays and appointments as another step along their way to a potential death sentence. It must be so terrifying. One patient looks like she came in with the emotional support of both her son and daughter.

And then I had this dark thought: what if the x-ray results came back and they found I had something more serious that was wrong, like a tumor or malignant growth of some sort? How would I handle the news? How would I share that news, if at all, and to whom, and when? How would I even look at my young baby and think that my days could be numbered with her, this tiny little being that I had wanted so badly and waited so long for? It was a bit unsettling, but a real thought, a potential reality. It doesn’t escape me that death could always be knocking on my door at any point in my life. I am not one of those people who is in denial that death is a part of life, and it doesn’t always happen when you think it will, or when you think it will be convenient. I’ve known too many people who have died too young. Ed is just one of them, the closest of them. And my friend Raj is still the biggest mystery for all who loved him, as we still have no idea what took his life just over two years ago. Life is not long for everyone, unfortunately.

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