This is kind of a long story, one that doesn't yet have an ending so I am opting to break it into parts. Here is Part 1.
Things were looking up, mostly.
I went on a fabulous vacation to St. Martin with friends. Though hard, I survived a year of sad anniversaries. I moved to a new apartment I love and had a mother-daughter trip to Italy in my immediate future.
But there were issues. I had been full-on sick three times since December 2015 (and as I write this, I seem to be getting sick again). And I had this nagging, super-specific pain in my right side. It made me grimace each time I moved from sitting to standing, but then disappeared.
While at the chiropractor, I asked him to be careful around the sore spot. When I left the office, it was with his strong recommendation that I see my general practitioner to rule out sub-acute appendicitis. Sigh.
A few days later, I did see my doctor and after an examination, he asked me to go to the Emergency Room versus waiting a few more days to schedule an outpatient CT scan.
[For my readers outside the US, know that the words Emergency Room fill us with dread as it typically means hours of waiting around with other suffering people, many of whom you wouldn't want to encounter in a dark alley. In NYC, it tends to be much, much worse.]
Fortunately I was seen relatively quickly at the ER. In fact, I was initially treated like quite the princess, being assigned a large, private examination room. They efficiently made plans for me to get the CT scan, inserting an IV and giving me a little pitcher of gross contrast-laced water to gulp.
I felt silly for being in the ER, surrounded by sick people needing treatment when I felt more or less fine. My biggest problem seemed like whether or not to tell my mother what was happening now or later.
When I was taken for my CT scan, they warned me that an infectious (!) patient was coming in so I would not be luxuriating in my palace of privacy complete with a flat screen TV while I waited for results. And that's how it came to be that I was lying on a gurney in a busy corridor next to a drunk old man who looked way too much like Bill Cosby when I got the news.
The very kind physician assistant Cedric who had been leading my case had to end his shift at 8 pm by telling me that while my appendix looked healthy, the scan found a large adrenal mass. He looked as stunned as I felt. I worried that I had ruined his night as I went from his healthiest patient to potentially his sickest.
Before I could even begin to process the news, "Bill Cosby" bellowed for a nurse until one brought him a bottle to pee in. And that's what he did, just four or five feet behind my now-spinning head.
After I got the news about my adrenal mass, time seemed to both slow down and speed up.
Cedric had paged Surgery for a consult, he told me before leaving the hospital at 8pm, the end of his shift. I had arrived at the ER around 4:30pm and up until this point, I had been given a steady amount of attention and was rarely left alone for long.
But then I was left waiting, and waiting, and waiting. Drunk Bill Cosby alternately bellowed and snored. Nurses and doctors would move my gurney out of the way so they could access one of the computer terminals. A nurse noticed me quietly crying and gave me tissues. Tiny, thin, papery, terrible hospital tissues.
When the nurse asked about my tears, I told her about the 14+ centimeter mass in my belly and the sad year my mother and I had just lived through.
How could I put my mother through more pain, I wondered?
I told the nurse that I was worried about whether or not I would need to have surgery immediately. I asked myself if I should wait to tell my mother anything beyond the fact that I was at the ER. After all, it was now after 9 pm and Mom was a two hour drive away in Pennsylvania.
The nurse, while sympathetic, had work to do and she soon left me on my own.
Hours passed and no surgeons came to talk to me. Crying wasn't helping so I did what I often do: I turned to humor. I spoke to anyone who made eye contact with me (other than Bill Cosby, I mean).
"Shouldn't the surgeons be dying to talk about my tumor? It's HUGE!" I asked a nurse in mock outrage while actually wondering why no doctors were rushing to talk to me. Didn't they want to take ownership of my case? Wasn't I more interesting than the old, old woman with pneumonia?
"Wow! I'll have flat abs after my surgery, right?" I craved connection, but laughter would do.
I was finally released from the hospital around 12:30 am. that night
A surgical resident and her attending had come by around 11:30 to explain that my surgery wasn't "emergent" and that further testing would be needed before it would even be scheduled. While their concern with my condition was evident, I didn't get the sense that they were all that impressed with my massive mass and it left me feeling a bit annoyed. But at least I got to go home--once they took more blood and a second urine sample. Fantastic.
Before I could leave, I had to change clothes in the nearest restroom which, despite the best efforts of the hospital's custodial staff, was persistently disgusting thanks to the parade of drunk homeless men, and elderly people with poor vision and even worse aim. After hours of lying in the black skirt I had worn to work with a hospital gown on top, I wasn't about to get picky. All I wanted was to go home and cry into higher quality tissues.
I requested an Uber to Brooklyn.