Yesterday was like any other day. I worked for a few hours, then had to run for a routine dentist appointment that morning. I met my husband at the dentist’s office and handed over our infant son while I had my teeth cleaned. So ordinary.
I chatted with the hygienist (I was very pregnant the last time they saw me) in between the scraping, the brushing, the flossing. We talked about the crappy weather, the disbelief that we’re almost half way through June, and the sheer excitement of my oldest starting preschool. As she was wrapping up, she noticed I was overdue for the panoramic x-ray. No big deal really. Another room, a quick bite here and hold still, and then back to the original room to sit and read while I wait for the dentist to give me the all clear for another 6 months.
She walked in, we said our hellos, how are the kids, the ritual stuff. She turns to the computer, looks at the x-ray, and then starts to click buttons. Makes it darker. Makes it lighter. Makes it 3D. She looks at me, looks back, looks at me again and asks when my wisdom teeth were removed (a dozen plus years ago)… Some looking and poking. Now let’s be honest. A doctor takes too long between sentences and you worry. But this? This is obvious something is not right.
And sure enough, she tells me there is an abnormality on my x-ray. A shadow she called it. Now first glance, all I see is a Halloween decoration staring at me. I can tell you there are teeth, nasal cavity, etc… But nothing looked strange to me. Then she pointed to my jaw line on the x-ray. And sure enough, an odd little shadow that I wouldn’t have thought twice about.
Then she asks if she can send it to “a doctor friend” for a second set of eyes to look it over. She’s so very careful to consistently say doctor, or friend. She calls in a nurse to email my x-ray to “that doctor” and says no more, just looks at her. Now I’ll admit I do not have a medical degree, and my knowledge is solely from years of taking care of sick family and having a long medical history myself, but I’m not ignorant either. You haven’t once referred to this friend as a dentist, and shadows typically mean tumors. Mean cancer. You’re sending my file to an oncologist to see if she sees what you do.
I’m told “not to worry yet” and “it could be nothing”. In my experience, those reassurances only come out when it’s time to be concerned. Not 24 hours go by and I get a call from the nurse. They’d like me to choose an oral surgeon, make an appointment, and they’ll email the x-ray and my files to them directly. But I’m not supposed to worry, right?
Who knows. Maybe it is nothing. Could be a benign cyst that’s there to remind you to appreciate life. It’s been just a few hours since I called around town to make that appointment. Hours since I discreetly called family to arrange childcare for my boys so I can see this oral surgeon. But tonight at bed time, I relished every minute. Every “one more story” and “mommy lie down”. I happily walked around with a fussy baby for nearly 2 hours enjoying his smell and looking at how much he’s changed and so quickly. Such a lonely shadow on a screen of grey and white. And yet I felt my entire world shift.