Too Much Information

A CT scan machine in a hospital

I think we all can get a little anxious when it comes to our health. So why add to that anxiety, even if we’re “allowed” to?

A few months ago, I developed symptoms that could have been a lot of things. Most concerning to my doctor was that the pain centred on an area where I had surgery in Hamilton about 20 years ago. I was referred to a London thoracic surgeon whose assistant is the grim reaper of patient phone calls. In a voice normally used on misbehaving toddlers, she listed every possible serious diagnosis. By the time she finished I was certain I had Keebler elves building scaffolding in my stomach that were sure to bust out, Alien-style.

The surgeon put me on medication and scheduled a CT scan and an endoscopy, which I lovingly refer to as a “down periscope”. They lower a little camera on a cable into your esophagus and take a look around your gut. In case you’re wondering, I call a colonoscopy “up periscope”. I’ve had several of both and neither one bothers me, mainly because I found the secret. Tell the doctor that you don’t want to watch the worst television show in history, and they’ll put you out.

While waiting to have my CT, I noticed a sign in the radiology dept. that said for $5 I could have all of the scans ever taken of me at London Health Sciences Centre. So, I signed up. Within a couple of days, more than a dozen images arrived from my MRI, scans and ultrasounds done during my bout with sepsis years ago. I didn’t open them but I will some day. A few days after my CT scan, that image arrived as well. I opened it immediately – and instantly regretted it. Everything looked like something scary! What is that circle? Is that normal?? And why is that thing so much darker than the other things? I snapped the image closed and looked at puppies on YouTube for a while.

Since then, a friend experienced something similar with her scan results. She went to Google and made her anxiety even worse. I didn’t look anything up. I just tried not to think about it, and wasn’t always successful.

When I got to Victoria Hospital last week for my down periscope, the surgeon said my CT scan results were great. “No abnormalities.” Really? Everything looked abnormal to me!

You need to be an advocate for your health care and to be able to access information. But is it really a good idea to show lay people confusing material that doctors take expensive courses at University to learn to read? I wouldn’t mind getting a report on the scan without waiting for an appointment. But even after watching every episode of Grey’s Anatomy, gosh darn it, I can’t read scans on my own!

Since around the time of the CT scan I’ve been feeling much better. My down periscope results haven’t come in yet. My guess is that I developed an ulcer that has now healed, or mostly healed. We’ll see if I’m right. But keep in mind, I’m not a real doctor, and that’s painfully obvious now.

6 thoughts on “Too Much Information”

  1. So glad there was nothing abnormal Lisa. And about reading scans: I felt like the world’s worst mother because in 1991 I couldn’t make head nor tails out of my baby’s ultrasound. So, like someone coming out of an Ingmar Bergman film festival, I smiled and pretended I got it! (Spoiler Alert: there was no tail). Hugs, E

    1. LOL! So I guess I don’t need to feel bad when someone shows me their baby’s ultrasound and I think it looks like goulash? (I smile and coo and never mention the obvious tail!)

  2. Hoping that you feel better & that the down periscope dislodged whatever it was & everything’s rosy now. Sending you hugs

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