Don’t trust me, I’m just the doctor’s wife!

April 19, 2012 Comments Off on Don’t trust me, I’m just the doctor’s wife!

It’s an interesting thing, being married to a doctor and being a health journalist. Because both of these things give rise to a completely unfounded assumption: that when it comes to medicine, I know what I’m talking about.

So sit back and get comfortable, while I tell you a tale…

Several weeks ago now, I dislocated a rib. I know, I know, you want to know how. Frankly, so do I: the final theory offered by my husband during ad breaks was that it was the result of some pretty severe muscle spasm.

But I digress.

In the process of attempting to get everything back where it should be, my chiropractor recommended an X-ray. You see, after three (excruciatingly painful) sessions he managed to pop the rib back in, but then it started to worm its way out again, which was not the result he expected. And so he sent me off with these words: “We really should make sure that there’s nothing sinister going on.”

I almost expected him to tap the side of his nose and waggle his eyebrows in classic ‘you know what I’m talking about’ gestures, but the truth is, he didn’t. And even if he had, I had no clue what he meant. However, I am a woman with a wild, runaway imagination, and a talent for worrying, so naturally I assumed I had a tumour. How a tumour would cause a rib to dislocate, I really have no idea, but I was utterly convinced, and wracked with anxiety at the thought.

I had my X-ray, and waited and waited for the report. Eventually, the kindly receptionists sent me home, and promised to send the report to my husband. As I drove home, I looked at the envelope of films lying on the car seat beside me and wondered if I should look at them. Surely, I reasoned, with the help of Google Images, I could figure out what was normal and what wasn’t.

As soon as I got home I held them up to the window, and looked at my spine, which I actually thought looked quite healthy. And then I saw it. A dark shadow in my torso that appeared on every X-ray, but not anywhere on the Google Images versions. My worst fear was realised. I had a tumour. And it was friggin’ huge.

Now, cut me a little slack here – years ago a very close friend died of a horrible cancer that grew in the muscles of his back. Around the time I was having my rib hoicked brutally back into place, a friend had died of a very aggressive breast cancer and another friend’s nine-year-old son had been diagnosed with a rare, terminal cancer. I think it’s fair to say I had cancer on the brain.

My husband (who knew nothing of my fears) assured me he’d send the report through when he got it, although he didn’t hold much hope of receiving it the same day. I sat at my desk, immobile, unable to eat (which is unheard of), unable to work or do anything constructive. I was just waiting for that e-mail to ping through and paralysed by the thought of what it might contain.

As it turned out, my husband got home before the report arrived. I held up the X-ray up against the living room windows and pointed shakily at the shadow. “What’s that?” I asked. “It’s on all of them.”

“That,” my husband answered, turning the X-ray the right way up, “is your stomach.”

And that, dear friends, is why you should never ask me a health-related question ever again.


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