Head Shots

Yesterday I took Angus to CHEO for an x-ray of his forehead: a few weeks ago I took Angus to a friend of ours who's a dermatologist because he wanted something for his face, and there was a bump on his forehead that he'd thought was an acne scar but actually turned out to be some kind of bony growth under the skin. She said it was probably nothing, but ordered an x-ray just to be sure.

Aside from some fairly negligible anxiety about getting to the hospital and finding the right place, I was feeling pretty calm. The last time we were at CHEO for an x-ray, Angus was two and a half and had a broken femur. It was a nightmare - he was in pain and terrified, I was pregnant with Eve and panicked, and my poor husband was trying to hold it together for all of us. The fact that I was walking in with my taller-than-me son beside me, moving under his own steam, made this seem pretty small potatoes. We didn't have an appointment, we were just told to show up between eight and four, which made me think we could be there for a while, but when we checked in the woman at the desk said it should only be about twenty minutes, so that was a pleasant surprise too.

As we were sitting in the hallway waiting, we could hear some poor child wailing behind one of the doors. I don't know if she was hurt or just scared, but it was heart-rending either way. I was feeling incredibly grateful to be there for something so minor. I remembered being in the waiting room while Angus was having his leg set under anesthesia, surrounded by other parents, some of whom had children whose projected outcomes were not nearly as rosy. We were careful to volunteer that our child wasn't there for anything life-threatening or permanent, and the other parents were so gracious, saying that no matter what, it was scary having a child go under anesthetic. They let us into their community and gave us their support, and I was awestruck and so thankful.
Photo by Sharon Brogan

The x-ray tech took Angus in, then told us to wait while she showed the doctor the films. She came back and took him back in for another view, then told us to wait again. She came back and told us they did see something - something about the left sinus being cloudy - and told us to call the doctor for the results.

Suddenly I was in a cold sweat. What the hell was I doing? I'd forgotten to protect us by envisioning the worst-case scenario. I should have been assuming that this was something dire, I should have looked up all the horrible things it could possibly be, otherwise I was leaving us open to be blindsided. My complacency had clearly endangered my child.

We went grocery shopping and I let him pick out what he wanted for lunch and his favourite ice cream - you know, because he had to go to the hospital. He said "you know, I'm not three -- ooh, they have Smarties ice cream!" We went home and I called Matt and told him we were done, then emailed the doctor to tell her to watch for the results. Then I went online to engage in some defensive Googling.

No matter how much I tried, I could not find anything serious or panic-inducing related to a cloudy sinus on an x-ray. At the worst, it could be a sinus infection that they might have to drain with a wire up his nose or something. Not since I tried to convince myself that I had tongue cancer have I come up so devoid of a reason for hysteria.

How do you walk around knowing all the crap that can happen and not just be simmering in a bath of dread all the time? How do you stay grateful for having a healthy kid who bugs you for an urgent bedtime chicken taco without dwelling on all the ways it could go bad? How do you visit a children's hospital without revisiting all the horrible reasons it's necessary to have a children's hospital?

I don't know. So, I'll just be grateful. For vigilant doctors and children's hospitals and non-alarming results and goofy overgrown 13-year-olds. And Smarties ice cream.


Swistle said…
My two favorite parts:

1. "What the hell was I doing? I'd forgotten to protect us by envisioning the worst-case scenario."

2. "He said "you know, I'm not three -- ooh, they have Smarties ice cream!""
Kim said…
You are awesome for holding it together and for letting ice cream do the heavy lifting. And I am pleased that for once, Doctor Google gave nothing to increase the panic.

Sending you many hugs and lots of love.
Julie Leclair said…
good grief i would have googled the crap over bony growth on face!

cloudy sinus sounds pretty innocuous. and completely deserved of smarties ice cream. and perhaps a forced snuggle. :)
StephLove said…
Beth is the same way about worst case scenarios, like exactly the same.

We've been getting some of that "I'm not three" attitude from N (when I praised him for saying thank you to a waiter, he said, "I wasn't raised by wolves") often followed by glimpses of that three year old he was not so long ago. He turns 13 tomorrow. I am awash in nostalgia.
Nicole said…
I agree with Swistle, above, for the same favourites.

When Jake was 5 he had to have a circumcision (long, involved story here). But anyway, I was all stressed out going to the Children's Hospital. We went to the ward and it turned out that the urology place was in the same place as oncology for children with kidney disease and cancer. And what we had was so minor...I was so grateful in that moment. And even though the circumcision was pretty awful and the recovery pretty traumatic, it was a minor kind of traumatic. I try to think of that and be grateful, because when I got there I was all "OMG MY LITTLE BOY" and then there were all these people with children who did not have a chance for a positive outcome like I was looking at.

Long comment to say, I hear you, babe. Hope Angus is feeling well and yay, Smarties ice cream (did you know they also have Rolo?)
Sarah McCormack said…
I had anxiety just reading about that trip to CHEO. truth.

Maggie said…
"you know, I'm not three -- ooh, they have Smarties ice cream!" HAAAAA. This sums up a reasonable portion of interactions I have with my 11 YO. Classic.

My college roommate (room mate? I can't spell) is a pediatric oncology nurse and has been for over 20 years. I literally have no idea how she does her job without sobbing every day or becoming an alcoholic. Seriously, she is my hero.
Christian said…
Take it easy. Sometimes, we’re just plain nuts to be creating our own demons.
Magpie said…
Ice cream!

Long ago I had a lump into breast. I was disinclined to do anything about it - it was almost certainly benign - but my mother was horrified that I even thought of leaving it be. Horrified. had it out - and it was benign.

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