Lymphoma Notes, June 21, 2021

Results of My Diagnostic CT Scan

Dr. Arent, a tall, handsome doctor—who could have made good money on General Hospital—enters my room. He has the dubious good fortune of giving me the outcome of my diagnostic CT scan.

“I have your results,” he says thumbing through papers before rolling them into a tube that he grips in both hands. I glance at my husband, smile, and give him a thumb’s up.

Dr. Arent assures us that the dose of radiation I’d received—less than 60 mGy—is harmless. Whatever an mGy is. He continues to spout clinical jargon such as computed tomography, axial, and sagittal planes. Whatever they are. Geometry was never my strong suit. I’m tuning him out. Then, in the middle of one sentence about ionic contrast medium, he mumbles, “A bunch of lymph nodes showed up.”

“Excuse me,” I interrupt, “but what is a bunch?”

He looks at his hands, now grasping the paperwork so hard that it collapses into itself. Then he describes the lymphoma as “multi-site,” “extensive involvement,” “stage 4.”

Oh. What?

With a great deal of sympathy, he says, “I’m sorry. I am really, really sorry.”

Dr. Arent sits down on the bed. He puts his hand on and then strokes my right calf, which lies outside the sheet. I regret that I hadn’t shaved my legs. Through the tears, the stubble troubles me. I try to come up with an intelligent question about the scan but keep thinking that on my deathbed I’ll want my legs to be smooth. My vanity is also stage 4.