It was about 6:45 pm. My cell was ringing and the caller ID read, “Dr. Shoustari,” the physician I saw a few hours earlier. Oh.

About a week and a half ago, I went to the doctor to have a swollen area in my neck looked at. My regular physician wasn’t in the office, so I saw her colleague. Dr. Usmani expressed concern, said the lump could be cancerous, and initiated bloodwork and a sonogram. He said he wanted a biopsy to learn more, but that couldn’t be scheduled until Dec. 6th.

The last ten days have been a rollercoaster. Thanksgiving and family gatherings have kept me distracted, but I’m worried. My online education on Google has only confused me further. Is this something related to my allergies? Maybe I have an inflammatory disease and this is going to help solve the issues I have had for years with my sinuses. Maybe this is a good thing. Why would they wait so long for a biopsy if it was serious? I’m trying to stop considering the possibilities.

Today is the Monday after Thanksgiving and I’m not feeling great. Am I coming down with another sinus infection? Am I just tired from the 14-hour drive from North Carolina? I called the doctor and she had been able to see me this afternoon. Dr. Shoushtari listened to my summary of the previous appointments, the shock I felt with Dr. Usmani’s cancer concerns, and how I was feeling today.

She told me she thought my cold symptoms are probably the result of being run down from the long drive and to give myself a chance to rest and heal. She said she had reviewed the labs and sonogram results. She wanted to run more bloodwork and get a chest xray. Both of those could happen in the lab downstairs, so I headed there before going back to work to finish up a couple of things.

Later at home, I heard my cell ringing from the bedroom where I had left it on the charger. I ran in to answer it and saw the caller ID. I said hello and Dr. Shoushtari told me she had the results from the chest xray and she needed to share them with me. I ran back to the kitchen and grabbed a pen and paper.

I walked back into the bedroom as she told me the chest xray came back showing a mediastinal mass in my chest cavity. I shut the bedroom door and balanced myself on the bed. I was scribbling the words I thought I heard. What is a mediastinal mass?!  She said it’s worrisome, because it is located between my heart and my lungs. What?!  She said she needs to schedule a CT scan and also try to move up the biopsy that had previously been scheduled for the following week.

I finished the call and didn’t know what to do. Don was home, but so was my 23-year old daughter Mary. They both had been sitting in the living room of our not very big house. I walked out to the kitchen, turned around, and walked back into the bedroom. I walked back and forth around the bed, then sat down. I rewrote my scribbled notes into something slightly more legible. I waited until I heard Don get up. He started walking down the hallway and I waved him into the bedroom. I pointed to the piece of paper with my notes.

He looked at me and his facial expression showed confusion and concern. I whispered a summary of the phone call and we looked at each other. We held each other tightly. We separated, and I asked if he thought we should tell Mary what was going on. He agreed that it was time. We both wondered out loud if our highly intuitive daughter was already aware that something was up.

We both walked out to the living room and sat down. “Mar, we need to tell you something. I have something going on with my health and we need to make you aware of what we know,” I started. Over the next hour or so, we shared what we knew, as well as the little bit that we had researched on line. We cried, but pretty quickly, we also found reasons to laugh.

We discussed timing to get together with our son Donald, who lives on his own. I wanted to try to give him time to ask questions and process things, without having to rush to work. I texted him and asked him to come for dinner. 

Later in the evening, I sent an email to my siblings. “I’ve been delaying sharing this with you until I knew specifics, but thought I should tell you the latest info, which, as my doctor said, ‘seems worrisome.'”

I am the youngest of five and have forever been classified as “the baby.” We range in age from me, at 56, to my sister, who is 67. I have three brothers in between. One by one they respond to my email with concern, support, and love. We decided to wait to tell our mom until the biopsy is completed.

It’s now 3:30 am. I’m in the living room trying to somehow process this by writing it down. This is surreal.  I think I’ve never fully understood the meaning of that word until now.  Who gets a mass in their chest cavity?  It seems sort of rare.  It happens to people on tv.  I’m pretty average.  Someone goofed up.

Who is someone?

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