Panic Room

The third symptom was fear.

I thought I was taking things pretty well when the ER doc told me, “Your CT scan revealed a large mass on your right kidney.” Which, when you think about it, is not a something anyone is supposed to take well.

A short time earlier, my assigned ER nurse, another 59 year old man in seemingly perfect health, was joking with me about how what I was experiencing was probably the early stages of kidney stones. About how he knew a guy when he was in the navy who shot kidney stones, pain free, into the metal latrine urinals, and still remembered the sound of the stones going “PING” whenever his buddy passed another one.

Now, the time for jokes was over. I was being gurneyed by that same nurse, who decided that I shouldn’t have to wait for the technician to come get me. Because that same doctor who told me how large “large” was, also explained to me that this second CT scan would include a contrast dye, injected into my existing forearm IV, which would illuminate the mass three-dimensionally, on the second film.

While somehow, from the time my wheeling through the halls commenced, to when I arrived in the imaging suite, I began to notice that my body was shaking. Shivering, actually, as if the hospital temperature had dropped 20 degrees in the two minutes it took to go from one room to the other. Then, as I moved myself from the gurney to the table, the technician explained what would happen when the dye was injected… to expect a sudden, cold feeling in my pelvic region, followed by a sensation of urinating all over myself… and that was when the shivering became panic.

When I first thought, “This is…”

Back in high school, I was in the drama club. After getting cast in a couple of key supporting roles in the 9th and 10th grades when, from out of nowhere, I started to develop what I thought was stage fright. It made for a very short acting career. After high school, it followed me to college, and any public speaking I would have to do in a class. This stage fright continued into my early professional life. Any time I had to be in a meeting with management, any time I had to address clients, any time I had to record a message on an answering machine without a full written script, just to say the words, “Please leave a message at the beep”. And even though this intense fear of public speaking disappeared when I was in my mid-thirties, mysteriously… miraculously… in front of a roomful of sweet, older ladies at a radio advertiser luncheon, and never EVER returned, I still remember what out of control panic feels like.

After the shivering moved from my limbs to my lungs, and my breathing became shallow while my chest began to quake, the technician noticed what was going on in my body just as I was about to, for the second time, be conveyor-belted into the machine that looks like… warning, sci-fi reference… a tiny, single-occupancy Stargate. She asked if I wanted a blanket, to which I said,

“No thanks. It’s just fear.”

(c) copyright 2020 William S. Friday