My oncologist sent me for a CT scan.
“My oncologist” – not a phrase I ever wanted in my vocabulary. Yet I do have an oncologist (more about this later). And he did send me for a CT scan.
A CT scan is a look inside – past any fig leaves. It produces a computerized X-ray image called “tomography.” My “tomography” is a cross-section, slice-by-slice image of the length of my abdomen. But you might as well call it a “peeping tomography” for the feeling it generates. The image is viewed by a radiologist – somewhere out there – peering into your body, searching for perversions, like cancer.
It all started with a routine physical. I had a small bump on my left shoulder. My family doctor excised it and sent it away for biopsy. He phoned me two days later. That’s never happened before:
“It’s a very rare cancer,” he explained, “only 150 cases in the literature.”
“OK,” I said.
“It’s isn’t likely to spread.”
“That’s good,” I said.
“Yes,” my doctor told me. “But the question is not where it’s going, but rather where did it come from?”
One thing lead to another and off I went to the Oncologist who sent me for a CT scan, to search for a possible undiscovered source of that pea-sized bump on my shoulder.
When you arrive for the scan, they give you a 450 ml carton of “Barium Sulfate Suspension” to drink (I chose the “Creamy Vanilla”). The short name for the drink is “Contrast.” Apparently, a person’s internals are monotone and dark. So the “Contrast” is like a liquid flash bulb. You swallow it and then sit for an hour. This allows the “contrast” enough time to filter into the nooks and crannies of your digestive system. This also allows enough time for fear to infiltrate your denial system. I sat there staring at all the chairs in the waiting room. I thought about the people who had sat in those chairs before me.
I couldn’t help but compare and contrast:
Contrast: I’m not like all other people, am I? Things like cancer don’t happen to me. At least, not for a long time.
Compare: You are in an oncologist’s waiting room chair drinking Barium Sulfate Suspension.
Contrast: But the Oncologist was very positive. Surely this is a misunderstanding?
Compare: The little round lump in your shoulder was diagnosed “Carcinoma.”
Contrast: But it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s more.
Compare: Yet here you are. Sitting for a CT scan.
An illusion, deep within my monotone, dark interior was being exposed. Yes, my situation is unique, but I’m not. I came the way all men came. I will go the way all men go. Lord willing, it won’t be now. But it will be.
The Technician called my name. I signed release papers. I lay down on the table. I pulled the paper sheet up. And my pants down. When I looked up… I was alone in the room. No matter how much support you have, you still pass through the scanner alone.
“Place your arms above your head,” the intercom piped, “Take a deep breath and hold.”
Headfirst, like Superman flying upside down, I glided through a large, sleek doughnut-shaped apparatus with blinking red eyes. A whirring noise and I was scanned. I didn’t feel anything – except the fear. It wasn’t that much like Superman, after all. It’s hard to feel invulnerable when your pants are down past your cape and you are being searched for Kryptonite lumps hiding in your abdomen.
The whole thing lasted less than 15 minutes. I left the office and started drinking fluids to wash out the “Contrast.” But I’ve found that the “Compare” doesn’t wash out so easily.
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Two days later, my scan came back clean. Some aging issues showed – but nothing that looked like cancer. I am relieved, but sobered. Relieved – because my ‘normalcy’ is, for now, intact. Sobered – because my illusion of super-humanity is exposed.
Uncertainty remains, I am not out of the woods. I still have an endoscopy and colonoscopy to do. If they are clear too – then we will monitor every few month. And there is always aging. So I have a lot more “Compare” to drink. I just don’t know what flavor I will get.
Bottom Line: Life scans you as you pass through. It reveals your vulnerability. No matter what you try to be on the outside, life will eventually expose the inside. Then vulnerability forces you to decide who you will trust. What will it be? Your illusion or God?
Roger Edwards joined The Barnabas Center in 1991. In addition to counseling individuals & couples, Roger teaches & leads discussion groups about applying the Bible to everyday life. He is a licensed professional counselor, holds a master’s degree in biblical counseling from Grace Theological Seminary in Indiana & earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from UNCC. He is married to Jean, and they have seven children.