Time slows down, the days seem longer when a doctor tells you, “It might be cancer.” I’ve had that unnerving prediction gnaw at my gut more than once. Most recently, just a few weeks ago, an unidentified blur showed up on a routine chest X-ray. The doctor told me, “We need to take a closer look, we’re going to do an MRI.” We did an MRI. The doctor said, “Still can’t tell. This could be malignant. Let’s do a CT scan.” We did a CT scan. “Hmm. Still can’t tell, it could be valley fever, or it might be a tumor. We are going to have to do a biopsy.” Understand, several days passed between each of these tests.
Each time, the days were filled with concern, tempered only by my habit of doing my homework. I was prepared to deal with whatever the diagnosis turned out to be. Still there was worry. The day of the biopsy came and they stuck a needle into my chest while I floated in lah-lah land, only partially awake. Afterwards, I had to stay under observation for a few hours to make sure my lung didn’t collapse. And…the concern lingered on, “Do I have cancer?”
The lung specialist who ordered the biopsy, somehow received an early diagnosis from the pathologist who was present during the procedure. Normally it can take a few days to get results. In a blatant display of bedside manners, the lung doctor called me on my cell phone while I was still in the recovery room.
“I have some good news, Bill,” she said. “You do not have cancer.” She sounded genuinely happy for me and went on to say, “You have valley fever.” I rode home relieved and quite pleased to have valley fever, short for coccidioidmycosis. Do not attempt to pronounce this at home.
Valley fever is a lung affliction common in the desert areas of the Southwest. We’ll write more about it in upcoming posts. It is an interesting disease – and far better than having lung cancer.