Doctor Talk by Mysti Reutlinger

Topic: Communication

Lying on the table with one arm beneath the pillow behind my head, I shift my vision from the tiled ceiling to the monitor. The radiology technician is making small talk as she clicks and leaves notation on the ultrasound images on the screen. She continues to return to one area, measuring it carefully multiple times before moving onto the next area.

Then her light-hearted disposition changes, quickly. I stop watching the screen and stare off at the ceiling tiles once more.

I feel my heart begin to race, flutters in my stomach, and a lump in my throat. The technician finally finishes with the ultrasound. I look to her and she instructs me to stay on the table. She says she’ll be back with the radiologist.

I turn back to looking at the ceiling, half tempted to grab my phone for the distraction. I hear mutterings outside the room just before I hear the door open. I shift my view towards the door where the technician and the radiologist enter. The technician introduces me to the tall, stalky man who shifts his glasses prior to shaking my hand.

As he stands at the foot of my bed, he requests that the technician bring specific ultrasound images up on the screen. He begins to explain what each image shows – the normal tissue, the abnormal tissue, and the mass. At that point, he looks at me and says, “I am going to review this personally with Dr. H., but I am recommending biopsies and the mass to be removed. It’s behaving like an aggressive form of breast cancer.”

What is said after this point is lost somewhere in the fog that instantly takes over my mind. I can’t help but think about my children, my husband, and my life. I hadn’t expected to hear anything other than, “this is a cyst and it will go away” like all the ultrasounds I’ve had before.

Somewhere mid-thought, I focus again on the radiologist who is still explaining images on the screen. At this point, the screen shows the blood flow and how the mass is stifling blood from tissue, leading to additional concerns.

After the radiologist leaves, I let out a sigh. The technician provides me with additional details about reports and a list of referrals to doctors specializing in conditions similar to mine. After I am dressed again, she gives me a hug and I make my way down the hall towards the doors of the hospital parking lot.

All I can think as I struggle to put one foot in front of the other is, “How do I tell my family?” This moment is the beginning of a journey between communicating from the heart and learning new doctor talk . . . with the doctor talk failing to cease.

9 Responses to “Doctor Talk by Mysti Reutlinger”
  1. talleygilly says:

    Mysti – First, sending you all my good wishes to a speedy recovery. Second, I really like the way you convey the abruptness and shock of learning this news through the style at the piece–at the end it drops off, the way it drops off in your mind as you think about how to react to the news and how to tell your family. Very well done. -A

  2. TJ Alexian says:

    Mysti: what a terrifying ordeal. Thinking good thoughts, and hope that those discussions with the family go smoothly. Be safe!

    • Mysti Reutlinger says:

      Thank you, TJ. I’m fairly certain my family has taken the news as well as they could. Having those talks, however, has been difficult.

  3. Anne Katherine says:

    That you are left worrying about how to tell your family…I can imagine how that would be so difficult. And ugh that you are dealing with the doctor talk. My thoughts are with you, Mysti, with many many hopes that all turns out well!

  4. Jen Hurowitz says:

    This is so beautifully done, Mysti. Between the cancer in my family and working for a surgeon, I understand how overwhelming “doctor talk” can be. And my stomach was in a knot while reading this, even though I have heard from you and know you are doing well. My stomach knots for my friend, who shouldn’t have to ever go through this, but who went through it and could still put pen to paper. I hope this is encouraging to women everywhere who are too fearful to deal with the “doctor talk.” ❤ ❤ ❤

  5. Micheline says:

    Thank you for sharing this. It really makes the reader experience what you’re going through at that moment. Well, I’m sure it’s not quite the same, but it was powerful nonetheless. I can relate as my mom dealt with cancer and I often accompanied her to treatments. Wishing you all the best!

  6. Richard Wiseman says:

    God bless you and my prayers are with you. Your post very movingly shows that communication, so easy at the best of times, becomes troublesome in more difficult circumstances. God bless you & your family again and praying for you all as I write this.

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