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Parenting the Parents – Part XIII. Bone Density, Cat Scans and Bloodwork, Oh My!

Hooray!! The last Eyedrop Episode was, in fact, the Friday of the day of mom’s last post-cataract surgery check-in with her ophthalmologist. As I’m writing, we’ve even picked her new eyeglasses at the Optometrist’s, and we’re excitedly awaiting the phone call, hopefully later this week, telling us they’ve arrived. After more than 2 months straight of preparation, surgery, and post-op care, it’s nice to have a little fun in the forecast.

Meanwhile, back in the regular world, there were a few follow up tests mom’s doctor (Dr. K) had ordered back in January to be done sometime between then and her annual wellness check in early summer. Two are fairly routine: bloodwork and a bone density test. The other is a little less routine – a chest CT, to take a closer look at a nodule they must have noticed when they did the prep tests for her pacemaker surgery. To be honest, I hadn’t even looked at the details on any of the orders until yesterday. I don’t recall Dr. K assigning it great gravity, but thinking back, I do believe, the last time we saw her (for mom’s pre-cataract-surgery physical), she talked about getting that done. I didn’t have an order for it, so they sent it to me. Then, with all the relative noise in the calendar between January and now with her pacemaker post-op follow-up appointments and the 2 cataract surgeries, mom had wanted to wait to do these other things until we were done with everything else. Understandable, and I was happy to *not* have to deal with those in the midst of everything else.

So yesterday morning, first thing, I called to make appointments for the bone density test and the CT scan. The bloodwork can be walk-in, but it’s usually better to make an appointment. I’m going to be away next week – Tim, James, and I are driving down to North Carolina to retrieve Owen from his freshman year, and my sister is coming down to stay with mom & dad while we’re gone. I need to see if she’s OK to take mom for that sometime next week, and if she is, I’ll schedule it. Bone density is today. CT scan is Friday afternoon, and now that I know what it’s for, I’m kicking myself about once an hour for not looking at the details on the order sooner and making this appointment sooner. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping it’s nothing, while my brain rushes ahead to the worst-case scenario. Yet all I can do is wait. And push my worry out of my head, and my chest when it fights its way in and sits there, like a weight hanging off my heart.

Fast-forward a week and a half now, because I started this post but am just picking it back up to finish it after being away. I got mom to her appointments that week, and my sister took her for bloodwork this week while we were down in NC. I ended up in the ED with mom & dad last Saturday afternoon and evening for almost 6 hours because dad was feeling really awful and although he didn’t have a fever, I couldn’t be sure his pneumonia hadn’t come back (a story for another day). This past Tuesday evening, as we were picking Owen up from his dorm to head out for dinner, Dr. K’s office called (another Dr. from the practice actually, because Dr. K was away). Instantly my heart started pounding because I knew the doctor wouldn’t be calling just for yuks at 7:30 on a Tuesday night.

I felt like I was listening to him through a pillow, and in slow motion. He went through a few things: 1) the nodules in her lung – they looked to be emphysema, though not extensive – had she ever been a smoker? No, but her father was, and my father, too, so lots of second-hand smoke exposure. I shared that she hadn’t been experiencing any discomfort or shortness of breath, which he said was good, and they’d continue to monitor that and we could discuss further with Dr. K at her annual wellness check later in June. 2) Her gall bladder – there appeared to be stones forming. Again – I expressed my surprise, as she hadn’t been in any pain or complaining of any symptoms. Good, again – we’d just keep an eye on that and treat if/when necessary and discuss further in June. 3) Her thyroid. Nodules there on the left side. More concerning; want to get ultrasound to have a closer look sooner than later. Ok, I say – send the order in to the imaging lab and have the office call me once that’s done. I’ll set up the appointment ASAP.

I’m actually somewhat relieved as we finish up the call – still concerned, but somewhat relieved, because I know most thyroid cancers, if it comes to that, are very treatable and have good prognoses. Nodules on her thyroid could explain why she’s lost weight in the past several months, and somehow, this seems better than something questionable in her lung. Somehow. Or is that just my inherent optimism?

The office called the next morning to tell me the order was in to the imaging lab. I made the appointment for the soonest I could do it (next week) and decided to wait until I got back home and could talk to mom in person before telling her what was going on. I didn’t want to leave that to my sister to deal with solo while I was still away. I texted my sister at 8:00 on Friday morning after I got back in from NC late on Thursday night – was she going to be there until 9:00 or so? I’d come by before she left.

She was, so I did. I explained the 3 findings, and that I had made the ultrasound appointment for Wednesday afternoon. I wrote it in the calendar. After my sister left, mom asked me to repeat the 3 things while she wrote them down. She wanted to look them up (she was a medical transcriptionist at 2 different times in her life, so she still has some of her medical books, although at this point they’re at least 25 years old).

Mother’s Day will have come and gone by the time this post goes up, but it will still be 2 more days, and probably another day or two after that, before we have an idea of what this ultrasound has to say. Another phone call I’ll be waiting for, but not looking forward to.


  1. So stressful. Head down, one blip at a time. Good thoughts your way. Keep finding the clarity through the haze. Xo

    • 👍🏻 Every day is a new day – I’m realizing I have no real control over anything not any ability to predict anything. Rolling with it is slowly becoming a practice…

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