Driving home from a family get together I felt my neck absentmindedly. Just below my ear was a walnut sized lump. Hard and fixed. I froze. I had no viral symptoms, no sore throat, no toothache. Everyone had been telling me I’d lost weight and looked tired but I was working hard and eating better, so why the hell was my node huge?
Breaking bad news on a daily basis, my mind went into a state I didn’t think it capable of. Unable to concentrate on anything without real focus, I felt like I was having an out of body experience.
The waiting for results was a true act of cruelty. I could see how my patients were unable to have any true quality of life whilst awaiting news that could change everything in a few words. All sounds were on a muffled setting, laughter sounded canned and every look my husband gave me made me well up inside. But I held it together. Almost.
From acts of cruelty to acts of kindness, my histopathologist Kim phoned me one day whilst I was at the hairdressers with my daughters. ‘Are you sitting down Anushka? It’s good news. It’s not lymphoma…’ it took me a few seconds to actually hear the rest of her conversation. It was surreal sitting on that blue velvet sofa with the shrill of hairdryers all around.
Whilst taking the kids for a celebratory Belgian waffle with ice cream (they had no idea why I thought substituting lunch for dessert that day was a good idea) I Googled my condition. Kikuchi-Fujimoto disease. Self-limiting with all the symptoms of lymphoma. A mimicking beast.
For the first time in my life, I was faced with my own mortality. We walk through life noisy, righteous and immortal. Our opinion has to be heard. We MUST change everything to suit us. Then suddenly, all one can think about is whether you’ll get the chance to see your children grow and all else falls silent.
The sounds have gradually come back – I’m noisier but more humble than I was. I believe things happen for a reason and my brief experience on ‘the other side’ of the table connected me to the job I do on a level I didn’t know possible. I feel it’s made me a better doctor. Passionate on a different level than before and oh so lucky.