So, about Wednesday.
It was a small adventure, locating the clinic. The place is in an area of the city I don't normally spend much time in, so I was more than out of my element, trying to find parking, looking for the right building, attempting to understand the electronic directory, then finally giving up and guessing which floor to take the elevator to. No signs, and no one to ask.
I'd stuck all the information I'd gathered into a folder I'd recycled from -- believe it or not -- ninth-grade English class. (Last summer, as I was digging through the boxes of stuff that used to be in storage at my parents' house, I tossed the old homework assignments and kept the office supplies.) It was a little weird to feel the thickness of all that data crammed into the space that used to hold a semester's worth of journal assignments, but it was strangely appropriate too. Replace one narrative with, in essence, another even more intimate: blood counts and other analyses set in order like entries in a diary.
To my relief, I'd guessed correctly, and the elevator opened into the foyer of the office I needed. In a few minutes, I was sitting with a lap full of new paperwork.
I couldn't finish it fast enough -- a nurse took me back to a room very shortly. She indicated the examination table and the gown folded at one end, so I got undressed. Hopped up onto the paper liner, folder and forms still in my hands. I was still scribbling when the doctor came in.
"Hi," she said, as she headed for the sink to wash her hands. "I'm Dr. ________, but you can use my first name." She smiled and pulled a rolling stool up to my dangling legs. "What's brought you to our clinic today?"
I held up the paperwork. "I'm sorry; I'm not done with these -- "
"It's okay," she said, taking the forms and my folder, setting them on a chair out of reach. "Tell me what's going on."
I froze. The folder, which held my story, also seemed to have my voice in it. But the doctor was waiting, so I offered the first things I could remember: four specialists, each with their own work-ups, no comprehensive picture. "I need someone who can look at the whole, not just the parts," I said, nodding toward the chair.
She opened the file immediately, eyes widening. As she scanned the contents, I explained when my health problems had begun, trying to get a better beginning, middle, and end established for the fragmented narrative I'd started with. She nodded, taking notes, asking a question here and there to clarify. But for the most part, she listened.
When I was done, she closed her eyes, fingers to her temples, as if she was thinking hard. "This is a lot of information," she said, "and if you're willing to trust me with this, I'd like to keep it for a few days, just to synthesize all of it more thoroughly in my mind. I'm thinking several things right now, but I want to see exactly what's been done and what hasn't so we can put together some next steps."
I nodded. A doctor taking this kind of time before trying to formulate a path to a diagnosis? It was more than I'd hoped for. For the first time in months, I had the sense that I'd found someone who could help. But what kind of follow-up was she envisioning?
"Early next week," she said, eyes seeking mine with a reassuring expression. "I'll be in touch with you with a plan. We're going to get to the bottom of this."
This time, I think I can believe that.
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