Picture of Peggy CummingPeggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher – retired after 34 years in the classroom – and an athlete.  She is now post-surgery and post-chemotherapy.


The waiting room for my Thoracic Surgeon is much like any other. The unspoken, unwritten ‘Waiting Room Rules’ seem to apply: No Eye Contact, No Conversation, Appear Calm. With unfocused eyes, patients flip through outdated, uninteresting magazines, or scroll through previously read emails on smart phones. Outwardly, all is calm, quiet and relaxed. However, a rapidly pulsing crossed leg says otherwise….

In a few weeks, it will be my turn to deal with my stress in this waiting room. I will be trying to follow the rules, but the reality is that my anxiety levels will be off the chart. My appointment will be to receive feedback/results/information from my most recent CT scan. The CT scan reminds me of a famous Clairol advertisement … “Only her hairdresser knows for sure.” In this case, the doctors can speculate what is happening in my lungs, but …’only the CT scan knows for sure!’ Either … Your lungs are clear; or, Your lungs are not clear. The results are overwhelmingly significant.

The CT scan is a fast and simple procedure. In only five minutes; the technician will direct me…

Lie down on the bed.

The bed will slide and I will be swallowed into the hungry machine.

Hold your breath.

Whirrrrrrr. Clug-g-g-g!

Breathe normally.

Slide out.

Relax. We’ll do a few more.

In five minutes, the digital gypsy will read the tea leaves of my future. Then it will take a week for the results to slowly hike their way through medical pathways and into the hands of my surgeon.

Anxiety is not new to me. My earliest memories of stress were in grade school, on a Friday afternoon, waiting for report cards to be given out. Did I earn any As? How many Bs? Cs? Will my parents be happy? And years later, as a mature university student with two children and a teaching career, I remember the tension of waiting for the postman to deliver my first semester’s marks, to tell me if I was completely wasting my time, money and effort, or if I had the ability to fulfill my dreams of graduating from university. More recently, in the competitive swimming world, I anxiously gathered around the results board, elbow-to-elbow with other swimmers, straining to find the page with my event… 200 IM, female, 70 – 74. Did I earn a top-three place?

These other memories of stress and tension have the commonality of achievement, of wanting to get positive feed-back from my efforts. Waiting for the results of a CT scan is completely different. In reality, it is measuring and giving feed-back to the skill of my surgeon and oncologist. Have they made the precise incisions and mixed the exact chemicals to eradicate the tumours? Will the tea leaves predict a positive result? My body only carries the results of their practice; there is nothing that I could have done, or should have done, that will affect the results.

Back to the waiting room, and my body is now nearly jumping out of my skin with tension. Shortly, the doctor will call my name, smile, shake hands, and usher us into her office, making some polite ‘How-are-you’ chit-chat. I will have to wear an industrial muzzle to stop from screaming…Tell Me! Just Tell Me!

No matter the result, there will be tears. Releasing the tension with knowledge, one way or the other, is massive, and, for me, tears of relief are unavoidable. With the CT scan results I will know how to go forward in the next steps of my life, going in the direction pointed by the tea leaves.

Peggy has her own photoblog, the F-stops here, where she posts a photograph every day.