Mount Sinai Hotel and Spa usually contacts me by phone. Sometimes the news is good. Sometimes it’s not so good. Either way, whenever they call, my screen says ‘Private Number’.
At first I took all my calls without checking the display. The friendly voice on the other end might say ‘We’re returning your call’ or ‘We’d like to schedule an appointment.’ Then there was the chilling ‘Can you come in to see us.’ That usually meant that they had to deliver the news in person. And since the appointment wouldn’t be immediate, there was plenty of time to feel as though you’d swallowed a hot bowling ball that was exploding into a million pieces.
The worst ‘Private Number’ call was from my family doctor who called one sunny afternoon as I was driving down Queen St. I knew it was bad when she started the conversation by saying ‘Where are you?’ I told her that I was driving and she suggested I pull over. At that point I was a week past my mammogram, and three days past my ultrasound. I had told her that if the results came in on a Friday I didn’t want to know, as I was heading off to Cape Breton for the long weekend. And her call came on a Friday. ‘The test results are in,’ she said.’ And it’s worse than we thought.’
I remember nothing else during that conversation. Nor do I remember going back to work, or going home to pack for my trip. However I do remember being In Orangedale and managing to have a good time. (I’ve got the pictures to prove it).
Almost as bad as ‘private number’ is the manila folder. When test results delivered in person, it is from a doctor who is holding my future in their hands. And I’ve learned from experience that Dr Escargot has the same manner regardless of the outcome. If it’s difficult for him he doesn’t show it. But it’s terrible for me. From the time he says ‘hello’, an eternity will pass until he finally says ‘everything looks ok’.
So last night I was enjoying a peaceful evening in the kitchen, with glass of red wine from France. Jim came in holding an envelope. ‘This is for you,’ he said. I read the return address. ‘University Health Network/ Mt Sinai Hospital’. We both stared at it. Knowing that the wrong information could be the first step another battle, I could barely breath. ‘Open it,’ said Jim pretending that nothing could be wrong. But I didn’t want to because I wanted to preserve my peaceful evening as long as I could. Avoidance was my only tactic. But the letter, which was sitting in front of me wouldn’t go away. So I braced myself, ripped open the envelope, and unfolded the paper. And this is what it said.
‘We’d like to inform you that the book that you borrowed form the Mount Sinai Library is overdue. Please return it at your convenience. Thank you.’
No thank you! And the peaceful evening continued.