A recent health scare with one of my children demonstrated perfectly that, as parents, we really are always learning.
If you ever experienced any kind of cancer in your family, then like me and hubby, I expect that finding a lump on your child, which isn’t from a knock or a bump or a spot, or in any other way explainable, might raise a few alarm bells.
So when our son found a pea-shaped lump on his neck last week, which seemed to have come out of nowhere and was steadily getting larger and harder, we were understandably concerned. I had enough knowledge to know what I was seeing was likely to be a lymph node. But to me, lymph nodes had only ever come into discussion talking about cancer; my mum had breast cancer and I knew that it spread through her lymph nodes.
I made a doctor’s appointment straight away; and I’m happy to say our local GP practice are very good and can see you almost immediately, but even waiting 72 hours is huge when you’re a worried parent. And in the days leading up to the appointment, I broke down in tears several times, spoke to God more than usual and also begged my mum to be my son’s guardian angel and not let this awful disease steal another loved one from me. At work, unless distracted, I wasn’t at my most productive. And on the day of the appointment, when some trivial issue cropped up I had a mini-meltdown, to the point where my boss suggested I get a cup of tea and perhaps go home a bit earlier.
When the appointment came, our son, followed by hubby and I, walked into the doctor’s office and, between us, explained what our concern was. The lump was so big by now that it protruded quite visibly from my son’s neck.
The GP asked how our son was in himself, was he tired, lethargic, off his food, low on energy etc. No, no, no and no.He asked about recent illness, coughs, colds, stomach aches, earaches. Yes, there had been an earache about ten days ago, but nothing else. He felt all round my son’s head and neck and got him to lie down on the examination table to feel his tummy and lower abdomen. He was very thorough, kind and patient, and he put my son at ease which in turn put us at ease.
When his examinations were finished he explained to us that the swollen lymph node was likely as a result of a mild infection, probably the same thing that had caused the earache, and probably nothing to worry about. But if it didn’t go down within 3 weeks, or if our son started to experience any of the symptoms he had talked about earlier (tired, lethargic, off his food, low on energy) then we should take him straight back.
Our relief was so strong it was almost tangible. And I whispered my thanks skywards several times over the next few days. I hadn’t told many people about the lumps as I was so afraid it was was something awful, but afterward I shared it with a few friends and was surprised at how many of them, particularly guys, said they had the same. Apparently swollen lymph nodes in the neck are quite common for boys and men. Who knew … not me.
When I think about it, it’s easy to feel a bit silly for my overreaction, given that this is quite common. But I really didn’t have a clue. I had no brothers or dad to ask and hubby had never experienced it. It’s another parent lesson learned.
And I’m also very aware that for many people a GP diagnosis like ours is something they pray for but don’t always get. Hundreds of people every day could be finding lumps and changes on their body and when they go to the GP their prayers may not be answered like mine were. And there’s always the sensible school of thought that says if you’re ever unsure about your health it’s always best to get things checked.