3: to cause an intense and usually negative emotional reaction in someone
Being in the counseling space I’ve heard the word trigger for years. I’ve even used it a few times when talking about something sensitive in an attempt to keep someone from reliving a trauma in reaction to something I am about to say or do. I have even experienced some triggers in the past, but I never really suspected I had anything that I needed to be cautious of related to triggering past trauma. Yesterday and today has me rethinking that.
I had a doctor appointment yesterday to address nagging knee pain that hasn’t really improved since I hurt it during the Rockin’ Rockwoods 53k I ran back in October. I have seen my chiropractor regularly since then, and the knee pain would improve, then act up, then improve, and now 8 months later he and I agreed that we should probably look into what else might be going on (besides the really tight quad and calf that we have been working on).
A good friend recommended a particular sports medicine doctor and I was delighted to get in to see him within a week. I met with him yesterday and thought to myself when I got there how typical a doctor’s office is. They mostly ask the same questions and gather the same information. Weight, height, allergies, medications, etc. I noticed two differences this time: first, no one balked at the fact that I am an ultrarunner and have been running on the knee that’s causing pain for 8 months and second, this is the first new doctor visit I have been to in the last few years where I didn’t have to take off my pants. Dealing with a reproductive type of cancer, it seemed that every office I entered had this requirement. I noted this difference and reflected on the other visits I’ve had where I sat in the room for often more than an hour with no pants on and a sheet draped over my waist.
The appointment was pretty awesome. This doctor knows my chiropractor well and noted that if he wasn’t confident in that chiropractor’s care, he’d refer me to PT before doing anything. But because he knows him and is familiar with the level of care he provides to his patients, he was confident that we are past PT and needed to go in a different direction.
They took x-rays and I didn’t have to wear one of those long blanket things to cover my reproductive system because, well, most of it is not there. The x-rays were mostly normal but showed a couple of areas he wanted to look at more closely. He said we could do a cortisone shot which would definitely help, but if something else is happening in the knee, like a tear in the meniscus that he and my chiropractor hesitantly suspected, it will resurface later in life and could be detrimental in not only my running but even my just walking around. Next suggestion: a MRI.
So I had never had a MRI. I really didn’t even know what it was. I set the appointment for 7:45pm last night and googled to see what, if anything, I needed to do to prepare. It looked pretty standard so I figured I’d show up and go from there.
I won’t go into the details of the MRI, instead I’ll just say that I used lots of deep breathing and mindfulness meditation to get through it. The noise was intense and as I left it felt like my face was melted. Something happened in there that doesn’t feel safe, for real. I'm a believer in medical necessity but am also super comfortable with it being a last resort. I know it's supported by science as safe but for real. Face Melted.
Anyway, it’s done and the results are in and while he did see some "fray" on my meniscus that is a bit concerning, since it was only on one vs. the three angles that would necessitate a scope, we opted for a cortisone shot. Holy crap that hurt! I'm not afraid of shots at all. I have had more shots than I can recall over the years working in the healthcare field. Hep A, TB tests, etc. were just a part of the job. This was crazy and unexpected. I guess I should have googled cortisone shots first. Actually, maybe not! It's definitely a better step than a procedure like a scope that would require anesthesia though.
Thankfully this was all good news. What I didn’t expect in any of this was how this seemingly unrelated event would trigger so many memories for me. For the MRI, I had to remove all of my jewelry and place it in a bag in a locker, I had to do that before my other two cancer related surgeries. While the MRI tech at the hospital was quite friendly and kind, he is also there for his job and I am just another person on his schedule. It’s hard to not feel at least a little dehumanized when someone is hooking you up to stuff that you don’t understand. At least I was wearing pants this time, I thought.
Also, waiting for the results brought up so many feelings. For months and months I waited for results from test after test after test. Each one building upon the last that lead up to the final answer...cancer. I was so glad that this new doctor reached out to me almost first thing this morning to call me in for the results. There was no 3+ weeks waiting to find out what I was dealing with. That was a huge relief.
There is one tiny round spot on my MRI that he said something about but said was likely no big deal. Guess what I told myself it was? Cancer. Once it has been somewhere in your body, and the reality that it doesn't just happen to other people, it is a much more common concern. I'm other people to other people. It happens. It did happen. To me. And while unlikely it is a very clear fact that it can happen again.
My experience related to my cancer is something I thought I moved past. Never in a million years would I imagine that all of this would come flooding back to me after a seemingly unrelated doctor visit for a sore knee.
As with all of my past experiences, this is part of my life now. Each experience related to my cancer journey was traumatic in it's own way. The motion of moving from the gurney onto the surgery table scared and unsure of what was about to happen was extremely similar to the feeling of crawling onto the bed thing outside of the MRI machine not knowing what was about to happen to me. I think I have great coping mechanisms and do not feel like I repress these feelings, yet they jumped up out at me like it all happened yesterday. I remember each detail and can't help but find similarities.
Trigger. It's a real thing, even for people who cope really well with bad shit like I do.