At some level, I knew I was standing in the middle of New York City traffic, but my mind was in another dimension entirely. Reminders of your mortality will do that.
The day hadn't started off so strangely and scarily, but it hadn't started off to be much fun either. I was going to my doctor's office for a colonoscopy, my second in nine months. Colonoscopies aren't supposed to happen nine months apart, of course, unless the first one turns up something worrisome — and mine had. Back in August, my doctor discovered a suspicious polyp that needed to be removed. It turned out to be precancerous, and while a large majority of such growths do not eventually become cancer, colon cancer usually starts with just that sort of polyp. So did I have the 40-some years left to me that I had been more or less counting on — or just a year or two? You ask a lot of existential questions like that when you get the kind of news I had gotten. And you do a lot of hoping that when you return for a follow-up exam, all will be well — and the problem will simply go away.
Now I was going in for that follow-up. Surely I would get the all clear, and life would go back to being what it had been. I didn't, and it didn't. My doctor found another polyp, higher up in the colon — a more dangerous location.
I left the doctor's office and stood out on the street wrestling with the news. Pedestrians bustled by — all of them, I felt, untroubled by the kinds of things I was feeling. But of course, I wasn't alone. Indeed, I had something in common with millions of people across the U.S. I was a medical statistic, one of many, many patients who receive the kind of diagnosis I did every day of every year.
Click here to read the full article in Time.