The Anxious Camper

Here’s an entry in my new series, GDTRx. I’ll warn you: it’s wordy and personal, the opposite of my photo-heavy travel posts. If you’re still interested and want background, read my previous post, linked above.

Update: I do not have a pituitary tumor, hurrah! I don’t know what’s wrong with me yet, but that has been ruled out, and that was my main concern when I wrote this post. I’m not going to edit that out right here, but I didn’t want anyone reading this to worry.

The symptom I was having that started me on this medical mystery tour (man, I like that – consider it ™️) is anxiety, which is so tricky to admit to, to diagnose, to even just talk about casually. I mean, everyone has some amount of anxiety, so when is yours serious?

I mentioned it to my doctor at my annual physical last fall, so when he ordered the usual bloodwork, he added cortisol to the checklist. And mine came back alarmingly low. On to the endocrinologist, more tests, and the discovery that several of my hormones are basically missing. (I’m exaggerating, but really, a few are almost at zero.)

Back to the anxiety, though. I’m still not understanding: if the body produces cortisol to deal with stress, and because I don’t have enough, do I struggle with stress more? Feels like it.

Campground Stress

Take campground stress, oh, just for example. Here at Watkins Glen State Park in New York, two big campers pulled in beside us and across from each other so they could form one big group to celebrate Memorial Day together. I’m not kidding, there are maybe ten children yelling at each other right next to us, maybe more, but it’s hard to count them because they’re a big blur.

I did count the bicycles: twelve. One very fast remote-control car, several of those big red balls that they try to play dodgeball with in the street, and many hairbrained ideas, like shouting into the gorge behind us to get an echo, and not being deterred. “Let’s keep trying for 20 more minutes, just in case.” Cause, you know, quiet is the last thing you’d want when camping. Did I mention the drum set?

Last night, as we were driving back (driving home, to us) and approaching the campsite, we tried to guess what we would find. A swimming pool in the middle of the street that couldn’t be moved? Maybe a pony ride? Turns out it was just two large campfires, with assorted ax-use by small children and a couple of games of chase with burning branches. Nothing really to worry about.


My new anxiety cattle prod was getting that MRI done, since it was a monumental achievement to have gotten it scheduled, and I didn’t want to mess that sucker up and have to reschedule. And I had plenty of time to worry because it was scheduled for the late afternoon, which meant a full day to let anxiety build.

On the way to the hospital in Rochester, we were tailed by a cop, and I mean he stuck right behind us for like half an hour. I joked that when he finally turned on his lights, we could pull the brain-tumor card. “Officer, we’re in a hurry to get to the hospital,” then whisper, “brain tumor.” We didn’t get to try that, but maybe we’ll have another chance. Is that funny? I think it is. [Edited to add: remember, I just found out I do not have a brain tumor.]

At the hospital, I’m so nervous I forget my facemask, and then I don’t even notice at first there’s no one there to object. Like, no one. This is a rural hospital south of Rochester, and I walked around the deserted first floor after hours where all the testing stuff is done. No patient rooms, no nurses. No one, except a janitor mopping the floors, I kid you not.

Finally I find registration, with one surly guy at the desk, then radiology, with zero people of any attitude. In a side office a lady’s eating dinner behind a partially closed door, so I knock, and she takes my paperwork and tells me to wait. Okay, I can do that. Except I keep waiting, and I’m the only person in sight, in a creepy deserted hospital. My anxiety grows. A sign tells me that if I’m waiting for 20 minutes I should tell the front desk, and the sign on the front desk says they’re closed for the day. Duh.

I head back to the lady eating her dinner, who sighs and says she’ll call the mri people. Who show up in like 30 seconds, because clearly they hadn’t been called yet and were simply waiting on me like I was waiting on them.

By this time I’m so anxious I’m having a hard time walking straight as I follow the mri technician. I’ve got a list of questions on my phone and I’m trying to read them and ask them in a coherent way, but I’m so nervous I keep repeating myself. I don’t even blink an eye when we step onto a freight elevator and the girl tells me to hold on. I’m just looking at my phone asking questions. And holding on.

It’s not until the whole thing is over (with and without contrast) and I’m riding the freight elevator back down that I realize the mri set-up was in a trailer semi-attached to the hospital.

At this point, who cares; it could have been in Satan’s cleaning closet, because I got that sucker done. I had to schedule it without a referring physician and without cell service at our last campsite in the woods; it’s what’s going to get me in to see a specialist when otherwise they’re all booked for a year, and it got done.


That was Wednesday. Thursday and Friday I was not just waiting for results and a call for an endo appointment, but also trying to coordinate all three medical offices to do my bidding.

  • Radiology said they’d call my pcp to prompt him to fax a request to expedite the report. (Like that’s gonna happen. They’re probably still eating dinner with the door closed.)
  • The endo I’m trying to get in with says they never got the papers from my old endo or my pcp. Really?
  • My old endo says the new endo started sending a fax then stopped.
  • My pcp says they were on hold with the new endo for so long they had to hang up.
  • My pcp says the radiologist did the basic reading of the mri but hasn’t finalized it.

By now it’s a holiday weekend. I have no mri report, no idea if my referral papers got to the new endo, no idea if I’ll get an appointment. That’s my current status.

If you’ve read this whole danged thing, consider it my first installment of GDTRx. I’m going to write what I feel like writing, as often as I feel like it, but I promise to put a warning up top!

6 thoughts to “The Anxious Camper”

  1. Geez, I have anxiety (within reason I think!) and the thought of trying to find parking at the local hospital for tests/appointments/specialists is bad enough, I can’t imagine having to do all that extra scheduling! A couple of times I have had to find my own specialist or surgeon and clearly I managed it but to do it so often…man. Perhaps I’m imagining it worse than it is because as a non-American the complexities of your system terrify me, but I’d say at least a good chunk of your anxiety is totally reasonable! Add to that any low-cortisol-induced extra anxiety and frankly I’m surprised you’re not balled up under a blanket in a corner of the Airstream! But you’re out there doing what you need to do so well done – even though it must really suck having to push through it all the time like that. Even low-level anxiety is no fun! I guess it must serve a useful purpose, evolutionarily, but I know I’d rather be one of the non-anxious people we’re there to balance out and suggest to that throwing sticks at that sleeping cave bear might not be the best idea. Because I bet most of the time it would be fine and it’d be a lot of fun!

    1. I know what you mean, but I’m awfully tempted to point out how unfun throwing sticks at bears would be. 😎 But yes, from one anxious person to another, I appreciate this!

  2. Hi Shelly,

    I have read the whole thing and I have a question. Have this “Going Down the Road” thing become like a 24-hour job or something? What I mean by that, you need a vacation. It’s like if you’re in the spinning wheel you don’t see the obvious.

    I also mean that it’s nothing wrong with “Going Down the Road”, but why not think about it the other way around… making “Going Down the Road” vacation.

    Sometimes we all need a quiet stable place to orientate from and you like never find it at work. It’s like, try to think out of the box and brainstorming ideas just to allow yourself to get a feel of “what if”. I’ve done that and maybe it works for you too.

    So keep doing your GDTRx writing Shelly.

    Anyway I’m here.


    1. Thanks Li! Writing is my way of working out my fears these days, I guess. You know how that is. Thanks for being there for me!

  3. Hell, I’m reaching for the Valium just reading about the campground situation. I think you know the level of anxiety I live with so if you ever need a benchmark reality check, chat me up. Anxiety sucks.