I felt my stomach flop when I walked in the room.  The radiology technician was mixing the goo I’d be drinking soon.  I didn’t expect the container to be so big.

“I’m not sure I wanted to see that,” I said.  “That’s for me right?”

“Yep” he said.

“It’s pretty nasty isn’t it?”

“It’s not too bad.  It tastes like Tums.”

“Yeah but you don’t drink Tums you chew them,” I said.

He laughed and went on to show me the whole tray of cocktails he’d be serving me for a series of x-rays the radiologist would be taking. 

“And these are something like Pop Rocks,” he said holding up a cup filled with what looked like bath salts.

“How does someone swallow Pop Rocks?” I asked.

“Well you just kind of throw them down your throat and then we give you a shot of water.”

As a rule I don’t do shots of any kind unless they have a needle.  Hypodermics don’t bother me but experience has taught me anything you throw down the back of your throat be it Tequila or effervescent crystals is going to want to come back up.  Visions of my twenty-first birthday rolled through my head.

“What if I throw-up?”

“We have to try again,” he answered.

“Okay so no throwing up?”


It wasn’t easy.  Drinking the Tums goo that was thicker than your Grandmother’s worst gravy wasn’t my idea of “not too bad.”  It was gross but the Pop Rocks worse.  The fun ones snap and crackle a little.  Pharmaceutical-grade snap, crackle, and POP the whole way down.

If that’s not bad enough then they roll you around, tip you upside down, and right side up, to get the maximum effect.  You think you’re going to explode while they take pictures from every angle.

Despite the unpleasantness of it all I was a good sport.  Or at least that’s what the radiologist told me when he helped me off the table.

“So, what did you find?”  I asked.

He answered in the negative listing all the things he didn’t find and then affirmed the one thing I already know I have.

“So, why’d we need to do this study?” I asked.

“That’s a fair question,” he said.

No kidding I thought.

“These are all ‘pertinent negatives’ when you’re looking for an explanation as to what is causing your symptoms.

“Pertinent negatives,” I repeated.  “That’s a great phrase.”

“That’s a big part of what we do in a situation like this.  We look for every important negative to help focus our thinking,” he said.

“I wish that made me feel better at the end of the day.”

“Me too,” he said.

We shook hands and I headed to the ground floor of the imaging center to visit my girlfriend.  Her office sits just behind the fountain outside the entrance.  She’s always good for a hug and word of encouragement.

Unfortunately she wasn’t there but while I was writing a note for her I saw a man leaving drop a penny in the fountain.  It was obvious he’d just come from the oncology department.  When I turned back to my note I saw another penny.  One I’d left for my friend a few years back with a card.

The radiologist’s words rolled back in my head.  “Pertinent negatives—important negatives!”

I sat down in her chair and stared at the fountain while making a list of my important negatives.  The things I don’t have.  It was a long list—one that flowed from a deep well of blessings I enjoy.  Like the water in the fountain it didn’t run out.

It was a long pause at the end of a long week and just what I needed.  I left unconcerned about the Pop Rocks still exploding in my stomach.  I’d forgotten about being hungry and thirsty from the fast I’d had to do.  I’d forgotten why I was even there.

I drove home at peace.  My list of pertinent negatives had done its job of reminding me of all that’s good in my life.   Knowing what you don’t have to worry about helps you let go of what you are worried about—and that’s good medicine.  God tells us this over and over in His word but sometimes I suppose it takes folks with x-ray vision to show you what you can’t see.


  1. Just got back from Mayo. Got some pertinent negatives that refocused me! I know where you are coming from! Glad you are in good hands!

  2. Lots of value for met to think about here. Thanks, Karen.

  3. Pertinent negatives help when raising kids too! Thanks for the reminder yesterday that even scars (in all forms)can look better with a little TLC.

Leave a Reply