THANKS, KATIE. THANKS, MATT. Hello, folks. I'm reporting live from the GI lab, just outside the elevator of the east pavilion ("Do not block door"). This place is crowded, folks, this place is teeming with anxious patients, all of them headed through these doors. Everyone here has a partner, a husband or a daughter or a friend, because when you go behind these doors, you do not come out the same, folks, you come out woozy, you come out confused, you come out unsure of what just happened to you, and you are not allowed to operate heavy machinery for the rest of the day.

Not to brag, folks, but I am one of the lucky ones. I get to just sit here and watch -- watch the people going in and coming out, for three hours. Because that's about how long it takes. That's how long it took the last time Alex got this test done. And that's how long it took the first time.

And this time, just like the other times, the TV is blaring. This time it's the "Today" show, with Matt reporting live from the deck of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This time, just like the other times, I sit here pretending I'm not here, pretending I'm not me, I'm a nurse, a doctor, I'm a host of a TV morning show.

I have come to fear everything about this place. The coat rack. The magazine rack. The huge underwater photographs of all those fish. The photographs were taken by one of the hospital's favorite colorectal surgeons. It says so right underneath. I think that's an interesting hobby for a colorectal surgeon, exploring a world where few people go and looking for exotic life forms.

"Back to you, Katie," Matt says. Katie is in the studio, interviewing a teenage heartthrob. I remember when I heard that Katie's husband died of colon cancer; I took that news so personally. She must have been dealing with the diagnosis right about the time I was. She must have been sitting in some GI lab waiting for the doctor to come out and give her the report.

"Everything's fine!" the doctor said, one by one to the people in this waiting room on that spring day two years ago. And then he called on me. "Tumor," he said. "We found a tumor."

I was right here in this room. We weren't even married yet. I had on this ring. We were so dizzy with love. Well, he was back there dizzy with all those drugs they put him on. And a GI lab did not fit in with my version of a love story. What happened to regular old dates? Picnics, movies, flowers? They don't tell you about the GI lab when you are a little girl, dreaming of love.

The doctor showed me a picture of the tumor. Oh, great. He seemed so proud of the picture. What is with these guys and photography? And then he showed me why he thought the tumor was most likely malignant, why he thought, yes, Alex had cancer.

A few weeks later Alex had the surgery. The doctors themselves were shocked when it turned out that no, there was no cancer at all. "Benign," they said. "B-9," like in Bingo.

Katie wasn't so lucky. So many people who have sat here have not been so lucky. I have spent a lot of time discussing this with God, and so far none of the answers make sense.

But once a year I come to the GI lab, as if to pay homage to the photographs and the fish. And I sit here pretending, for three hours pretending that I am not here. Pretending that this year, this time, I'm not afraid that the doctor will come out and say the T word to me, even though, I'm told, Alex has the knack for growing them.

"Hi, everybody, welcome to the show!" Jenny Jones says, and so now I am Jenny Jones. Do you like my hair? (Sorry about that murder and everything.) Today, folks, I want to introduce you to some teenage girls who want to be supermodels but their mothers think they're too fat. Come on out here, Miracle!

"Miracle?" an old man next to me says. "Her name is `Miracle'?"

"Aw, she's not fat," says another.

"But she has to work on her walk," says the first.

And suddenly the doctor is here with news. I stop being Jenny Jones as abruptly as I started. He calls on Mrs. So-and-So, who stands up. "Everything's fine!" he says. And you can see Mrs. So-and-So's spine release.

Then he calls me. "I have a picture!" he says.

Oh, jeez. I want to tell him, look, if we have to go around this circle again, I would prefer to do it without pictures.

"Everything is fine!" he says. "I just wanted to show you."

So I stand here looking at the picture, having no idea what I'm looking at except luck, just plain old luck, and relief, and none of the questions I had when I was a little girl, dreaming about love.

Jeanne Marie Laskas's e-mail address is laskasmail@aol.com.