24 August 2012

Dr. Who?

Evelyn was not happy to see me standing in her doorway. Evelyn is my Oncologist’s secretary, and between the two of them they are about as inviting as a couple of frozen pork chops.

I’d called Evelyn earlier in the week requesting an appointment for a mammogram. Evelyn of course, hadn’t called me back. This was no surprise as she made it clear very earlier on, that communication was not her strong point.  So I did what I always did, and went down to the hospital in person. ‘Hi,’ she said uncomfortably. I stood in front of her and told her what I wanted. She made some sort of gurgly sound and said, ‘Well, uh, I don’t know about that’. 

Considering the fact that I was supposed to be ‘closely monitored’ due to my higher risk factor, her reaction wasn’t very reassuring. ‘Maybe in six months’, she said.  Then she started shuffling files that may have been important, though it looked like an excuse to get rid of me.

I must confess, that after my last radiation appointment, I went home with the intention of sleeping for three months. I had no interest in seeing the inside of a waiting room for a very long time, nor did I ever want to take my shirt of under a fluorescent light. I needed a break. But then my stylist (Jim) casually said, ‘When’s your next check-up?’ I got out my well-used appointment book, and saw that the pages for the next few months were pristine. Though I have been taking care of myself, I realized it was time to find someone with better credentials to take get back on board.

‘Who is my doctor?’ I asked the frozen pork chop. She looked up at me. ‘Who do when I go to when I need to be looked after, or when I want to book an mammogram.’ She did some more fake-filing and told me I should book my mammograms through my surgeon’s secretary. ‘Try book with them,’ she said, ‘ and if you run into problems, you can call us.’ Bullsh*t! I wanted to say. But instead, I turned and left her office.

Dr Escargot’s secretary is much nicer. She (Jenny) was on the phone when I burst into her office, but she seemed more overworked than frosty. I sat awkwardly while she wrapped up her phone conversation with another patient, and I surmised that this patient was just diagnosed - which sent shivers down my spine.  It never stops. But while she was on the phone I tried to use my time wisely. I remembered something I read in Cosmo (or some waiting room magazine) about exuding confidence, and I tried to sit up straight, keep my shoulders down, and my arms away from my body in a relaxed yet powerful manner.

Finally Jenny hung up the phone. ‘Remember me?’ I chirped. She looked at me over her thick glasses. ‘You look familiar’, she said kindly. Familiar? To be honest, I was kind of surprised. I’d spent many hours talking to Jenny pre-surgeries, and I thought we had a connection. They were some of the most profound moments of my life! But to her, I supposed, I was just another patient. I felt a little deflated by her remark. I felt like I’d been kicked out of the club. Or, like I’d just snubbed by an ex-boyfriend.

I reintroduced myself. (Don’t be fooled by the short curly hair!) Then I told her I wanted to book a mammogram and she sighed, and spun her chair around to reach for my file. ‘You’ve got one next year,’ she said. That wasn’t good enough, I wanted one this year. So I said to her,  ‘Who is my doctor?’

She looked baffled. I continued, ‘Who do I go to when my rib cage is hurting or when I have numbness in my arm?’  ‘Well, she said, ‘You could try your GP. Or you could call your oncologist, I guess. And if you can’t reach anyone, I guess you can try us.’

There are times when I get so exasperated that I feel like my IQ dips into the single digits. I don’t have the tools to absorb big concepts, or big words. I like simple things. ‘Jenny’ I said ‘Who is the first person I should call when something is wrong. Tell me the order of who I should talk to.’

She pondered, and sighed. ‘Okay. Call us first. I guess. And then we’ll assess you and see who you should talk to next.’ Though unsatisfactory, at least her answer was clear. Nobody is taking charge here. And since someone needs to be in control, I ‘ve elected myself. Summer break is over. 

Dr. Janet is in the house.