Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Heart to Glowing Heart

When I arrived for treatment today, I was told that Dr. Lotus wanted to meet with me prior to treatment.  I was surprised by that, since I didn't expect we'd meet again till next week.  The usual schedule is daily treatments administered by the radiation staff, and every Tuesday I will meet with Dr. Lotus to discuss how things are going and get examined by her.

They told me to change first, and the doctor would be right in to see me.  I know the drill now.  I go to a locker, and find a clean folded gown inside.  I take it and the key, go into one of the dressing rooms and remove all my upper body clothing, and put the gown on.  No necklaces, no dangly earrings.  Then I take my purse, blouse, and sweater and lock it in, and keep the key, which is on a bracelet.

I changed and sat in the patient waiting room, the private one I described to you , for radiation patients only.  The nurse called me, and it was cute, as soon as I headed toward the exam room, she grabbed a blanket out of the warmer and placed it over my shoulders.  Almost like the spa, right?

Dr. Lotus was nearby and obviously waiting for me.  I was a little nervous, wondering if my treatment plan had been changed or something new and probably scary came up.  She looked apprehensive and worried herself.  Ah geez.

"I just wanted to talk to you today, because I've been doing a lot of thinking about everything we talked about yesterday, and specifically a couple of things you said."

Am I in trouble teacher?

"Your comment about feeling as if you were receiving Star Wars technology with your breast being rigged like something out of MacGyver..."

I interrupted.  "Dr., you don't know me and my sense of humor yet, but I..."

Then she interrupted me.

"That was a perfect way of putting it, and it made me realize how this whole thing must have looked to you, as the patient.  We do our best to put ourselves in our patients shoes, but our patients are the ones that help us begin to understand what it's like receiving treatment."

Dr. Lotus had such a look of concern and hurt on her face, as if she had let me down.  She talked for awhile, basically showing great concern about my first impressions of treatment, wondering if I had lost confidence in what was happening, wanting to make things as comfortable for me as possible, and she would completely understand if I wanted to get a second opinion and possibly seek treatment somewhere else.

She told me how much she appreciated my candor, and explained a few more things to me.  Like why they use bubble wrap even though it seems crude; it provides the perfect air density that does not absorb dosage but gives protection to the skin.  She continued with several other explanations regarding my treatment and she regretted how my Monday treatment went.  She had considered delaying it till Tuesday, when she would be there, but was also trying to keep in mind my concerns about not going too far into the new year due to my deductible starting again.

She assured me she felt perfectly confident that I was receiving the treatment I needed, and they had achieved their goal with my setup, and duplicating it each time I receive treatment.  I was really taken aback by her level of concern and sincerity, and that it was important to her to make absolutely sure that all my concerns and questions and comfort issues were addressed.

"Dr. Lotus, we don't know each other yet, and I'd like you to know that you are getting the me that is at the last stage of this treatment."  I got a little choked up.  "I'm not the same person I was starting.  I'm tired now, seven months in, I've had it with this, I want my life back, my patience is way past its limits, and I hope you will understand all of my comments within the context of that."  I teared up and she wheeled in closer on her little stool.

She teared up too as she spoke, with emotion in her voice.  "Everything you said was completely valid and we can always do things better, and we want to.  It's why we got into this line of work in the first place."  I smiled at her.  It was as if I saw her as a young medical student, with dreams of helping people, and now here she was, in front of me, feeling as if she could have done better.

Here I was, with another medical professional, seeing their reaction to me, taking off the gloves and the coat and the title, and revealing their humanity.  I wish I could be more articulate saying this, of course they are human.  So often though, they keep their guard up, and can be arrogant when faced with their own limitations.  They can't handle it, and throw it back on the patient.  Remember my first surgeon, Hawkeye Pierce?  That's what he did.  His ego couldn't handle that one of his patients did not have the perfect outcome under his care.

I don't think I've told you, or maybe I have, that I dreamt of being a doctor, starting out in college on that course, also wanting to help people.  Life took me in other directions.  I did not become that doctor of my dreams, but as a cancer patient, I know I have helped some doctors become better doctors.

Dr. Lotus heard me.  She really took it to heart.  It was important to her.  She was obviously affected by what I had said.  I told her I felt much better after our talk yesterday, my treatment was easier too, and I wasn't interested in changing where I receive treatment.  I just needed to know she felt confident about my treatment plan and setup, and that my comfort was a priority.

I know I felt better after our conversation, I'm not sure if she did.  I hope so.  She was obviously very concerned.  My treatment today was the smoothest and quickest yet, and I got a kick when I went into the vault, all my requests were already set up.  I will never know what it feels like to be a rock star, or a movie star, and have my special list of items I MUST HAVE in my hotel room.  I do know what it's like to have all my special requests waiting for me in the radiation vault, behind the 4,500 lb. door.

Maybe I should have asked for more.  Where's my lobster and butter?  Where's my sparkling?  Give me a mani pedi while you're at it.
The techs were definitely gentler and babied me today, continually checking in on my comfort level.

You know what?  I deserve it.  I've been through the damn ringer.  I've been a good soldier.  I am still recovering from chemo and surgery.  I got stuff that hurts, including my spirit.  Be nice to me.

I was only there 45 minutes, and most of that was talking to Dr. Lotus.  My setup and treatment only took about 15 minutes.

This I can do.

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