DON’T GET CANCER IN AUGUST

 

I’ve debated running a series of blog posts to record the profound things I am learning after having been diagnosed with cancer. There are two problems with that idea. First, who in their right mind would want to read posts of me ranting and whining on and on about my problems? And secondly, so far I haven’t had a lot of amazing insights. If you know me, you know I am a Christian. I fully believe God is going to reveal deep truths to me in this process. I’m waiting…

Much of my time has been spent going from doctor to doctor, and hospital to hospital for a barrage of tests and procedures. I am finally a week away from starting the “burning and poisoning” (one nurse’s description of radiation and chemo). Just for fun, I sat down yesterday and counted the stuff up to this point. In just about 2 months’ time I have had 17 medical appointments, had 2 in home visits by nurses, been to 4 hospitals, and seen 9 doctors. And every last one of them needed me to complete by hand a 4 or 5-page medical history form (more about that in another post). I’m almost afraid that before God reveals some truth to me, there is going to be a bunch of paperwork he wants me to fill out.

So far, I have only had one brilliant insight in all of this:  August is the wrong time to get cancer. Doctors are somewhat like human beings in that they all go out of town on vacation during August. With so many people on vacation, scheduling appointments is frustrating. So many times I’d get the response “He is on vacation, he can see you a week from tomorrow.” Normally, that would be fine. But, I’ve got this unruly beast growing in my neck, and it has already invited a couple of lymph nodes to the party. Fortunately, it hasn’t spread anywhere else. But, it is only natural for me to think that every day these treatments are delayed is another day the beast is growing.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t blame doctors for taking vacation in August. Given a choice, I would have taken vacation time this month as well – maybe a week fishing and playing on the beach in the Outer Banks. So, not only has the month been a lot of hurry-up-and-wait, it has cut seriously into my fishing time. That is not a good thing – not in August!

If I ever decide to get cancer again, I think I’ll do it in January. The holidays are over, the fishing is slow and no one is on vacation. Plus, there is the added bonus of being able to eat everything I want during the holidays before starting the amazing radiation weight loss program, where you can shed pounds of unwanted fat and be ready for the bathing suit season.

Back to doctors being like humans. Why does it surprise us when doctors act like human beings? I was so blown away that Dr. Mattern, my chemo guy gave me his mobile phone number and said to call anytime. Doctors don’t do that! But I do. And most people who read this do too. Why shouldn’t he be like normal people. I’m sure he is really busy, but most of the time so am I. What sets it apart is that most doctors would NEVER do that. Have you ever tried to get in touch with a doctor after hours? Many of them have these answering services whose sole purpose is to keep you from getting through to the doctor “until Monday morning at 9 AM”. That’s not very comforting on Friday night at 9 PM!

I don’t mean to pick on doctors. Almost all of the ones I’ve met in this process have been really nice, compassionate people. Of course, there was the young guy – I can’t remember his name so I refer to him as Doogie Howser. If you are too young to remember that show, Google® it. I developed these very painful sores all over my tongue. It was keeping me from eating. So I called the throat cancer doctor’s office. My doctor couldn’t see me (probably on vacation) but they said they could squeeze me in the next day to see Dr. Howser. His entire exam consisted of poking a couple of the sores over and over with a tongue depressor and asking me if it hurt. Here’s a clue Doogie, if it hurt the first time you jabbed me with a stick, it will probably hurt the second, third, and forth time too. When I said “Ow, OW OW!” that should have been a clue.

After torturing me this way he finally just shrugged and said “I wouldn’t worry about it.” To which I wanted to reply, “You don’t have to worry about it, it’s not your tongue.” I have heard that expression (“I wouldn’t worry about it”) a couple of other times over the past year. In both of those cases, it was when I went to Patient First to complain about this sore throat that wouldn’t go away. On two different visits, medical “professionals” replied “I wouldn’t worry about it”. I’m sure they haven’t worried about it. But had either one bothered to worry about it, maybe I would have found out about this beast that is trying to strangle me way before August. That brings me back to my point. Don’t get cancer in August.