Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Impatient Patient

One would think that after 8 years I would have built up a stronger wall. But once I am in that orange striped gown open to the front I am instantly a half naked fearful patient. As scared as I am though I have much less patience for stupidity.

Yesterday I had my annual checkup with my oncologist. I have passed the 5 year mark which means that I only have mammo's each year but no more bloodwork. So it should have been an easy appointment. Then again, what about cancer is ever easy.

As I paced back and forth waiting for the doc I was startled when someone new walked through the door. She introduced herself as a Fellow and looked as if she were in her early 30's. She informed me that my doctor would be in soon. Hoping she didn't see me roll my eyes I thought about how I was not in the mood to be a lab rat again. I suppose that is par for the course when you go to a teaching hospital, a major cancer center. Still I would have appreciated more preparedness on her part. One of her first questions was about why I decided to not take Tamoxifen. All I thought was "here we go..." As I explained my reasons while she stood there debating them I wanted to ask her why this was even coming up now as I had this discussion 7 years ago with my doctor. She continued on asking tons of questions like what kind of surgery I had...all of which she could have found out had she thoroughly reviewed my chart.

As my patience began to wane I was quite startled at what came next. She stepped in front of me and opened my gown to do a breast exam. As soon as she saw my boobs her eyes bugged out and her mouth LITERALLY dropped open in amazement. At that moment I as a person ceased to exist. All that she was interested in was me from the neck down. It went something like this...

"OMG....that is amazing. Did you have a TRAM flap?" she said while still staring at my boobs with wide doe eyes.

"Yes" I replied wondering why she didn't read that in my chart.

"Wow! That is the best one I have seen....unbelieveable! Who did your surgery?"

When I told her who did it all I could think about was how bad I felt. I thought about how when I looked in the mirror I did not think it looked amazing. When I look in the mirror I am reminded of what I lost. I am reminded of how lopsided I look and how I can no longer feel anything on that side. Which lead to her next question...

"What does it feel like?" she asked with her eyes finally glancing up to meet mine.

"It feels numb all over." I said as I began to feel like something that should be working a side show.

What she didn't realize was how quickly she separated me into parts. It felt as though she was more interested in my reconstructed boob and not in the person it was attached to. Her bug eyed reaction to my boobs will be on my long list of inappropriate responses by medical staff. It made me feel uncomfortable. I only wish I had the guts to tell her so. She may have gotten all A's in med school but I would score her bedside manner a big fat F.

Has a doctor ever made you feel uncomfortable either through words or actions? How did you handle it? Have you ever been an impatient patient? Ever disagreed with your doc? How did he/she react?


Elizabeth said...

You know what? She needs that feedback. Could you put it in a letter and send it to your oncologist's office? Better for her to learn now.

Breast Cancer Survivor! said...

Cathy, My oncologist was the worst. She has gotten a little better since I've been done with chemo but she had terrible bed side manner when going through treatment. I actually have blogged about it several times and I joke with my family that she's being nice to me now because she must have found my blog. I swear she never made eye contact with me, she asked me questions and typed the answers into her laptop like the cancer was the patient not me. Now when I see her she actually tries to strike up a conversation but I'm usually cold to her, the damage to our relationship has already been done.