Bedside Manner

Forgetting the patient is a person.

A lot has taken place over the last two days. I got back the CAT scan results over the phone from my oncologist and it showed likely NHL in my neck, though localized to just the area of the node and perhaps the right tonsil. I talked to my boss this morning who was pretty understanding of the situation, the truth is a lot of people have relatives who’ve experienced cancer and chemo. I then spent the bulk of the day at an ENT (ear-nose-and throat doctor) with my wife and new daughter trying to figure out what we were doing.

We got a few phone calls late on the 21st, but out of that we only knew we were going in for a biopsy, probably an in office procedure. We had a single warning about not eating anything or drinking after 7am. We got to the ENT doctor at about 10:00am and started filling out the ever present forms. Sometimes I’m amazed at the bad usability of these things, with a lot of repeat information, but that’s a topic for another day.

The ENT doctor had gotten us in quickly as a favor to my oncologist, but he was a little surprised we had so many questions since we never had an in person visit to ask anything. Eventually we resolved a few things and I decided since I most likely have cancer again that we would biopsy the neck mass and put in a cathoder like device under my collar bone. That’s when we learned it needed fully anethesized surgery at an outpatient place that we were scheduled for at 1:00. So it was off to the outpatient place next.

We got there and trucked ourselves in and started answering questions with the nurse. She was obviously of the stern/gruff variety or having a bit of a bad day. Typically Molly lightens people up, but she didn’t have much effect in this case. Anyway we’re plodding through all the contact information and medical history on the computer when we mention that there instructions that we’ve just seen say no food/drink after 12 midnite, but I had grape nuts at 6:45am for breakfast because they told us not to eat after 7am from the ENT office. Well that quickly led to the anetheseologist (sp) coming out and explaining that they couldn’t do the surgery because it had to be 8 hours or more since any solid foods.

All of this was a little frustrating, but understandable. The problem came with the two of us stressed out and they kept drilling us on not eating after 12 midnight as if I ate something on purpose. Micki is still in the pretty angry phase of dealing with the current crisis and she sniped back and the nurse tried a lame apology on the way out. It always surpises me when medical workers seem to have these sorts of personalities as people are dealing with sick or dying loved ones, and just simple courtesy would suffice. I see the same thing in many other places, but in the medical arena it’s just so jarring. I suppose it won’t be the last time, though the bulk of my experiences have been far more positive from the last treatment from watching a whole cancer center staff crying over the loss of one of their most spirited older patients that morning to a physician’s assistant who was almost overly helpful in prescribing any drug to numb the possible pain.

I told my team as well today, which is nice to have off my shoulders. I had to call a quick surprise meeting, and I think honestly a few off them were quite worried about layoffs. When you have bad news it’s best to just get it out there so people can deal with it. I’d probably have tried to spare them from knowing the details but with all the chemo appointments and hair falling out it’s not like you can hide being a cancer patient.

Anyway things will look better tomorrow and now I have a biopsy scheduled for Tuesday. Boy I so love that groggy/painful feeling of waking up from a surgery.