It is a punch in the stomach.
I never dated a girl who even let me near her without me knowing her first name.
Hiring a babysitter is more involved and crucial than interviewing for a job.
And yet, I can walk into a total stranger’s office, and without even an introduction, I can be told, “you have cancer.” It is bad enough to be able to tell this situation even once. But just a couple of weeks ago, it happened again, this time with someone close to me.
I recall my reaction twenty-four years ago. I wanted to punch Dr. G in the face. I related this story to this person as they came to terms with being told not only that they had cancer, but the extreme length that the doctor would go to treat him.
No tests had been done. No x-rays or CT scans had been done. But Dr. G had me not only diagnosed with cancer, but a specific one, Hodgkin’s Disease. To my acquaintance, it was the same story, two decades later.
I get that doctors have to deal with bad things and that more often than not, have to deal with giving bad news, and cannot afford to get emotionally involved. But holy shit! There has to be a better way to greet a patient if not at least giving a handshake, than saying, “you have cancer.”
And so, I was asked what he should do at this point. This doctor had told him of a major treatment plan, life altering, and with extreme risks involved. Because time was not mentioned as a factor, I encouraged him to seek out a second opinion, and even offered to go with him. Together, we got it across to the new doctor, “go slow”, that before any tests are done, do not diagnose him. Take the time to perhaps offer thoughts and a plan on how to get to a diagnosis.
His appointment went very well. The new doctor was able to give this person the empathy and care to be prepared for whatever he was diagnosed with. Sadly, he was diagnosed with cancer, but he is able to go into this fight with the confidence and trust he needs. He now is in what is called the “staging” stage, which will determine the plan for treatment, as well as prognosis. That is what is called taking time with the patient. Next week he will discuss everything with a committee of doctors, a conversation that he is included in. He will have the ultimate choice and decision to make.
The diagnosis was not good. But at least now he has the opportunity to go into this with peace of mind that this was not a rush and thoughtless decision.