I have been going through my fifteen year old laptop, trying to extend its life, by getting rid of unnecessary documents and programs, and came across a few new things I plan on writing about over the next few weeks. But for the purposes of my “schedule” with my 30th Anniversary of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma I need to do this post first.
The housecall. Something perhaps not even many from my generation ever experienced, try explaining to your children that at one time, doctors would come to your house if you were too sick to go to the doctor. Even better, preventing your germs from contaminating an entire waiting room. I have been lucky in my lifetime, because I have had 3 primary care doctors in my entire life. My first, practiced into his 80’s and until I hit my teenage years. And yes, Dr. Backenstoe was one of those kinds of doctors. Upon his retirement, I saw a different doctor for a handful of years, until he brought in a new and young partner into his practice. She would be come my doctor and remains my doctor to this day. And while I have never had a “housecall” from her, her skills, her knowledge, and most importantly, her care, are unrivaled as far as I am concerned.
Starting off the new year of 1989 in the hospital, recovering from my first major surgery, I really had no idea how things needed to be done, recovery, most importantly, my future. At the time, my pain from the incision on my abdomen was finally tolerable, I was finally eating solid foods, and this particular Friday night, I was just watching some late night entertainment.
In particular, professional wrestling. The WWF (as it was known back then), was venturing into “prime time” and major network coverage, expanding from cable programming. My interest was legitimate, as there was a connection between myself and the WWF. The WWF filmed its Saturday morning wrestling programming locally at our fairground agricultural hall. My high school principal was brothers of the ring announcer for the WWF. The WWF was getting more popular, and its exposure was making it even more popular.
So, from my hospital bed, I was looking forward to a new WWF program, called “The Main Event”, something that had also been tried on Saturday nights, but on this episode, a Friday night. As the Royal Rumble was approaching (a WWF pay per view gimmick), I was following the story line between Hulk Hogan and Randy Macho Man Savage. I was looking forward to tonight. I was actually feeling kind of comfortable. I had just eaten my dinner. I was ready to just settle in for the night.
Then, a knock on my door. The figure walking into my darkened room, not immediately recognizable, because he was well dressed, in a turtleneck and blazer, as he got nearer, I soon realized it was my oncologist. Wow. This was something I was not expecting. Knowing he was of Jewish faith, and the time of the night when he came in, I assumed he was on his way home from synogogue, and out of the goodness of his heart, was just checking on one of his new patients to see how I was recovering.
I wanted to see my wrestling program, but I was so overwhelmed by the caring gesture of my oncologist. He sat at the foot of my bed, directly underneath the television, which was turned on, but I had the sound turned down. Okay, this was going to be difficult to pay attention to him, and the television. But I was intent on concentrating on both. After all, I did not want to be rude.
It did not take long to realize this was not just a “how are you feeling?” visit. He grabbed my chart from the foot of the bed, and started reading it, which gave me time to catch some of the live action on the TV.
Doctor: So, your report shows that your spleen was fully involved with the Hodgkin’s. I want to begin chemotherapy as soon as possible once you are strong enough.
I turned the television off and directed my full attention to him immediately.
Me: But, I thought you said that since I only had the one node involved, that even if the spleen was involved, I would still be a candidate for chemo or radiation. With my wedding less than five months away, I need to get this dealt with right away, and do not want this dragged out for so many months. I want the radiation. Besides, you said I could be treated with that, and there would not be so many side effects as I would experience with chemo. I want to look somewhat “normal” for my wedding.
Doctor: Radiation is a possibility, but I strongly recommend the chemo, perhaps even both.
Me: My mind is made up doc. I want to go through the radiation.
Doctor: We will discuss this further once you are out of the hospital, perhaps see you in about a week.
And out the door he went. I know the discussion we had before I had the surgery. I knew what was at stake, and the conditions were perfect for what he told me. There was nothing more to discuss. I wanted to begin radiation therapy as soon as I was healed enough, and strong enough.
So much for the nice gesture I thought the doctor was making thinking he just cared about me to stop by the hospital… I got the bill for a “outside visit”, aka “housecall” a couple of weeks later.
I met with my oncologist a week after I got out of the hospital. And I stood firm on my decision, I wanted to undergo radiation therapy. He referred me next door to the hospital’s radiation department, where I would have an appointment with a radiation oncologist. I would see him a couple of days later. We were back on track with “getting this started quickly”.
I never did see what happened between the Hulkster and the Macho Man that night, or at least I do not remember. But I remember the decision that I made that night.