continuing on with the “30th Anniversary” of my remission from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
To recap from the last post, I had tons of questions. So many in fact, the doctor refused to answer any of them, which led to the nurse who would be administering my chemo, to be the one to answer them. And there were a lot of questions. And Brenda took the time to answer each and every one of them. But it was not any particular question that prompted the next and unexpected issue.
I am getting really ahead of myself in this post, or series actually, but I must. Because looking back, I now realized that Brenda was more than just my chemotherapy nurse. And without going too far ahead, it was during my first chemotherapy treatment, she would reveal to me something very personal, she had a son my age. No, I was not the son. But, my being her patient, gave her an understanding, which I felt resulted in me receiving not just a nurse’s care, but a mother’s care as well. You could see it in her, it could easily be her son in the chemo chair instead of me.
The combination of Brenda’s professional skills and her motherly instincts, left her with a concern following my interrogation. She could tell that while I had all my concerns answered, my mind was still not at ease. But this issue would be above what she was trained to handle, and it would take more than a “mother’s” support.
This is a current picture of the campus where I was treated. The building in the lower right corner, served as my oncologist’s office. Brenda had recommended that I travel across the street to the main building, to the 9th floor (I believe that I recall that correctly), which was referred to as the cancer floor. I was to ask for a man named “John.”
The one aspect of treatment and survival that nearly every one of us underestimates and values, is emotional support, therapy, seeing a shrink. The stigma of being unable to handle something emotionally, or worse, that we might be crazy, is what keeps many from getting the most important aspect of their care, emotional support. And my first attempt at getting any support in my cancer journey, through my church minister had failed miserably.
I got to the ninth floor, clearly this was the cancer floor, or so I had assumed from all of the hairless heads I was seeing walk past me. I approached the receptionist, and said that I was there to see John. The receptionist asked me to have a seat, that he would be with me momentarily.
From the archway to the office areas, a large figure came towards me. All I could tell was that he barely cleared the archway, from a height perspective. I do not consider myself tall at all, at 5’7″. He clearly stood over a half of a foot taller than me. He reached out to shake my hand, only to engulf my hand, as if some sort of armor, but not armor for war, but to protect.
“My name is John. You must be Paul.”
We walked back to his office. John offered me anything to drink or did I need anything else to make me feel more comfortable. I took that as the green light to just unload. And I did. For nearly an hour and a half, I spilled my guts to a complete stranger about my fears of what I was facing, from the treatments to the mortality. I broke down several times, something that actually brought me some relief as opposed to the continuous bottling up I was accustomed to, protecting everyone else around me. With John, I could release this crap.
The funny thing is, it was not all the things that I listed that I was afraid of, or concerned about dealing with, there was still one thing that I was struggling with, and it was John that helped me to realize it.
I was not happy with someone in my team. And I, as a member of my treatment team, needed to deal with it. But as a patient, what I was about to decide had never crossed my mind. But John helped me to realize just how important my feelings were to my treatment.
I came to Dr. M. because he save my grandmother’s life from her battle with breast cancer. At the time, that was the most important consideration, his obvious success. But just as important as Dr. M’s record, was my comfort, which I felt was not being met. John’s suggestion nearly knocked me on the floor.
“Would you like to switch doctors?”
I could not believe what I was hearing. Would it even be possible? What if it could not be done, would Dr. M. hold it against me, thereby possibly impacting my results? Would the next doctor see me as just a pain in the ass and could I possibly be treated worse? And then how much time would I have left? Remember, Hodgkin’s is best treated as soon as possible. Would I have to start all over with diagnosing and staging? All these questions, and before I could ask John, he already had an answer for me.
“You could always switch to a different doctor. Dr. V and Dr. P are available in the same practice and can take over your care without any interruption to the plan. Would you like me to reach out and try to arrange this for you?”
I could not believe what I was hearing. This was like a football owner firing the coach the day before the Super Bowl, exactly for just the reason I was changing doctors, just because I did not like him. I had seen both of the other doctors during my staging process, and really, up until my pre-chemo appointment conflict, I liked all three doctors. But both Dr. V and Dr. P were younger, and definitely more personable. I sat there in disbelief as John lifted his phone and made the call over to my oncologist’s office. And as simple as that, I had a different lead oncologist, and my chemotherapy treatments would commence as planned.
One final breakdown, of relief. John came over and said, “it’s okay. What you are feeling is totally normal. You did the right thing by dealing with it. You are as much a part of getting through this, as your doctors and your treatments. Hopefully now, you can focus on getting through this. And any time you need to talk or need help, about anything, come over and see me.
There was a huge relief that came over me. I would not allow myself to feel bad, kicking one doctor to the curb, just because I had feelings. This was important to me. And as a team member, I made the right decision.