I see so many posts on various blogs praising (or, uh, the opposite) members of their medical team. And in person, I’ve run into so many people who looooove their oncologists.
I’m not the sentimental sort, and while I am fond of my oncologist, I wish I never met him. I was treated in the only cancer center for miles around in my rural area, and he is the Medical Director of the joint. He’s very calm and even keeled, and very humble. I remember being a bit surprised when I learned, about half-way through my treatment, that he was the dude in charge. He doesn’t act like the “I’m-in-charge-here sort”, and that’s good.
Now, on this blog in a few posts here and there, I’ve mentioned a couple of points that are key to this post: 1) This is a rural area, so, in other words, my cancer experience is really, really unlike those had by patients at Farber or Sloan-Kettering. Here, a cancer patient is quite likely to run into one of the nurses or doctors at a grocery store (ok, we’re aren’t so small town that there is only one store!) 2) I am a pet/house sitter, so I spend much time living in other people’s homes in various neighborhood developments in the area.
Have you figured out where I’m going with this?
A few months ago I gained a client that has kept me quite busy, meaning I’ve spent most of my time in one neighborhood these past few months. This client has a gorgeous yellow (practically white) Lab puppy, and Puppy has personality to spare. I’ve been working closely with the client on puppy training, so I’ve been immersed in AKC guidelines and Good Canine Citizen training and just good old fashioned getting the puppy socialized. Puppy and I walk up and down every street every day, practicing all kinds of commands: stop, down, sit, leave it (bleh, I say that one a lot, given Labs’ keenness for small dead animals that are ever present here in Road Kill, USA), stay, let’s go. Puppy is pretty and happy, and well loved, and we visit many folks on our walks each day; especially the after school gang. Puppy loves the after school gang with their melting fruit-flavored ice pops all over their faces, and they are still short, so their faces are still close enough to the ground for optimal slurping!
One lazy Sunday, a car approaches and the driver raises his hand absent-mindedly and I, as I always do, wave back. Like I said, this is small town values here. Everyone waves at everyone else even if the other is a stranger (or, there are no strangers). But this time, no, it was my oncologist waving at me. As I lazily throw up my hand, his gaze returns to a neighbor’s lawn decoration.
I see it as the wave of “the friendly neighbor”, not “hey, I think that is one of my patients,” and realize, good grief, he did not know who that was…walking down the street, hair a mess, in cut-off shorts and an old rock concert t-shirt, with plastic poop-pick-up bags streaming from my pockets. And why would he, I was not wearing my usual outfit, the oh-so fashion forward, cheesy-ass, flimsy hospital gown. My goodness, does he ever recognize anyone out of the cancer center?
Clothes are our armor, how we face the world by presenting a carefully selected image. Or in my case at that moment, just stuff I did not mind getting dirty. In exam rooms we are vulnerable, literally and often figuratively naked. To doctors we are not our image. To him, I am not cool-aging-punk-rocker equipped with my dog-walking gear. I am one of hundreds of scared breast cancer patients.
If you think this post is going to get all heavy, nope. There is a little more to tell here, which I find funny, but then I have a warped sense of humor.
Puppy and I continue on the road the doctor had just used to drive home. She spots it before I do, unfortunately. Freshly squished baby frog. Before I have time to think, “oh Dr. _________ must’ve run over that on the way home,” SLURP! Puppy consumes it, just as she does with most road kill if I don’t see it first and issue my “leave it” command.
Puppy is happy; satisfied she got one over on me. That night I curse my oncologist. I know, I know, I scoop poop for a living so it shouldn’t bother me. But that sort of thing grosses me out a little. Especially an hour later when Puppy wants to kiss my face with her tongue.….“Go away frog breath!”
Like I started this post, lots of cancer patients love their oncologists. I’m fond of mine. Puppy, however, worships and LOVES him: Dr. ___________, Frog Killer, Provider of Tasty Snack. Someday, when Puppy and I show up in his front yard, I know she will roll over on her back asking for a tummy rub, and when he leans down, she will slurp him too. I cannot prevent this from happening.
Now, the only question is this: when I see him for the every-six-months thing in a few weeks, do I tell him what happened?