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I leave Dr. Weary to meander through the bowels of the hospital until I end up in its basement.  “Radiation” reads one arrow pointing down yet another hallway.  Around that corner another door:  “Environmental Services.”

Toxic waste? Then I realize it is only a euphemism for the janitor’s office. Around the next corner from the janitor’s closet a sign reads: “Radiation Oncology.”

The ceiling is low, the tiny waiting room has a few wooden arm chairs, all empty, and a floor to ceiling aquarium with what looks to be salt water fish. The receptionist is heavy set, slow, none too friendly. She waddles off to make a copy of my pathology report before she sends me next door.

Inside the door, a figure, slightly bent forward, comes steaming towards me in the dark hallway,  walking with a bit of a limp. Hip injury? Knee? Still, Dr. Alpha looks fit and tall, dressed in a short sleeved silk shirt, well fitting slacks and a cool belt. Hugo Boss?

At first glance, I expect him to be “a man’s man” and a bit full of himself, someone who talks “at” women, or above their heads.

Wrong.

Dr. Alpha pulls up a chair, right next to mine, by the large conference table. He  is informal and attentive,  seems sincere as he immediately engages me. He asks how I discovered my cancer. We chat about my oncodx test result? What about my visit with Dr. Weary? Like Dr. Guru and Dr. Weary, Dr. Alpha carefully probes my neck. I dare barely breath as his large hands searches for a swelling or a node perhaps missed by the others.  But without as much as a glance at me, he sits back down and again checks the “shared decision chart” that I just received from the oncologist.

“I don’t want chemo,” I tell Dr. Alpha.

“There is this study from your neck of the woods,” he says. “It shows chemo at your stage to be of very little benefit.”

“From the Karolinska Institute?”

He nods.

Like with Dr.Weary, I have no sense that Dr. Alpha’s “patient time management clock” is ticking, even though I have been dropped into his schedule without much warning.

“Do you happen to have your pathology report with you?” he asks.

Although his receptionist just copied it for him, I fish out my own copy from my purse which by now is an ambulatory file cabinet. Dr. Alpha adjusts his reading glasses. In one nano-second, he is hung up on the “less than 1 mm margin all other sides free of carcinoma” issue,  the one issue that bothered me for weeks, the one issue  I just had given up on.

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