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Dr. Alpha, my new radiation oncologist, flips back and forth  in my pathology report. He seems annoyed. Not with me, but with the report. He pushes the reading glasses back on top of his head. “I don’t understand this,” he says. His tone bristles, but he looks kindly at me as he stabs his finger at at the bone of contention, my pathology report and the words “all other margins free of carcinoma.”

I am a bit embarrassed because in the margin I have scribbled: WTF.

“Oh no!” I hurry to explain everything, not  to defend Dr. Guru but  to sooth Dr. Alpha. I don’t want him to get more agitated and annoyed with Dr. Guru. I fish the Vanderbilt report out of my purse and show him  exhibit number one: Vanderbilt confirmed the first pathology report from my lumpectomy.

“Dr. Guru explained everything in his emails.” I tell Dr. Alpha. “I can send you copies. ”

Dr. Alpha does not seem convinced.

“Well, something is wrong.”

He starts to explain why my pathology report  is wrong, then abruptly stops himself.  He realizes that I can not process the meaning of his words so he draws a picture. “Here is the lateral margin,” he begins and goes on to explained how there has to be one. Then he goes back to the report, flips back and forth before he, frustrated, tosses the pages back on the table. Obviously, the answer he wants is not there.

“Either your pathology report is wrong or your surgeon is wrong,” he says firmly. Although he seems irritated with the report, a bit angry even, Dr. Alpha manages not to be the least bit unpleasant. “This is not right and I can not treat you like this. I read these reports all day long.  All day long. That is what I do for a living and I have seen everything.”

I am tempted to ask him about “everything,” but I guess that it would take an eternity and be way over my head anyway. Darn I wish I had paid more attention to science and not blown it off as “nerdy.”

“Forget Vanderbilt! They just confirm tissue cells. They don’t confirm margins,” he says and hands back the Vanderbilt result.

“Either the pathologist marked the slides wrong or the surgeon is wrong and has to redo it and give you a re-excision.” says Dr. Alpha.

“But that will take for ever? He is busy.”

“Not at all. He owes you. He will just have to get up a bit earlier in the morning. I am here till seven or eight at night. My colleague, Dr. E’s car never leaves here before 7.30 PM either.”

I mildly defend Dr. Guru. “I am sure he works that late too. In fact, some of his emails are sent late at night.”

“I will put in a call to him right now.”

“Good luck!”

“Let’s start with your pathologist then. Do you have her number?”

I scroll through my Blackberry while Dr. Alpha in a typical Type A fashion watches over my shoulder. “No, not that number, that’s not it. Oh, so you don’t have it,” he says while I am still scrolling. “Well, I will take care of it and I will call you by Friday. This will be cleared up by then, one way or the other. Either you have to have another surgery next week or we can start your radiation.”

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

JMartin January 24, 2010 at 1:10 pm

You would have had no need to apologize even if you had scribbled WTF over Guru’s face.

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