From the category archives:



Something in Dr. R’s message does not add up. First I have an old pneumonia scar. Then it is radiation damage on the left lung lobe. But I had my right side radiated.  If anyone could solve this mystery, it would be my radiation oncologist, Dr. Alpha.

I call Dr. Alpha’s number, fully expecting to get his voice mail, but he picks up on the first ring.

No, he never took any x-rays of me, but I had a CAT scan before I started radiation. (How could I possibly have forgotten that?) He will look at it and call me back.

In less than an hour, Dr. Alpha is back on the phone. He has compared my  CAT scan from five months ago with the new one. The 8 mm granuloma on my lower left lobe does not worry him. It was there before I started radiation and has not changed at all.

“More worrisome,” Dr. Alpha tells me, “is the growth on the lymph node just below your heart.”

I try to steady my voice so it will not quiver. All my bluster and bravado from my days of radiation have  evaporated. I hear how meek and scared I sound. He must have heard it too.

“They never told me anything about a growth under my heart.”

“No, they wouldn’t. They try not to give you all the information. You want to come down and see?” offers Dr. Alpha. “I will show it to you and explain.”

I want to take him up on the offer and drive down and see for myself. But I also do not want to crash into his busy schedule. What do I know about x-ray images anyway? I did not even know you had lymph nodes under your heart. I will have to take Dr. Alpha on his word.

“You definitely need a PET scan,” Dr. Alpha says. “This needs to be fully investigated. I will schedule one for you.”

“But I have one scheduled for tomorrow at 1 PM. I guess I have to go ahead then?”

“Yes, you do. I will read it and get back to you as soon as it is done,” said Dr. Alpha.

I feel doomed. Dr. Alpha’s words – this definitely needs to be investigated – throb in my ears. “Investigated,” has a serious ring to it, like a grand jury inquiry or Senate investigation. And, yet, the idea that Dr. Alpha will get to read my PET scan calms me and reassures me. I know he will level with me no matter what the outcome.


Surgeon at Work

Twenty minutes after Professor Oncology nixes chemo therapy, five minutes after Dr. Alpha, the radiation oncologist, calls to tell me that I need a re-excision to get clear margins (you are supposed to have 2 mm) I am sitting in my friend’s garden sipping tea from her bone china cup. I am “in the moment” trying not to mull over all the “what ifs.”   The insufficient margin frustration is behind me. Well,  almost.  My new bosom buddy, the radiation oncologist, took charge of the incomprehensible pathology report. He even called a day earlier than promised to let me know that I , indeed, need a second surgery!

Suddenly, my cell phone buzzes. A Magnolia Cancer Center number.

The way Dr. Guru, my surgeon, puts it to me, one might think that he himself had called  my radiation oncologist, to tell him to hold off radiation,  not the other way around.

“I am still not convinced you really need this,” Dr. Guru says. “But maybe it is not such a bad idea, after all.” Then in what seems like a vague apology he adds:  “I know you are very busy and all and this will be a bit of an inconvenience for you, but we might as well go ahead and put it behind us. “

“Might as well. But when?”

“Next week.” Dr. Guru does not hesitate. “We will schedule this for next week. Joy will call you to arrange the details.”

I feel stupid for being so happy. How much happier could I not have been  had  I been wrong about the re-excision, and able to start radiation right away? Is it not childish to be happy about being vindicated? After all, I am the one who will be the most inconvenienced, just like Dr. Guru admitted. Also, I feel mildly irritated that Dr. Alpha has to tell me not to hurt Dr. Guru’s feelings by “not rubbing his nose in it.” What other profession is filled with egos so fragile that they need to be perpetually wrapped in velvet and praise? A master surgeon is never to be reminded of a mistake, however slight or insignificant.


Dr. Alpha Can’t Radiate Me – Yet!

January 6, 2010

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 […]

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Visit with Radiation Oncologist

December 20, 2009

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 […]

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Annoying People in Oncologist’s Waiting Room

November 21, 2009

In Dr. Weary’s waiting room, I begin to fill in endless health questions on a clumsy electronic gadget. It allows him to transfer everything directly to a computer without errors, I suppose. But the design of the gadget is decidedly more  Soviet era style  than a modern American invention. The waiting room is empty except […]

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Re-Excision Me, Re-Excision Me Not….

November 7, 2009

“Sometimes when I consider the tremendous consequences that come from little things, I am tempted to think there are no little things.” – Bruce Barton -When will you have your re-excision? my sister-in-law wants to know. I tell her that I believe Dr. Guru when he says my margins are clear. He says that I […]

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Totally in a Funk

October 22, 2009

My husband and I are both stuck in the glue of our gloom, unable to reach out to each other. I am restless, crabby, scarred, impatient, and distracted both at home and at work. I cannot concentrate on anything. All I do is obsess about a second surgery. It is not the surgery that scares […]

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Stumbling on a Piece of Humble Pie

September 22, 2009

“Yesterday was horrific, “ says  Dr. Guru’s assistant when I call to complain that he never called with the pathology results, as promised. “I had to snatch him to even get one second.” She lets out a deep sigh, the kind that seems to come from  the bone marrow, not from the lungs. I feel […]

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Stepping Up My Level of Care: But How?

September 20, 2009

No Pathology report .  It seems that I am off Dr. Guru’s radar screen. Who cares? Not me! I am upbeat and sure of myself, thanks to the book “What Your Doctor Didn’t Tell You About Breast Cancer.”  I have been devouring it the past couple of days while waiting for the pathology results. Tamoxifen […]

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Procrastinations on Pathology Report

September 17, 2009

Friday. No news on the oncogene.  No news from Dr. Guru’s office all day Monday. Finally, I call his assistant just before closing time. “We are waiting for your pathology report,”  she says. “Have you been to post op yet?” “Yes, I had my ten second post-op  a week ago.” It seems like his office […]

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