To those who know me this will come as no surprise... but for those who do not, I have a few idiosyncrasies. These include a fondness for Phish Food, the need to watch A Christmas Story at least 10 times during the holidays, an obsession for hydrangeas and an absolute and total disdain, distrust and loathing of breast cancer statistics.
Phish Food aside, and hydrangeas trying to bud in sub freezing Spring weather, the other two converged in a very strange way this week.
On Tuesday I met with the "new" oncologist. I was to be meeting her in a "state of the art, Zen-like atmosphere" of a new cancer center- at least that is how the brochure described it. If Zen and the Delta Terminal at Laguardia Airport meet- this is the place. Imagine walking in to a facility, where you will be discussing a chemotherapy regimen that you will receive there for the next four months and discovering you are just one of the masses of people waiting in an airline terminal before take off. Is that why they designed it like that?? Chemo for people who are terminal and ready to take off???
I checked in at the mammoth desk and was asked for photo id. This is a new request to me, was I boarding a plane and the TSA needed proof of residency? Or here to meet a doctor about my breast cancer? I was told to sit in a waiting area and over the loud speaker people's names were announced: "Jack Schwartz report to the front desk", "Millie Ohara report to the lab"... so much for the HIPPA laws of patient privacy.
I was "called to report" and eventually met my new oncologist. She was attractive, kind, and seemed very intelligent. An upfront kind of gal. You know, the tell it like it is type, along the lines of: "You will die of this cancer before you have a heart attack. This cancer will come back to your intestines and your ovaries and ovarian cancer death is a horrible way to die."
Welcome to state of the art cancer care! Where do I sign?
In fairness, she also hugged me four times. But after her "happy" news this only made me more frightened... four hugs? Would I live long enough to survive the trip back through the lobby and out to the parking lot? JUST HOW BAD WAS I???
According to her, I was toast.
THEN she started quoting stats. I do not believe in stats. I hate stats. But I was believing them. I was so upset by my grim prognosis that I sat there and swallowed hook, line and sinker every bad tidbit she threw at me. What had happened to my mind??? I know the stats she quoted were antiquated and not accurate and had NO BEARING on my particular cancer diagnosis! But I was asleep! Lulled into catatonia by the realization that I will not be buying green bananas ever again!
I wanted to wake up. I NEEDED to wake up. But I couldn't.
I left there feeling WORSE than I have ever felt. Worse than any cancer diagnosis or any piece of bad news I had every received. Thanks to state of the art medical care- Long Island Style.
I went home and was still asleep. Still believing the stats. It was horrible.
Finally, the next morning I woke up for real. And then I found another doctor.
My new doctor? He is not in an over sized cancer center that is impersonal right down to fake plants in the "Zen" garden devoid of all human/patient/doctor contact. He has a nice office. He has a friendly staff. And, he is quietly just the best oncologist around. He doesn't quote stats- instead he runs studies on new therapies and treatments that have blown away all the old stats because of his OWN research that has women living - not dying from cancer.
There were no loud speakers telling me where to go. Instead, he came out into the waiting room to introduce himself to me. He is smart, on top of every new protocol and he is going to be the one to treat me so I can WIN this battle.
The moral? I guess if you are new at this please remember to GET A SECOND OPINION - it could save your life and your sanity. And WAKE UP when they barrage you with stats that are meaningless. Remember your wish and prayer: you are coming to them to get your life back. You are not there to hear about all the ways you are going to die.
Which leads me to A Christmas Story.
All Ralphie wanted for Christmas was a Red Ryder BB gun. He tried everything, but every where he turned he was told no and that he will shoot his eye out. There seemed to be no hope. Until he realized that SANTA could deliver the dream. All he had to to was ASK SANTA! But when he meets Santa in a giant department store with hundreds of other kids he is so shook up he FORGETS he wants a Red Ryder BB gun! He has to wake up! He is blowing his only chance! It is now or never!
That can happen with your oncologist choice too. You get so shook up you forget what you want- TO LIVE.
Stop yourself and wake up. I am so glad I did!
And for those who need A Christmas Story refresher course, here is the scene:
PS- I am the proud owner of Red Ryder