Thursday, May 14, 2015

What Not To Say

A couple of days after treatment number ten I had an appointment for a routine physical with my general practitioner.  Given the almost-daily attention that my health was getting from the staff at the oncology clinic, it seemed superfluous to be getting an annual physical.  Nonetheless, the insurance company mandated it, and I wanted very much to keep the bill-payers happy.

The physical was mostly uneventful.  The doc disclosed that from the medical reports he had received from oncology, it appeared that I was doing "remarkably well".  Then to my utter shock he revealed that, "Back in September, [he] wasn't sure [I'd] pull through, given the stage of disease."

I am no doctor, but it seems obvious to me that when you are minding the health of a body that is not your own, care must be taken to not cross that sometimes hard-to-see line between thoughts that are appropriate to say out loud, and those which should remain unspoken at all cost.

I quickly decided that assuming the best of intentions would be wisest.  I don't remember how I responded, or even if I responded.  I do remember thinking, "Doctors are people, too.  I am sure he didn't mean it the way it sounded.  He probably means that he is encouraged by my progress, when a cure is statistically unlikely..."

Just then I heard the distinct voice of my aunt, who herself is a stage IV cancer (and chemotherapy) survivor of over twenty years.  She had been among the first to call soon after my surgery five months earlier.  "You are not a number!" she wisely counseled.

I am not a number.  I'm a person in need of a lot of help to get healthy.

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