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A Nursery Rhyme


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Journal excerpt:

Tuesday, April 5th Spent much of the morning angry and scared. It’s the first time venting to mom and it won’t be the last. She’s taking this wonderfully and I hate to rock her boat with sudden feelings and angst.

The reason for the anger was the treatment I felt I got in the exam room with Dr. Xuan and Don the day before. This was my first “results information” (substantive) meeting with Dr. Xuan and I felt that our relationship was at an extremely embryonic and fragile stage. Without really knowing why, I felt that trust, at this stage, was the most important component in the doctor/patient relationship. I had invited, and very much wanted Don’s presence at this time. There’s nothing like fraternal hand-holding with your best friend, and a professional, to boot.

The meeting started off well enough. Dr. Xuan gave me the results of the needle biopsy I had been waiting for, with dread and trepidation. She didn’t know that I had already spoken to Dr. Knodel. As I’ve mentioned, Dr. Xuan is something of a cold duck. Brusque, forthright, no-nonsense, calculating. These are some of the adjectives I would use to describe her. I wanted Dr. Warmth (Knodel), not Dr. Fu Manchu without the mustache.

To illustrate the mis-direction of my anger you have to note that it didn’t manifest itself until the next morning, Tuesday. I had invited Don along, I realized later, as an emotional crutch. Don came along as an older brother, looking to knock heads with the bully (cancer) that had, metaphorically, bloodied his younger brother’s nose. And he wasn’t leaving until he had thoroughly questioned the lead detective in the case (Dr. Xuan), and done everything in his power to “fix” it. Some things just never change, and I love him for it. We’ve played these roles for 50 some years, and they won’t change for a little something like a life-threatening disease.

Don played his role perfectly. He picked Dr. Xuan’s brain, got the facts of the treatment to come clearly outlined, and followed through with making sure that the CT and MRI scans were set up quickly and efficiently. He intervened with the surgeon’s office to assure that questions of payment wouldn’t delay the insertion of a port-catheter for the next course of chemo, and otherwise smoothed and graded the roadbed for the next mile, or so, of track laid for my “Treatment Train”, even though it delayed him seeing his own patients that afternoon. Did I mention that I love him? So, why was I so mad?

The answer came to me the next morning. Right in the middle of relaying to mom, “And then guess what the b*stard did . . .!” I wasn’t mad at Don. He had done everything I had subliminally asked/wanted him to do. And I wasn’t mad at Dr. Xuan, either. Hell, I hardly knew her. But I sure was pissed off at the only other person in that room; me! This wasn’t about me. I mean, it was all about me, but not – ya know? Maybe you don’t; let me explain.

The most important person in a patient’s treatment and recovery is the patient. All roads lead to Rome and the all-suffering patient. The doctor, nurses, medical personnel, staff, the hospital, et al, are nothing more than advocates for that patient’s health. Conduits between the best medical technology in the world, and the lowliest, pus-riddled, filth-encrusted, self-abusing patient that has, by the grace of God, landed there with an abscessed hangnail! In this case, me.

I had brought in a list, in my own inimitable OC way, of over 25 questions I wanted to ask Dr. Xuan. I had charts and graphs and little animated cartoon characters on laptops, that I wanted to show. I was ready! I was prepared! I was knowledgeable! I was all set to be that breast cancer survivor in the TV commercials who was “in control”, and “ready to call the shots in her own recovery”. I was, GD! it, ready to “lead my TEAM!” I was, instead, being ignored. Waaaah!

By the time Don and Barb came by that evening to discuss Chad’s involvement in mom’s and my caregiving, I had pretty much worked it all out. Families are universally cut from the same historical cloth. Brothers are brothers for life, whether they’re fifteen of fifty. Little boys with skinned knees still want all of their mother’s attention, even when those knees are crippled with arthritis and bent with age. And cancer survivors still want to be picked up and held – and told by somebody that it’s going to be all right. Luckily, I’ve still got a mom and a brother who, despite my own best efforts, still understand that. I love you guys.

Doug Russell

Tacoma, WA

April, 2005

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You are fortunate to have such a wonderful family. I think you will be happy with your port, it makes chemo so much easier. Make sure you use the cream that numbs the area so you won't feel the needle.

I am glad you worked through things...sorry to tell you this won't be the first time you get angry. Hang in there Doug~

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Make sure you use the cream that numbs the area so you won't feel the needle.

You might not need the cream. I've yet to use it...and the prick of skin to access the port is FAR less than accessing a vein!!

I also leave my port accessed for all four days of chemo. Have to keep it dry...which means baths instead of showers....but hey...what do I do to work up a good sweat these days? Read? Knit? Watch movies? :wink:

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