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E-Male / by Kenneth Lourie


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E-Male

June 10th, 2013 - by Kenneth Lourie

http://blog.lungevity.org/2013/06/10/e-male/

My oncologist is a man. He has e-mail. He works for an HMO that encourages/advertises its connectivity and responsiveness – electronically, to its members. If I want to get medical answers in a reasonable amount of time – save for an emergency, typing, “mousing” and clicking is the recommended methodology.

No more phone calls, preferably. Though pressing keys on a keyboard rather than pressing buttons on a phone might have felt counter-intuitive at first as a means of receiving prompt replies, it has proven over these past few years to be a fairly reliable and predictable information loop. Not in minutes necessarily, but more often than not during the same day – and almost always by the very next day. In fact, I’ve received e-mails from my oncologist as late as 9:18 p.m. (time-stamped) after a sometime-during-the-day e-mail had been sent. The content of the sent e-mail has almost always been helpful or constructive, even instructive concerning the issue at hand.

I’ve never felt disconnected, though; alone maybe, but that’s more because, other than our three cats, there is rarely anyone else at home with me. Being a salesman can sometimes be a solitary pursuit. And though there are many advantages – freedom and independence being the two most important, occasionally you find yourself alone with your thoughts, literally.

Attempting to speak directly with my oncologist during the day – at my convenience, given the too-numerous-to-list responsibilities of his non-stop, double-booked routine, seems a bit unrealistic. And if there’s anything I’ve learned during this cancer experience, it would be to minimize/manage my expectations in a way – any way, to avoid any totally understandable but fairly unhelpful jumps to discouraging conclusions.

Patience can be a virtue, although being one of many, less so. And though I consider myself an important patient (I would imagine most “terminal” patients would characterize themselves as such) and thus deserving/expecting exceedingly prompt and predictable feedback, the reality appears to be somewhat less Kenny-centric. Not that I need constant care (I don’t, thank God!) or reassurance for that matter; however, when your oncologist shortens up your life expectancy by say, 30 years, you kind of think/feel that you’ve risen to the top of his to-do list. Which I certainly don’t know that he has/keeps. If he did/does, perhaps my placement on it would warrant a more immediate reply, electronic or otherwise. Nevertheless, my diagnosis-to-date sense has been that though I am likely on a list, there are probably other equally less fortunate people who have become listed as well. All of whom feel as I do: that they’re the most important name on that list – real or imagined.

Apparently, for the medical system’s exchange of information and for the treatment of patients to sync, e-mail has to suffice. And though it may have taken me a little while to sync up, I am now a regular e-mailer to my doctor and an equally regular receiver of his electronic expertise. It’s not perfect, but four years into it, I feel fortunate to have the access that I do. It’s not exactly any port in a storm, but the weather has been inclement and having lines of communication available to me 24/7 has smoothed out many rough patches.

How does your medical team communicate with you? What are the things you’d change if you could?

______________________________________________________________________________________

“This column is my life as one of the fortunate few; a lung cancer anomaly: a stage IV lung cancer patient who has outlived his doctor’s original prognosis; and I’m glad to share it. It seems to help me cope writing about it. Perhaps it will help you relate reading about it.”

Mr. Lourie’s columns can be found at www.connectionnewspapers.com. (key word, Lourie)

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