Where have you been? Where are you going? And why?
“The doctor will be right with you,” said the nurse as she directed us towards the door. A maximum of about four can fit into the check-up room. White paint covers the walls –no art, no inspiring pictures. We take the only two seats in the room, which face a little rolling stool reserved for the MD. And then we wait, sometimes for only a few minutes, but other times longer. The isolation of the room can be oppressing, if not intimidating. There’s the paper covered bench to my left, letting me know I’m in a hospital. If that isn’t enough warning, the sterile and disposable gloves rest in a box on the counter, waiting. Staring at the box, I can just hear the SNAP! of the glove fitting the doctor’s hand. Then there’s the pile of magazines. And I wonder, Who really wants to read about how to better decorate their bathroom just moments before the doc comes in to give results on cancer readings?
Cancer becomes a reality in these moments. We sit, speaking very little. Waiting. Footsteps right outside the door…it opens. From my vantage point, the door is opening toward our chairs, giving me the first look. I see the familiar bifocals, the white jacket, the…wait a second, that’s not my doctor! The man entering looks more boyish, with a smooth face and black silky hair. He smiles, moving with the energy of someone who’s not seen patients die. He extends his hand to introduce himself, and we do the same. This far into the process I’m not supposed to be meeting new people, I’m thinking. I don’t want some trainee. He senses the tension, and immediately speaks to it, letting us know that our doctor will be in shortly. As a residency student, he would like to ask me some questions. My shoulders loosen and sink. I cross my legs and recline a bit, answering away. Soon enough, our doctor enters, smiling warmly, wearing his white coat like an army general with stars and badges covering each breast and shoulder. A calm accompanies his presence into the room. The four of us small talk awhile before he tells me my results are good for another month. Upon leaving, I honestly shake the new guy’s hand. He isn’t so bad, not like Doogie Howser was last fall…
Surprise! It’s Doogie
…During one of the first visits, probably last October or so, Shannon and I were sitting much the same in the office waiting. We’d just grown comfortable with our doctor’s care and actually looked forward to seeing him. Without warning, a young man barged into the room, his white coat starched as if worn for the first time. He failed to introduce himself clearly, also leaving out the fact that our doctor wasn’t sick or retired or on vacation. We were left to guess. Instead, he grabbed the stool, spun around and began informing me about my situation. I’m not even sure he acknowledged Shannon. Great, we thought, we’re stuck with Doogie Howser. I also diagnosed that he struggled with little man’s syndrome. Those cures are rare.
“Let’s see here, so Luke, you do know that you have stage 1 testicular cancer. (Why the hell would I be here?) We’re going to be monitoring you every month with blood work. (Yeah, I’ve got a gauze over my arm from that needle five minutes ago.) Once every three months you’ll have a CT scan. (Uh-huh)” The information he shared had been obvious procedure known since day one. But we served as a punching bag for this up and coming heavyweight to practice. Doogie Howser finally finished his thesis and told us the general was on his way. I almost started humming Doogie’s theme song.