Thursday, November 13, 2014

Chemotherapy Leg Part 10

Today is my tenth chemotherapy treatment. Six more left, and it can't be over with soon enough.

Yesterday, I had lunch with a friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago and did not need chemotherapy or radiation as part of her treatment. We talked about how much we've learned since our respective diagnoses, and how ignorant we were about breast cancer before it changed our lives. For example, we both thought breast cancer always meant you had a tumor, or tumors, in your breast(s). She had them, I didn't. Moreover, neither of us completely understood how serious lymph node involvement is, and how it affects the treatment scenario after surgery. Her cancer hadn't spread to her lymph nodes; mine did, which is one of the reasons why she didn't need chemo, and I'm sitting here, accessed, bagged, and dripping.

Over delicious hamburgers and a shared salad (I know; fresh veggies are a no-no while getting chemo), we discussed how knowledge factors into your health, and how acquiring knowledge and being an informed patient can make the journey, especially the cancer journey, a little bit easier. For one, it can assuage the fear you feel about what you're going through, and it can make your relationship with your doctors and healthcare professionals more congenial. In my opinion, there's nothing worse than being intimidated by a physician. I understand that not everyone has the wherewithal to be assertive when it comes to speaking up, but when it concerns your health, it is an absolute necessity. You must take an active role by researching your condition and asking questions.

My friend and I are both originally from the east coast of the United States, where it seems the landscape is chock-full of doctors and medical professionals who can be arrogant and dismissive toward their patients. Another favorite Sopranos episode of mine, "Second Opinion" from the third season, makes a powerful commentary on the doctor-patient relationship when Uncle Junior is diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his stomach, and is totally star-struck by his surgeon. His surgeon, in turn, is arrogant and dismissive, and treats Uncle Junior like an inconsequential cadaver, instead of a sentient human being with fears and concerns. Uncle Junior and his caregiver, Bobby Baccala, were not well-informed or well-treated by this doctor, and that point was driven home by the scene where Tony and Furio confronted the doctor on the golf course, threatened him, and demanded that he show Uncle Junior "the respect he deserves."

I don't have to remind you that threatening your doctor on the golf course is not advisable in the real world. And, there will always be the occasional personality clash between doctor and patient. Doctors are not gods, and not every patient is going to pull his or her weight by being an informed participant in the care being administered. The latter needs to change. That's why I used a tree of knowledge image at the top of this post, to drive home the point that knowledge is there for the taking by everyone.

Remember that your doctors and nurses have invested vast amounts of time and money to obtain extensive education and training in order to help people. True, some of them might be in it for selfish reasons, but the majority of these individuals genuinely care about their patients' well-being. Do your share by helping them help you. In the end, you'll be glad you did, and you'll be grateful for the knowledge you've acquired.


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