Thursday, April 16, 2015

On Patients and their Docs

An important relationship exists between a patient and their doctor. If you don’t feel you can trust them, you might question the suggestions they have for your care.  Trust is crucial.  It doesn’t happen quickly, but this relationship can grow to become one of the most important in your life. 

I have that kind of relationship with my oncologist, but during our initial appointment, I was not so sure.

Her first comments after introducing herself were, “So, tell my why you are here.”

“My primary doctor sent us here.”

“No, I mean what is the reason that you have been sent here, and are sitting in my office?”

“I have some kind of  'metastatic malignancy’.” (at least that was the terminology used on my biopsy report)

“That doesn’t tell me anything!”

And that was all within the first two minutes of shaking hands.

While I wondered what in the world more she wanted from me, she started talking. Really fast!
About tests already done and tests still to be ordered. 
About the possible sources of my cancer, a Cancer of Unknown Primary.

After she examined me our conversation continued, mostly about me and Bud. How did we meet? How long had we been married? I told her how we had met in church, and how our church honors 50th anniversaries and above by placing the couple’s pictures up on large screens.  I shared how I counted anniversaries backwards; a sort of countdown for how many years we had left until we could get our pictures shown in church. She went on.  Did we have children? Grandchildren?  What about work, what did I do? We talked about our family and our life in general. After setting up the next appointment time and some imaging tests, we left. 

As we were walking out of her office she said, “So we are shooting for 50, right?” 

I’m sorry, but I was already past 50. What was she thinking?

Bud however, completely understood where she was going with that question and said, “We want 70”

And then I realized she was talking about our anniversaries.

I walked away from there not knowing any more about this cancer that was threatening our future together, but I knew I loved this doctor.  She got it.  She understood the things that were most important.  Not years lived here on the earth, but years lived together.

For about 18 months, this doctor walked with us through the tests and questions.  She guided us through each treatment and surgical decision and through it all she became more like a friend.  She once said that her goal for us was that we would one day sit on our front porch and wonder where she had retired.

In a few days I will go back for my first 3-month post treatment follow-up appointment, but she will not be there. 

I will see someone else, and it makes me a little nervous. 
Actually it makes me a lot nervous.

Some things there will be so familiar. The friendly faces of the receptionists who check me in, always so kind and sweet. The patient people in the lab who have learned how to get blood from my uncooperative arm, the only option available as the good arm is now out of commission. As usual, the waiting room will have different people, but the hopes and dreams there never change.

And then, we will wait in the most familiar room of all, the room where we will meet with our doctor. The last time I was in that office she told me that I had no signs of cancer.  That I was cancer free.  She said not to even think about cancer unless I was in her office.

I might cry.  I most likely will.

It is a first world problem, I know.  I hope this does not come across as complaining.  Changing a doctor is not a life and death situation.  People do this all the time.

Though it may be trivial, the truth is that I could easily feel that my care might suffer because of the loss of this doctor.  I have grown to put my trust in her, but what I have to remind myself is that my future does not depend on her.  It does not depend on any one person or group of people for that matter.

I know that my wonderful, amazingly brilliant and beautiful oncologist was a gift of overflowing grace from the hands of my loving God.  I also know that the results we have seen were from someone much more powerful than any treatment,

So while I will miss her, I won’t worry (well, I will try not to). 
My care will continue, and the future looks great.
To borrow a truth learned from someone I admire, I know that the amazing ability of an incredibly smart oncologist was never my good. 
The nearness of God is my good.
It always has been.

How do you apply the truth of God’s nearness in your own life?  Have you learned to lean on His goodness, to trust Him to meet your needs?  Or do you depend on something or someone else? 

As I learned from reading the writings of Kara Tippetts, it centers on a simple truth in Scripture. Just fill in the blank with anything that you may long for:
“_________________ is not my good…the nearness of God is my good”

In Psalm 73:28 (NAS), the Psalmist said, “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;  I have made the Lord God my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.”

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