I love doctors. If it were not for two doctors in particular, my oncologists – No. 5 and No. 6 (not their real names) – I would not be here typing this right now. And if it were not for another doctor, my wife Melissa (that is her real name), I might still be here but my life would have so much less meaning than it does. So despite all of the bashing that doctors routinely take and the blame that is mislaid at their feet for all of our healthcare system’s woes, I greatly appreciate them. I will even go a step further and avow that most people appreciate them, although they may not realize it until they are sick, which by the way, happens to all of us eventually.
Notwithstanding how much I appreciate doctors, I do not particularly enjoy spending time with them. At least not professionally, by which I mean when they are dressed in white lab coats sporting stethoscopes and while I am lucky if I am sporting anything more than my boxers (although sometimes a particularly kind-hearted doctor will allow me to keep my socks on as well). As a result, I try to spend as little time with M.D.s and D.O.s as possible. Yet, when one is recovering from chemo therapy, coupled with carrying around an incurable form of cancer, it is a bit of a challenge to minimize one’s time with the esteemed members of the medical profession.
In fact, just today I had to go to a medical facility for some more tests. (There are always more tests.) Without going into unnecessary detail as to why these tests were allegedly necessary, the gist of it was that in order to make sure I was eligible for some necessary medical benefits I had to have my cancer “verified” or, to use the bureaucratic term, “certified.” To my limited way of thinking, having more than a half-dozen CLL experts (I didn’t mention No. 7 above – also a pseudonym – but she saw me too) tell me that I did indeed have such cancer, was ample evidence to me that I was indeed so afflicted. Even if that left any possible doubts, I think the six months of chemotherapy should have helped to resolve these lingering uncertainties. I know people will do a lot of crazy things, but I am not personally aware of anyone who duped seven hematologists into thinking he had blood cancer so that he could then undergo rounds of toxins (which is what chemo really is) just to pull the wool over someone’s eyes.
So reluctantly I show up at a clinic that is best described as a combo AA-meeting house/third-world triage center. The only modern amenity noticeable was the television, which was imprudently set to a local news channel that of course repeats the same news every 30 minutes so that one can easily keep track of how much of one’s time is evaporating in the “waiting”/confessional room. Finally, after hearing at least three times about the brouhaha between a local HOA and a squadron of feral cats, I was hailed back to a tiny bathroom and handed a paper cup.
I don’t wish to be overly graphic, but I really think someone should come up with a better system for tinkling in these cups. Male or female matters not, I think, because I am unfamiliar with anyone who can turn off her or his “spigot” on a dime without risking serious groinal discomfort just because the brim of the cup is soon to be breached. I am unaware of any hygienic way to do this; my only sense of semi-relief is that urine is, so I am told, sterile. But it is still yellow and 98.6 degrees and generally distasteful. There just seems to be no way given modern human limitations to get that cup out of the way of the on-going flow without some unintended spill-over or side-splashing.
Once I wiped it down and returned it to my M.A., she took what might best be described as one milliliter of it for her lab kit. I thought she should return the rest to me as it was mine after all. No matter, however, as I was then ushered into a closet posing as an examination room so that she could draw blood. As a blood cancer sufferer, one thing I am expert at is having blood drawn. I guided her to an appropriate point of entry and then waited for the tiny prick (the needle; the nurse was actually quite nice) to get the blood extraction process rolling. After filling two vials with my lymphocyte-laden blood, the M.A. then marched me to another room – slightly larger – more like what a realtor in Manhattan would call a walk-in closet. In this room she subjected me first to an EKG and then to a spirometry test three times, apparently to confirm that the first two times I was not faking it and was indeed actually alive.
Lastly, I was all set for the final event of my Certification Pentathalon – the x-ray. This was the event to which I was most looking forward as there is nothing that a cancer patient relishes more than the opportunity to be exposed to yet more carcinogens. She might as well have given me a pack of Marlboro Reds while I was at it. Sadly, however, I then learned that there would be no smokes – nor X-rays – as they do not have an x-ray machine at this facility. So although I was told that this was the facility to which I should report to certify myself and my cancer, elsewhere must I journey to complete the process. I thus got back into my car and drove 20 minutes to the nearest x-ray facility to complete my quest to verify that which I had already known for years. I should hear in “3 to 4 weeks” whether I really have cancer or not.