Thursday, February 12, 2009

What's With Oncologists Anyway?

Today I got the "second opinion" (I'll explain the quotes in a moment) from Dr. Bosserman in Rancho Cucamonga. An exhausting day. Chris and I both took naps when we got home. But before I delve into all're a fickle crowd aren't you? First I get "mentions" (okay, they may have been complaints) that I'm wordy. So last night, I took pity on you (and yeah, on me) and only put up a really simple almost-only-pictures post. And only 28 of you even bothered to check in on opposed to the over 100 page views a day that had been occurring. The drop-off started with Chris's post and I tried to blame him (he's willing to take the blame, but it's becomes sadly obvious that's not the case). So I're bored with my cancer! Yeah, me too. It's like I've got nothing else....for 6 more months. Hey people, cancer can't always be funny.

So yeah, back to Rancho Cucamonga. I started out very, very grumpy and it went downhill from there. I didn't sleep well (shock!) and we had to drop off Seamus (thanks again Shawna D. and Destiny!) and be in RC by 9:15. Which may as well be 5:15 to me. Actually, 5:15 would have been better--I'm usually wide awake from 4 to 5 each morning. We went to Wilshire Oncology, which is, quite surprisingly, not in LA. I have no idea where that name comes from. Nice enough place, although it seems weird, after the megaopolis that is UCLA Medical Center, that one just goes to a regular ol' doctors office for something as all-consuming serious as chemotherapy. The office was way over-the-top decorated for Valentine's Day. Think kindergarten classroom manic pink/red/ hearts/candy decorated. Then imagine every one of the staff (not the doctor; her coat was still white) in some version of pink heart scrubs. I hate that stuff. Hate it. I don't do cute. I didn't do cute in kindergarten (and not just because I was already like five feet tall). Then they explained that they do this for every holiday. Let me do that crepe paper cardboard cut-out godawful colors pukey-cutesy math for you. 12 weeks of chemotherapy starting February 26th. I get St. Patrick's Day (because yeah, everyone wants to be in a green room with scarey leprechauns when hooked up to a machine that feeds them nausea-making fluids...mmmm, tasty), and then I get Easter (because bunnies and chicks and jellybeans are exactly what I'm going to be craving halfway through chemotherapy) and then, the coup de grace...I'll get Mother's Day too! Because the sap that pours out of Hallmark et al for that particular holiday and the forced sentimentality of it all makes my stomach turn when I'm healthy. It's just unfortunate that I won't be sticking around long enough for chemo-fireworks.

Once I got past that and then past the fact that they handed me a "mandatory" binding arbitration agreement (if I sue, no right to a trial...because right, juries love cancer patients and not so much the doctors, and so why wouldn't I give up my right to a trial??? And doesn't the mention of litigation and how they protect themselves from it coming up before I've even laid eyes on the doctor just give you the warm fuzzies? Yeah, me too. Or maybe that was the candy hearts.) Okay, but the place was clean, the staff was friendly and....they had pink donuts. With candy sprinkles. Which by the way, you shouldn't eat if someone is about to take your temperature...I didn't know that. I do now.

I thought at this stage of my breast cancer journey (yeah, everyone calls it that; I'm willing to be extradited) I was past the part where I walk into a room and whip my top off. I've done that so often for so many people I was starting to worry that one day I'd walk into a client meeting and take my top off, or you know, the grocery store frozen food section (which is a lot more like a doctor's office than you'd think). At any rate, I was wrong. Doctors can only see you if you are wearing a paper dress.

I donned the paper dress and eventually met Dr. Bosserman. Who, first impressions, was just a lot smaller than I expected. How can someone who kills cancer be so tiny? She is however obviously extremely competent (she told us so) and I don't think I've ever met anyone who talks faster than I do, but I have now. She completely agreed with Dr. Glaspy and paused for about 10 seconds longer than he did about the "guaranteed hair loss." There was a lot of name dropping (including an attorney that I also know, who is extremely well known for his bad-faith insurance litigation, so I'm kinda wondering why that came up--I think she meant she could get my insurance to approve things very quickly) and a ton of information. But here's the thing...I almost couldn't get a word in edgewise! I'd get half a question out and she'd dive into the answer--sometimes she correctly guessed what I was about to ask, sometimes she didn't, and sometimes...I was stunned into silence and forgetfulness (Of course, today I also walked into Starbucks and forgot to buy coffee, so there may be something else going on).

Call me crazy, but isn't it surgeons who have the bad rap for being ego-maniacs with bad bedside manners? And wouldn't you think an know a doctor who sees only patients with cancer... would be very compassionate? So now I've been spoiled by a surgeon who was compassionate, solicitous, funny and oh-so-calming (and hey, he's the one who had to tell me I had cancer in the first place) and I'm delivered unto two oncologists who both seemed too busy to talk to me, couldn't really see me as person (just a patient), and were, dare I say it, a tad arrogant. And hey, don't get me wrong, I want confidence. I want to know the doctor is good...but it's like they tell you in every writing class "show, don't tell."

An example of the "I don't see you as a person" oncological phenomenon. Both Dr. Glaspy and Dr. Bosserman asked me about my career. Here's how those conversations went:

Dr. G: Where did you go to law school?
Me: Loyola, right here in LA.
Dr. G: How'd you end up in Riverside? (and you could hear the "hell" implied--twice--as in how the hell did you end up in hell?)
Me: Well, I really wanted to ...[at this point he looked down on his chart, started writing, then glanced out the door and stood up] with frogs, at a Burger King, where homeless people are my only friends, and then pink. I also like pink. But not really. [That's not what I said, but trust me, he doesn't know that.]

Dr. B: What kind of law do you practice?
Me: I work in death and taxes. I'm an estate planning lawyer.
Dr. B: Don't lots of lawyers do that? That's just wills and trusts, right? [said while staring across the room at a calendar and calculating my next appointment]

Because you know, anytime you mention what someone does for a living, it's endearing and not at all rude to put "just" in front of it. "So you're just an oncologist?" "Ah, I see, you're just a priest?" "Just a stripper?" "You just wrestle crocodiles?" It totally works. Try it.

It wasn't all bad, and I did like Dr. Bosserman (I've got a weak spot for intense professional career-driven women) and she did offer to give me a research article about my particular chemo-cocktail (which isn't as commonly used yet; sort of cutting edge, as I understand it). I just wasn't you know, whipping out the camera, snapping photos and explaining my blog. (Her lawyers would be calling).

At any rate, Chris and I discussed. And discussed more. And basically, it's a tie--that gets broken by the fact that Rancho Cucamonga is only a half-hour drive away and UCLA is anywhere from an hour and 15 minutes to 3 days away. RC also seemed to have much more in the way of supportive programs--for example, they don't just hand me 14 prescriptions. They ask me for my pharmacy phone number and they call them all in for me. They also have a pre-chemo planning meeting with the nurse who trains Chris and I both for about 45 minutes on what to expect and what to do and all that. They also have a wig program and lots of options there. And they were willing to make my appointments now--they're that confident they'll get the Blue Cross approval in time. And one of the frustrating parts of this is not having control of one's schedule.

So, February 23rd at 3pm Chris and I go get chemo-trained. It's like boot camp for baldy. Then on February 26th, I'm in "the chair" and getting the drip for the first time. We picked a Thursday because the sick days will definitely be over by Monday and I'll be back at work. I'm told I'll be slightly nauseous and very tired the day of treatment and then a little more so the next. But should be better Saturday and Sunday (so of course I'm thinking, "well good, then I can go into my office on Sunday and get caught up". If I tolerate it well, I can switch to chemo on Fridays and still be back to work on Monday. This is the great and grand plan.

Oh, and we saw the chemo room--most crowded on Tuesdays and Thursdays we're told. And yeah, it was crowded. Nice big comfy recliners that look a lot like the ones you get pedicures in at places called "Happy Nails." Chris can stay with me for the whole time, but I'm not going to do that to him (although he insists on staying the first time at least). Yeah, he's cute like that.
Really, I figure you'll all be right there with me because I can bring my laptop. And if you thought watching Chris's hair grow was going to be a good time...wait until we get to the drip details--drip by drip. I know. I'm excited too.

See you all at the really super cute oh my gawd pink party!!


  1. Funny... too funny. I can't think of a better way to handle 'your journey' (aka;crap) than the way you are doing it; blogging - laughing, making others laugh - letting go of it. I did chemo on Fridays and only missed one Monday back to work. It was after my last chemo; affects can be cumulative or so they told me and the power of suggestion has always been a little dangerous for me! I think your decision to keep your travel local is a good one.

    Kathy D.

    P.S. I loved Chris' post re; hair! How good is that?

  2. Thanks Kathy, that's good to know. I am hoping I will do the other 3 treatments on a Friday. Both oncologist have told me that the effects will NOT be cumulative. Maybe they're trying to avoid that "power of suggestion" thing. I think I'll go with that!

  3. 6-8 years huh? Wow, I had no idea. Thanks for all the information you have been sharing T, I know for me it's been very educational. I really don't know what to say right now, I am just hoping the weather holds up so we can come to your party tonight. :=)

  4. I heart you, really, really I do! (I just threw up a little in my mouth.) I think the crepe paper thing would have tipped the balance toward UCLA, despite the 45 day drive. We will see you tonight!

  5. You won't get as many hits with photos (unless you use alt tags) because there's nothing for the web crawlers to find - they don't "see" photos.

    Also, some of us follow you in Google Reader, which doesn't show up as a page hit. (I think in Google Analytics it shows up as a "bounce.")

    But yes, we're reading! Or looking at your pictures, as the case may be. (You can drive yourself nuts looking at page hits and wondering why they vary so much.)

  6. Sounds like Guy's Mom's HOUSE (you know, "HoneyGran"--the former kindergarten teacher?). Every holiday it hurts my eyes to go to her house. She's kept her classroom decorations and now uses them at home, along with a bunch of other stuff (Annalee dolls, for one--which I hate)for EVERY holiday--even if it's not a "real" holiday (like VALENTINE'S DAY!). I'm SO glad she's in town NOW so she may go with us to your party. At least I don't have to be at her house to see the damage that Cupid has done to her living room. Lucky for me . . . not so lucky for you.

  7. Teresa, you write so well, I love satire. I've been waiting for you to write a novel. Hopefully with me in it as the "mean older sister". I tell everyone I know about how I have a sister who is a novelist, and practices law as her "real job". (Well not everyone, but everyone that matters). Maybe you could take time off to write a book after your cancer chemo. I thought that you were writing that book called "Clairvoyant"? It sounds like the name of the street that we lived on, many many years ago. In the house that mom now calls "Taco Bell".

  8. T-it's Saturday morning at 9:30. I'm at work--where's your blog update for Friday. I don't think I can start work without my blog fix! It must have been some party last night. Were the boobie pops good? Sorry about the "Pink Party" snide comment. Post soon, or I won't be able to work.

  9. Okay, I am at work and I have checked your site every hour and still no posting. Is this just a way to get more hits? Remember, I'm a mom and I'm starting to worry. You are okay, aren't you? I'd feel really bad if something has happened to Chris(t) or Seamus or you and I was being my ususal jerk self. I trust in Chris(t) tho, so I know everyone is okay.

  10. T,are you getting ANY of my comments?

  11. Holly--The party didn't end until 2a.m., so I missed my nightly deadline. I'll post tonight...just as soon as the noise of the keyboard does not cause intense pounding in my head...

    Helga--yes, I get your comments. Here and on Facebook! (You hipster, you). I appreciate you caring enough to comment! ;-)

  12. Hi Teresa,
    Sounds like your party was a lot of fun and the photos look great. I especially liked the post about the oncologist in RC. When I had a thyroid tumor years ago, I had a doctor draw on my neck with a sharpie. I still remember licking my finger and trying to get off the black marks as I rode down the elevator.

  13. Thanks Elisa. And yes, that's my point--oncologists apparently don't see "people," they see science experiments!

  14. Teresa, You're so funny! You're good reads too!! I've got an idea....after your "journey" journal here, you should publish your works.. Some proceeds can go to those impending, and pesky bills, and some to m.d.s' sensitivity training!!!


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