GC and Donna came with me for my first appointment with the radiation oncologist. We all crowded into a little examining room, which required some high-level wheelchair maneuvering on GC’s part.
A young man in a white coat squeezed his way into the room. He was a medical student and his job was to conduct the medical history interview. I was happy to oblige, since he seemed to need the practice.
Then he left and returned with the oncologist, who didn’t look like what I expected an oncologist to look like. I didn’t realize until that moment that I even had a preconceived notion of what an oncologist should look like.
He seemed to be in his late 40s with blue eyes and blond hair and a dark tan. He was pleasant and friendly and he smiled a lot, but in that conspiratorial, in-joke kind of way that made me feel like I wasn’t quite getting the joke. And when he talked? My first thought was “I wonder what language that is?”
After a few moments I recognized it as English, but with an extremely pronounced French accent. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Quebec French. He spoke loudly and a little too fast. I found myself trying to simultaneously listen, translate, understand, absorb and respond to the information, with mixed results. At the same time, I was struck by the absurdity of the situation, and there are few things I like more than an absurd situation.
I was able to get the general gist of what he was saying. It was all pretty positive. He’s waiting for the pathology report from the second surgery, but as things currently appear, I’m looking at four weeks of daily radiation, no chemo, and possibly some ongoing hormone treatment. The radiation can be scheduled for two weeks from now…except he has to wait for that pathology report, so maybe it’s two weeks from whenever he receives it.
There was some talk of a clinical trial, which I may or may not be eligible to participate in. Something about a shorter period of radiation but at higher intensity. He kept using his hands to describe eligible breasts, while talking about ‘breast volume.’ By this time I was finding it hard to focus and my mind was drifting to completely unrelated matters, like whether his tan was natural, and why was I so sleepy, and monty python.
Finally he stopped talking and looked at me expectantly, so I figured he must have asked me a question. He kept looking at me quizzically, with that conspiratorial smile, and I kept looking at him quizzically, with my matching conspiratorial smile. Finally he picked up a hospital gown and held it out to me, and I realized he was waiting for me to disrobe.
GC and Donna tactfully decided to wait out in the hallway. I was tempted to ask them to take the little medical student with them.
It turned out the doctor needed to examine my breasts to see if they had enough ‘volume’ to qualify for the clinical trial. The examination was inconclusive. He wasn’t sure. Maybe. He looked skeptical. It didn’t much matter, since I’ve never thought of my breasts as voluminous, and besides, I wasn’t all that interested in the clincial trial.
After the doctor and the med student left, I put my clothes back on, Donna and GC returned, and we all giggled for a bit. The doctor came back and he said he’d send someone back in with some literature about the clinical trial. We waited a little while but nobody came, so we left.
When I got home I had a three-hour nap!