Monday, October 18, 2010

Bedside Manner

It’s late Sunday evening and I am under a lot of stress. The Phillies lost their first game in the playoffs and are playing terrible baseball tonight. Thank goodness the pitcher is doing a decent job, although he just gave up a run. I am not sure how long I can sit here and write, but will give it a whirl.

It seems when a subject comes your way twice in a few weeks, it is one you should write about. A friend brought my attention to an article in the local paper written by a spouse who accompanied his wife to a doctor’s appointment. If I recall correctly, she was diagnosed with cancer (I believe breast), and he was shocked by the doctor’s attitude. From what I remember, the doctor’s attitude suggested there was little hope for her. They subsequently went somewhere else, but the point was that the doctor showed little empathy for the patient.

When I was at the breast cancer conference last week, one of the speakers was a survivor who was there to talk from the patient’s perspective. She told the story of her visit to the doctor when she received the news of her diagnosis. The female doctor informed her of her triple negative breast cancer, then basically gave her a bleak prognosis and also showed little empathy. The patient proceeded to get other opinions, landing with my doctor who provided some “hope”.

I have had this experience myself, both in dealing with my own disease and that of my sister. When Jean was diagnosed about three years after my first bout of BC, we went to the pros at the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania. Jean had a stage III cancer, based on the size of the breast tumor and the fact that it had spread to her lymph nodes. The docs at Penn basically wrote her off – and proceeded to talk about bone marrow transplants (the drastic treatment that was given at that time when the disease spread). Then she saw the man who would become her surgeon, Dr. Schwartz. He looked her square in the eye and said he could treat her and shared his experience with this type of disease and basically, gave her hope; not a promise of a cure, but hope.

When I spoke with an oncologist after my latest diagnosis, I looked at his face, and although he emoted much empathy, he also looked defeated, tired and worn. Even his voice sounded glum. I am sure after years of treating cancer, a person must become somewhat jaded and at times, feel defeated; however, this was not an attitude I either needed or wanted. When I met my current oncologist (the same as the guest speaker’s), she took my hand, looked me in the eye and said “I can help you”. She didn’t promise to cure me. In fact, she didn’t make any promises; she just projected confidence and gave me a feeling of hope.

The latest unpleasant doctor experience I had was with an ENT. Suffering from the effects of the chemo, my sinuses were a mess. The doctor I saw barely looked at me, spoke to his intern the entire time – even gave her my instructions, ordered an MRI and never followed up with me. You know that was the last time I ever saw him – and I will never see him again and will be sure to tell everyone how awful he was.

Are doctors so busy that they don’t have to care about treating patients as human beings and with a little dignity? Many doctors over-book and make patients wait for hours in the waiting room. Obviously they haven’t heard about customer service. But if most patients are like my parents, things like this don’t matter – my parents find a doctor and stick with them, no matter what! They are of the era before Google! When the doctor tells them something, it must be right. When a doctor tells me something I Google it; then I go back to the doctor and start questioning.

Now, I know some very good, very fine doctors – so this is really a generalization. However, I am sure many of you would agree – it feels like the norm.

The article mentioned a movie starting William Hurt (called “Doctor”). He is a doctor who is diagnosed with throat cancer. He gets to experience first hand what his patients have dealt with and it is this experience that changes his perspective. The author suggested that all doctors see this movie. I haven’t seen it, but my friend, a nurse, agreed with the author.

On a better note, the Phillies did win the ball game. Today was a wonderful day in the city. We managed to get the pictures of the karaoke party from Lauren and I figured out how to upload them to YouTube. So, for those of you who were there, check yourself out. For those who weren’t and want a chuckle, take a look by going to YouTube and doing a search on iwanaberma (until I figure out how to link them to this blog). Mind you, I did not detect any candidates for American Idol; but what a wonderful group of people they are!

Oh, I understand that the pill thing has been straightened out – more on that next week when I find out what is really going on.

It’s been a fine day!

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