On the way to the appointment with the surgeon, Gene asks me if I have decided on what treatment plan I would prefer. He explains that if I am uncertain or uncomfortable at any point, we can walk out of there without setting a surgery date. I go over my thoughts with him and he agrees that I have chosen an appropriate plan based on the medical evidence and my comfort zone. We come up with a code phrase that I can use if I need to think things over. (We have tried mind reading in the past, but it has only worked with limited success, so code words are important.)
The surgeons office is familiar territory. I have been walking into surgeons offices for over 20 years as this is my husband’s specialty. It gives me confidence to know what to expect. Check in. Fill out paperwork. Have a seat and wait. I hesitate when I have to check the box marked “Cancer.” Ugh. That makes it seem real. My heart beats a bit faster.
As I sit on the exam table, I glance at Gene sitting on the small bench behind the curtain, holding my purse. My lips twitch and I try not to laugh. I’m not very good at waiting, so I look around the room for something to entertain myself. I see the hand sanitizer which looks like an upside-down can of whipped cream. I consider squirting it. My husband asks what I’m looking at. I respond, “The flu poster,” and my lips twitch again. I’m not sure there is a flu poster, but it is a good bet this time of year. I glance at the doctor’s stool on wheels and consider sitting on it and spinning around the room, but I’m sure Gene will stop me. Sigh.
The surgeon comes in while I’m fully dressed. I very much appreciate this. To this point, all the doctors have come in to greet me while I’m fully clothed. I wonder if they know how important this is to the patient? It is hard to meet someone for the first time when you are in a paper gown with only your socks on.
I like the surgeon immediately. He talks to me (not my husband) and listens carefully to my responses. I see a hint of sympathy in his eyes. He calls me “young.” (I now have a doctor’s note that says I’m young!) He covers the pathology report with me. The terms are now familiar as I have grilled my poor husband for information for nearly two weeks. He examines me. We discuss the available options and he asks me what I want to do. I consider responding, “Run out of this office and make it all go away,” but I know what my options are and I know what I want. He tells me that my plan is exactly what he would recommend and it reassures me. Gene, my surgeon, and I are all on the same page.
We set the surgery date for two weeks from now. I get blood drawn and an EKG. I’m handed more paperwork. We walk out and I start shaking again. It is all very real now. But I have a plan in place and that gives me some degree of peace.