Any medical condition requiring long term treatment means dealing with a variety of medical personnel – nurses, doctors, techs, etc. They each have their unique personalities and bedside manners, often formed by their long term medical, and life, experiences. Mostly I have had positive experiences with these caregivers in my cancer journey and am exceedingly grateful for them.
My surgeon Dr. Foster was an upbeat bundle of energy, with a shiny, smiley face, always positive. And I couldn’t help but like her even more as we shared the same favorite color – purple. Every time she saw me noticed any shade of purple I might be sporting, even if it was just nail polish.
Nurse Carrie was a tall, lanky, 30-something nurse with short, dirty, blonde hair. She was a no nonsense, confidant tough cookie with a heart who called me hon. Prior to starting chemo, she was the nurse who placed my PICC line (used to administer the chemo) deep up into my arm under the careful guidance of another, more mature nurse. It turned out I was her first PICC line placement that later was confirmed by Nurse Dan (up next), who said “oh you’re the one” and confided in me that Nurse Carrie wondered if I knew (uh, yeah, and see hospital gossip isn’t just a TV thing). Ironically Carrie would be my final chemo nurse, immediately following which the PICC line was pulled (that was a GOOD day!).
My first chemo nurse was a young, dark haired, brown-eyed man with pale skin named Dan (easy to remember, one of my brother’s names). An always quick with a joke coworker brought me to that first chemo appointment, and Dan seemed slightly amused that we were trying to find some fun in the procedure. My favorite nurse during chemo was Penny, a redhead about my age from New Orleans with a southern drawl and a quirky sense of humor. She remembered the days when chemo patients receiving treatment had buckets placed next to them, making it easier for them to puke (oh how far we have come) from the strong chemo.
There really (so far) has been only one bad egg in the bunch, a nurse whose name I won’t mention who seemed to be missing the sensitivity and compassion gene (why in the hell is she a nurse?!), who sometimes came across as downright mean, surly and impatient. I dubbed her Nurse Ratched (think Jack Nicholson and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and quickly found someone else for her part in the cancer treatment picture.
Now that we are metastatic, some new folks are becoming part of the C team. Enter Dr. G.I. Joe., (thanks to one of my good pals for the nickname), radiation oncology, so we can consider radiating the upper thoracic area of my back to reduce the tumors. When I made my appointment with the doc via my health care provider, I read his bio online and learned about his military background, hence the G.I. Joe. Could be a good thing, or bad, I thought. We’ll see.
Dr. G.I. Joe shows his military persona right from the get go, confidently strutting into the examination room, standing tall, chest held high. He booms hello Miss Jager, sounding a little staccato (or is just my imagination?) He sits down next to me and doesn’t mince his words – radiation doesn’t always work and your particular type will have a very unpleasant side effect. I am a little startled, but decide to go with the flow. We talk about the treatment, and he moves to a computer to bring up my CAT scan results so we can review them together. He has a fast way of talking and while he is firing up the computer, he turns around and says with a straight face “did you ever see the Naked Gun movies?” My brain scrambles to remember, Naked Gun, Leslie Nielson? Well at least the guy has a sense of humor.
I leave the appointment unsure of how I will proceed, but thinking overall I liked the doc, G.I. Joe and all. He has an extremely important quality in a doc for me, being a good listener, and he seems to know his stuff. The next day I look at his biz card I grabbed on my way out the door. In his picture he is in his full military medical attire.
I have a follow up phone appointment a few days later with Dr. G.I. Joe to ask a bunch of follow up questions that have been brewing and as a result of Dr. Googling, the most pressing one being how many people, what percentage, get this very unpleasant side effect – 30 percent, 80 percent, what percent? His answer, again in that booming voice as if issuing an order – 100 PERCENT, YOU ARE GUARANTEED TO GET IT!!!! I had to smile in spite of my disappointment (I was hoping for 50 percent). His tone of voice and delivery made me feel like I should stand up and salute. But since I was on the phone I just sat up a little straighter.
Lisa, Cancer Warrior