I think this wish, that doctors knew everything, goes hand in hand with all the other truths in youth that turn out to not be true as one gets older. I wish my parents could solve every problem. I wish Santa Claus were real. I wish doctors could fix everything. Even more than that, I wish doctors were omniscient.
When I was young, a visit to the doctor could fix my ear infection, eye infection, or rash. Oftentimes I went to the doctor for no reason at all–just to make sure I was healthy. The doctor was a miracle worker. As I got older my problems became more obtuse. They often couldn’t be fixed with antibiotics, eye drops, or creams. More than that, I had to pay copays and handle billing on my own. I started to see doctors not much older than myself. My friends became doctors. Doctors became just people.
Smart, well-educated people. Good problem-solver people. Hardworking people. But: people. My people have treated me well in the two years, five months since I was diagnosed with cancer. I’m still alive, for one. I don’t look sick. And when i’m not recovering from surgery, I feel pretty well. Still, i’ve seen more than i’d like to have seen of the side of doctors that don’t know everything. That can’t fix every problem. That can’t get rid of my cancer. I don’t blame them for this–any more than I blame my parents for not being able to “solve” my cancer or Santa Claus for not being able to give me the gift of health at Christmas. Still, I wish things were a little more clear.
I am now six and a half weeks out of surgery. Four weeks ago, I went to the emergency room with a new pain and my family and I spent over 12 hours there while the ER doctor and my surgeon tried to figure out what was wrong. The scans showed I had excess fluid around my right lung. The ER doc brought in a pulm0nologist to look at my x-rays while my surgeon, on the phone, insisted that the fluid was a normal effect of surgery and that it would go away on its own. He thought a laxative would take care of it. We decided to trust the surgeon and not do anything about the fluid. I threw up most of the laxative and I went home tired, grumpy, and still in pain. My new pain gradually decreased over the next few days until it was gone. Was there a point to going to the emergency room? Did the doctors really do anything except make me more distressed? I don’t know. At least I got good pain meds, and for a second when I thought they found the source of the pain in the fluid around my lungs, a little peace of mind.
Four weeks later i’m feeling much better than I was, recently off narcotic pain meds, getting around pretty well, but still not really comfortable. And still hating sleep. My newest scan showed the fluid around my lungs is still there. Now, quite willingly, they’re taking care of it. This makes me frustrated, knowing I could have been breathing easier and walking easier and feeling more comfortable four weeks ago. If only the doctors had known.
All of these thoughts as I head into my very important, all-telling, post-surgery oncologist appointment next week. The one where maybe I will find out how successful the surgery was in terms of my imaging. The one where maybe I will find out what I face next. Oftentimes these “big” appointments are less clarifying than i’d like them to be. I just wish I was gong in with a little bit more faith.