He asked the question in mid-May 2013 while perched on a stool. I listened while sitting in one of the plaid patient chairs. We stared at one another for a second or two. Me, the cancer patient who had left his office seven months earlier stunned and angry and shocked and refusing to accept what I was being told to do. He, the oncologist whose thankless job it had been to tell me that October day how the CT scan showed a new mass, and maybe two, and my left kidney was shutting down and I needed another colostomy, a permanent one this time. And more chemo. Agony at the thought.
Back in October I had done all I could to delay surgery while starting to juice and eat raw foods and get a second opinion. Eventually I agreed to a more targeted radiation treatment in New York City. Our last conversation in late November 2012 had been on the phone to inform him of my decision.
But now seven months later the City folks told me I needed to see my Local folks in the oncology center to determine whether I could ditch the daily blood thinner shots. It was not a City question. It was a Local question. So here we sat.
“I filled out a bunch of paperwork to make sure you and my other three local doctors received every bit of my progress through treatment,” I said. “I would like to know if I can go off my blood thinners, based on the CT scan report results you should have received from the City.”
He stared intently and responded, “Your doctor from the City reports that you are losing more weight and feeling fatigue. Tell me, how are you really feeling?” He was not saying it like a compliment about dropping two sizes and wearing new clothes. He asked like he expected me to be very ill and I must be holding something dreadful back. I was puzzled.
“I,” I paused. “Um, I did lose about thirty pounds back in October/November, when I started juicing after the cancer returned.” He did not look convinced. Previously when I mentioned juicing to fight cancer he had not been impressed. “When you juice, your body loses the weight it wants to and then evens out. I’ve stayed pretty much the same healthy weight since December. Even during treatment. Really.” Still skeptical. “And I’m tired because of going through radiation for the second time in three years… but otherwise I’m doing light exercise, I’m back to work, I’m still juicing, I feel fine.” I was forging into the wilderness of defending to my doctor why, in the world, I was feeling pretty darn good.
“Well,” he said, “Why don’t you tell me exactly what you did for treatment. I never received anything from the providers there.”
Then I realized. He did not fully know why I was there. And he was making a point about something bouncing around the peripheral thoughts in my head. Ah. Apparently Local does not like City because City sometimes delays sending reports to Local. City does not like Local because… well who knows. It was all business and I was the valued commodity. Me and my cancer.
“Ok. Here is what I ended up doing.” I wanted to pout because he had no idea what I had gone through and was not readily acknowledging how well I suspected I was doing. Then I remembered I was partially to blame. I shared what I did from early October when I started to juice in that desperate attempt to avoid surgery and treatment, up until today. I talked about how we ended up spending the month of January in the City for targeted treatment twice a day and about the little chemo pill I took morning and night on the days I had treatment. I had weekends off. Just like a job. I told how I took a bunch of supplements recommended by another doctor, to protect my body during treatment, since I could not tolerate the juicing as well. The information interested him because two years ago the radiation and chemo I had locally was much different. Much more intense. Much more damaging. No supplements allowed. I had agreed to that because I was told by another provider I would not deal with the cancer again if I went through the tough treatment in 2011. Now I sat hoping my provider could tell me what the report from the City said about the second round of treatment in 2013. I knew it was good; they had told me the results were remarkable. The mass had shrunk 90% and was not threatening my blood vessels any more. So could I please stop jabbing myself in my scar-numbed belly each night for the blood thinning shots? That’s why I was here.
He looked at the computer screen for a moment. “Thanks for giving me all of that information. I have the scans you dropped off, but the City did not send me the report yet; as soon as I get that detail, I’ll know if the mass has pulled away from your blood vessels enough to no longer be a threat. If it has, you can stop the blood thinner shots.”
Two days later the nurse called. “Mrs. O’Connor? These are the kinds of calls I like making. The report does indeed show there is no more mass pressing against the blood vessels. You can stop the blood thinner shots.” Yep. Those are the kinds of calls I like getting.
There is a Great Physician who always knows why we’re “here”. Wherever we are. In any situation. Any illness. Grief. Sorrow. Joy. Even when others don’t understand how we got “here” and we don’t have the energy to try to explain. He created us. He wanted to get to know us. When our sin separated us from Him, He sent His only Son to die and pay the price for us and rise up from the grave and live for us. Live with us. Maybe God is longing for us to want to get to know Him while we’re here.
So. Why are you here?
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” I John 4:10
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5
P.S.: A warm “Thank you!” to Don Giovanni for interviewing me for his community focus radio program that aired this morning on a number of local stations. You can connect with Don’s radio show here: Web | Facebook