There has been some confusion around the office due to the fact that my partner became suddenly ill, and it was important that the patients on treatment be seen once a week. In addition to my own patients, I had seen all of his three weeks ago while he was on vacation, so I had a working knowledge of most of them, their cancers and the problems they were having during treatment. Still, there were new patients to be seen, simulated and treated and it seemed that the most logical division of labor was for me to see the new patients, and the substitute doctor to see the old patients, many of whom were close to the end of their treatments. It seemed that way anyway.
So when my partner’s nurse asked me to see a prostate cancer patient belonging to my partner this morning, I asked, “Didn’t Dr. Substitute see him yesterday, as she was supposed to?” Our nurse answered, “She tried, but he wanted to see you. He remembered you from three weeks ago. He is at the end of treatment.” I said, “Okay, just this one time, but I will NOT see him in follow up. He can return to his urologist for follow up as long as his PSA normalizes.” A moment later, I was in with the patient, a kindly elderly man who described not his side effects and symptoms, but the fact that yesterday he went to the San Diego Fair with his two daughters, and what a delight it was that he got to spend time with his adult daughters alone without his wife. Apparently this is a yearly ritual. We spoke about the art exhibits, the rose growing competition, and of course, the fried food. I thought to myself, “Maybe Dad would like to go to the Fair.” I exited the room twenty minutes later, proclaiming to the nurse, “Okay, I will see him ONE time in follow up. Just ONE TIME!” She smiled.
At the end of the day there was another. Just started on treatment, this prostate cancer patient had missed his on treatment visit yesterday because Dr. Substitute had to leave. The nurse warned, “He’s a bit chatty.” I entered the room, whereupon he declared, “No cancer patient is truly cured. I just hope I outlive my cancer.” This was a challenge indeed. Despite the fact that I was quite certain my partner had already had this conversation with the patient, I felt the urge—no, the COMPULSION—to tell this patient of the multitude who indeed I had cured over a thirty year career. It was a long conversation. We both enjoyed it, heartily. I added another patient to my roster.
What is it with these prostate cancer patients? We have a mutual admiration society. And I hear that the word on the golf course is, I give the best “finger wave” in the business. Just sayin’…..