Thursday, October 4, 2012

Maybe She Was Right

It's not that I have a problem with big box cancer centers.  I just feel like we have some great specialists in our neck of the woods.  So I rarely suggest my patients cross state lines for care. 

From time to time it happens anyway.

I didn't blame Sarah for going to the far away Mecca for treatment.  Her colon cancer, routine as it was, was still a big deal.  She could afford to put her life on hold, rent a hotel room, and get the very best her bank account could afford.  As she said on the visit before leaving:

I'm not taking any chances!

Sarah was a youngish sixty year old who was in the prime of her career.  She entered the office wearing the latest fashions and exited the parking lot in flashy new cars.  Her cancer was found on routine screening.  The stage and pathology were favorable.

Her treatment plan was carried out flawlessly.  She returned to pre cancer life a bit more cautious, but otherwise no worse for wear.  Every year she made the pilgrimage back for her annual checkup.

And every year I rolled my eyes as I read through the gracious consult note that arrived on my desk a few weeks later.  But this year was different.  I skimmed through the first few lines.

Sarah is doing well.  She has no signs or symptoms of recurrent cancer.  She recently welcomed the birth of her first grandchild (Nora!).

It was the name that caught my attention.  I could no longer push this off as some distant big box cancer center staffed by arrogant clinicians.  This physician had taken the time to learn about Sarah's life and rejoice in her triumphs.  From these few sentences it was abundantly clear that she was not just another case, another number. 

She was truly being cared for.

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