Here we go. Almost two weeks ago, my mother in law was diagnosed with cancer again. This time it is a tumor in her sinus. We don't know if it is a recurrence of the nasopharyngeal cancer that she had twelve years ago (to the week) or simply a phenomenonally agressive lymphoma. We will find out about the pathology today. Either way it is a huge tumor in her sinus that is growing so fast that there has been a visible change in size in the last week.
The doctors have very grim looks on their faces. There's lots of talk about putting "her affairs in order." They are not giving out any hope except for a possible delay of the inevitable.
Over the course of this most recent diagnosis I spoke with a guy who works in the office next to one of my best friends. Seven years ago, a week before his son was born, he was diagnosed with stage four lymphoma. There were tumors all over his body and he was given three months to live. "Make sure your life insurance is in order," the doctors said to him. Meanwhile, he found a doctor that knew about a new drug trial. He took that new cancer drug, and fought his lymphoma into remission. Since then he has had a recurrence of lymphoma in his head and neck. He told me about a doctor that he believes saved his life from both cancers. He told me that many, many doctors will just say that there is nothing they can do, because they don't know about what's out there and it's too hard to find out.
I thought, what the heck? I might as well give it a try. So I call the illustrious doctor's office. I know scheduling is going to be an issue, I know I am going to have to plead my case. I am prepared for that.
I leave a message for the scheduler indicating the gravity of my mother-in-law's situation, and the need for urgency.
The scheduler calls me back and says that the first appointment with the doctor is January 24.
I call the scheduler back. Her name is Maria. (Her name is not being changed, as she does not deserve any anonymity.) I actually get her on the phone and I say, "I received your message, but perhaps I did not express myself very well. My mother-in-law could be DEAD in five weeks."
Maria says "mm-hmm, well does she want to make an appointment?"
Three beats go by. Very slowly I replied, "Did you hear what I just. said?" "Well, yes," says Maria. "Well, her primary care doctor can call the doctor directly, because I cannot schedule her earlier without that."
"Well okay," I thought. Why didn't she just say that in the first place, for crying out loud. If we need to get the doctor to call, we'll get the doctor to call. But then Maria adds, for good measure, "Because her primary care physician is the ONLY one that can determine whether she needs to seen right away."
She says this as though I may be lying about my mother-in-law's desperate straits as a ploy to get past her, the all-powerful gate keeper. It was bad enough in fertility clinics, but this is life or death stuff. Come on.
Maria is the scheduler for this doctor only. He has his own special scheduler. He probably thought is was a good idea to get someone special, since he's an ONCOLOGIST and all of his patients are dealing with a potentially lethal disease. I can only hope there is a hell for Maria, perhaps where she herself is continually diagnosed with new cancers, but can never get in to see the oncologist.
When I started this post a couple of days ago, I thought we would have the pathology report by now, but the first report was inconclusive, and despite the rush on the second biopsy we still don't know exactly what kind of cancer she has. Aaargh.
This is going to be really, really hard, and not just because of all the obvious emotional earthquakes that are occurring daily, but because I'll need to resist the temptation to commit homicide on some gate-keeping, self-mportant, burned out, clueless, health "care" worker.