At 3:06 pm, four hours since I first left a message, I started asking myself why the nurse practitioner hadn’t called, knowing how anxious I must be to learn the results of the biopsy. By this time she had received five messages to call me: three from the practice coordinator and two from me. Surely, she could spare five minutes to call.
At 4 pm, still no call, so I dialed the practice coordinator for the 4th time, but by then I was crying. She was incredulous that I still didn’t know the results of the biopsy!
“I’ll send a message directly to the surgeon,” she said.
Finally, at 4:20 pm, the phone rang, and I knew by the number that this was THE CALL.
“Hello,” I nervously answered.
“It’s Dr. Guth (the breast surgeon). I’m sorry we didn’t call sooner, but you weren’t listed as a patient.”
“Please. Just tell me, do I have cancer,” I answered.
“No, the cells aren’t cancerous or precancerous. They’re ‘atypical cells.’ If you were 30 or 40, we’d give you a drug (I can’t remember what she said it would do), but since you’re 70, we don’t do that.”
“I don’t understand what being 70 has to do with this. I don’t want to develop cancer and die at 72,” I told her.
“Why don’t you make an appointment when we can discuss options,” Dr. Guth answered.
When the appointment scheduler got on the phone, she told me the first available appointment was for April, 2018.
“I think maybe you should check with Dr. Guth if she wants me to wait until April,” I responded. She put me on hold, and when she came back on, she said: “Dr. Guth can see you in two weeks.”
Of course, I’m thrilled I don’t have breast cancer, but I detest the state of the medical system today. The majority of doctors, even the best of them, have become impersonal, bureaucratic, robotic, overburdened, harried, hurried and hassled.
The moral of this story:
Take control of your own health. Keep calling until you get the answers you need to make the right decisions for your physical and mental well being going forward. And, if you possibly can, connect with a friend, a relative, a friend of a friend or a friend of a relative who is a medical doctor. When you can pick up the phone to get professional guidance from someone who “relates” to your concerns, it can help relieve some of your anxiety.
I called my cousin Joel, a breast surgeon in Rochester, NY, when I learned I needed to have a breast biopsy. Although he hadn’t seen my MRI report, he said that most reports with “low suspicion” notations turn out not to be breast cancer. I’m also fortunate (actually, blessed) to call Dr. Mary Jane Minkin my doctor and friend. A supremely smart and passionate OB GYN who teaches at the Yale University School of Medicine, she never fails to return my calls and emails, and concisely convey what I need to know about everything from estrogen therapy to mammograms, MRIs to biopsies.
I was one of the lucky ones. But if you’re not, you deserve to have someone on your side who will give you the skinny during what is an undoubtedly stressful time.