Friday, December 18, 2015

The Good Doctor

So my good doctor is retiring. He told me this as he was gazing at the video screen and manipulating a tiny camera in my innards.

“Hmm, well, you’ll see Dr. K next time. Looks good. Yes. I’m leaving. February. Nope, don’t see anything in there. Looking good. That’s what, the third clean exam? Good work. Good work.”

This is the doctor to whom, two years ago after my fifth operation, I wrote a Valentine:

I’m glad that you’re here

I would be much sadder

If you weren’t around

To take care of my bladder!

He never mentioned it, but his nurse said he liked it.

He’s read a couple of my books and even listened to a few songs I wrote.

Now I’m lying on the examination table waiting for his arrival and watching seconds tick away on the wall clock. The good doctor has done this test on me about a dozen times now. It’s never pleasant, and I’m always nervous, so that when he comes into the room and says, “Mr. Sagnier, how are you?” I respond without fail, “Scared,” and he replies, “Hmpf.”

He was, at times, alarmingly actual. “Well, of course, if it spreads, we’ll take out your bladder…”


“But probably we won’t have to.”

In January, he examined me shortly after the New Year. He was looking a little sallow, a little pinched around the eyes. He said something to the effect of, “Glad I’m not operating today. A little too much cheer with the neighbors. Hmpf.”

I was glad too.

My good doctor made me feel safe, and even when the news was not good. When yet another operation was scheduled, he radiated a sense of confidence. After surgery, he’d do the post-operative visit and say, “You won’t remember this but…” and explain everything. He was right most of the time. Coming out from under—and happy to do so—I couldn’t recall what he’d told me, so I’d email him the next day to get clarification. Mostly, he’d write back, “Got it all! See you next week!” Then I’d get the full and sometimes scary scoop. “Some invasive stuff, so we’re going to do another course of BCG…”

And we would. I’d be injected with a solution of sheep cells carrying inactivated tuberculosis bacteria which, according to the web’s Chemocare site, “is thought to bring about an immune response in the bladder by triggering an inflammatory reaction.  This reaction brings disease-fighting white blood cells and cytokines to the bladder.  The immune system cells then fight directly against the tumor cells.” I thought the process was rather weird but the good doctor was reassuring. “The treatment was invented in France!” In France? Really? Well, that makes it all okay!

I’ll miss the good doctor, and do hope the next physician will be as personable. This is scary stuff and a good doctor makes all the difference.  

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