Anonymiss in DC











{November 30, 2010}   Musings on breast care

So if you read Part 1 of my breast lump saga, you probably remember that Dr. Hot Shot and Dr. New Guy left me with two sheets of paper: one specifying that I needed to make a follow-up appointment for two weeks, and one saying  was allowed to schedule an ultrasound appointment in about three weeks.

So! I took those papers and went back to the scheduling desk, where they asked me which doctor I was told I should see in two weeks. “Well, I guess one of them, since they know what’s going on,” I say.

The receptionist tap tap taps on the computer but says neither Dr. New Guy nor Dr. Hot Shot have their schedules available for that week yet. (As for the ultrasound, I have to go down to radiology and schedule it. Since I have to get back to the office and I’m anticipating a monster line,  I say I’ll call instead)

Early the following week, I call back the office to schedule my appointment with either Dr. New Guy or Dr. Hot Shot. (I know, I should’ve called immediately when I got back to my office, but I didn’t think it’d be THAT huge of a deal. Or maybe I just KNEW it would be a hassle…Hmm..)

I tell the person in the “call center” (yup, seriously. They call it their general medicine “call center”)  that I was told at my appointment to come back in two weeks, so I’d like to schedule an appointment for next week.  I spell my name and my address and dole out my date of birth, and then she asks who my primary care doctor is.  I say “Dr. Never Met Her.” (Ok I didn’t really say that but I really haven’t met her.  Ever. And I’ve been going to this place for five years.)

She says I can see one of Mr. Never Met Her’s residents in about two weeks. I say I’d rather not wait three weeks since the docs I saw recommended two, and that actually, I’d rather see one of them when I come back since they are already familiar with what’s going on. The receptionist rather haughtily announces that it shouldn’t matter who I see and that it won’t have been three full weeks since my first appointment (it’s about 2 days less.)  When I sigh and sound unhappy with this, she says that she’ll ask Dr. Never Met Her if  she thinks I need to come in earlier for a recheck.

Are you kidding me? I feel like screaming at this woman. I don’t CARE what Dr. Never Met Her thinks. I’ve NEVER MET HER. I want to SEE SOMEONE who KNOWS WHO I AM AND WHAT THIS THING IS AND WILL KNOW IF IT HAS CHANGED AT ALL. AND I WANT TO DO IT NEXT WEEK! IF YOU HAD SOMETHING IN YOU THAT MIGHT BE CANCER AND COULD SPREAD ALL OVER YOUR BODY AND KILL YOU, WOULD YOU WANT TO WAIT?

Fortunately, I somehow restrain myself, reminding myself that this woman is probably overworked, underpaid, and under-appreciated by the people she answers to. I try to explain, calmly, that I’d really like to see the same doctors and in the amount of time they specified, because, you know, I have a lump in my breast.  She snaps.

“I hear what you are saying, but we have a protocol here. You have to see your primary care doctor first. That’s our protocol.”

“Fine,” I say coolly, trying not to sound too sulky as I accept the appointment and give her my phone number so she can call me back after she gets Dr. Never Met Her to say that I can wait an extra week.

And then something occurs to me.

I hang up and do something I should’ve done in the first place- something pretty obvious that I would recommend you do if you’re ever in these shoes. I called my OB-GYN’s office. I explained that I had been to my GP, but was scared and wanted a follow-up, and was there any way they could squeeze me in in the next week or so…

… and you know what they said??

“No problem. Can you be here tomorrow morning at 8:30?”

Seriously. That’s what they said. Hallelujah.

Also, once I was there, there was no awkwardness, no weirdo teachable moments, no comments like  “Wait a few weeks, and by the way it could totally be cancer.”

Here’s how it went. The GYN came in the room, took about 30 seconds to check it out, and said “Yeah, I don’t think this is cancer. I’ve unfortunately felt a lot of breast cancers and this feels like a cyst or something. So I’m going to give you a referral to this radiology place. Tell them you need an ultrasound in two weeks.  If you have any problems, have them call me. Here is my number. Don’t worry. I really don’t think it’s cancer.”

And then he answered all of my questions, without patronizing me. It was a miracle.

So yeah. Breast lump? I’m not trying to diss your GP–maybe he or she is fantastic– but frankly, call your GYN, not your GP. Even if it is another DC megapractice with kajillions of women sitting in the waiting room at 7:30 in the morning and a person whose sole responsibility (it seems) is calling people up to her desk to collect copays.

Also, not to get all “Yay prevention and early detection” and “Take control of your own health” or whatever,  but seriously ladies, try to find a good GYN in DC if you don’t have one already. Grab the bull by the horns (forgive the expression) and invest some time in your health, because, frankly, no one’s going to do it for you.

Find a GYN that doesn’t make you feel especially tremendously awkward (because let’s face it, it’s always going to be awkward when someone you don’t know is not only asking you about your sex life but also checking out your goods). Find one that doesn’t patronize you, and find one that takes the time to answer your questions, because damnit, you’re not an idiot and you are, after all, paying them for their time.

I just have never been so grateful I bothered to find a good doctor when I didn’t need one, but just thought it’d be good to have one.

As for my situation, I made myself an appointment ten minutes later for the ultrasound. And my doctor’s office, of its own accord, sent over an “order” for it without my calling and leaving forty messages or talking to six different receptionists.

A few hours after I got back from my appointment, I noticed I had a voicemail.  She talked to Dr. Never Met Her, and Dr. Never Met Her said coming back in two weeks to see one of her residents would be fine.

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