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(REM reference)

I remember waking up one day, during the time of my first surgery, and counting seven doctors standing around my bed. They were not all doctors, of course. I recognized my principal surgeons, the two of them, and beyond that I hadn’t a clue. It looked like a scene from Young Guns or some such, these folks in variable length white coats, situated around my bed in a semi-circle. They were residents and students. I had no idea. I expected at least one of them to pull his or her coat back behind them, draw a six-shooter and start showing off with it, like in the movies.

It WAS an impressive display, and nearly all of them ultimately had something to do with my return to good health before all was said and done, despite the fact they did not have six-shooters.

I’ve seen a few of them since that time, even had one or two see me in place of the surgeon on an occasion or two, but, when they did, my wife sometimes had to remind me, “He took out the stitches in your chin,” “She was the one who played soccer in college.”

There were certainly more doctors involved in an operation of that length and complexity, but I do not remember them or know them, and I did not feel a need to shed them as time went by. I had my ENT/surgeon, I had my oncologist, and I had my primary care doc. I figured I would be seeing those guys for some time, and so far that has been the case, although my ENT recently advised that we could go to six month visits and my primary care doc is still gloating over the New York Giants (so I will probably avoid him until very late next football season).

All of that is beside the point, as I have failed in my typically rambling way to get to yet.

I DID have seven doctors for this last go-round, and that is without even doing a serious count. I don’t believe I ever saw them all at once or I would still be having nightmares about awakening after a hurricane surrounded by my uncles or something of the sort.

Yeah, yeah, it was a tornado in the movie, but I live on the East Coast. We just HAD a tornado, to be sure, but it surprised us SO much that nobody died like they were supposed to. Knowing our local governments, I am sure they will put a task force together to find out why no one died and, dangit, make sure that never happens again! If you wanna make CNN, you gotta have bodies!

In the meantime, I have considered it my goal to lose my doctors, one at a time if necessary. As I mentioned, I was recently advised by my ENT/surgeon that he doesn’t want to see me for six months. That’s one down.

I went into the hospital for an outpatient endoscopy to make sure I wasn’t leaking in a place where I wasn’t supposed to be leaking, and while they found some minor issues, they gave me a clean bill of health in that regard, and so they are gone as well. In their case, they are out of the loop completely.

I saw the infectious disease doctor today, although I don’t know why, as I don’t believe I have an infection any more and it turns out he doesn’t either.

That gets awkward, you know, when you both know you are just wasting time, but you have to do it anyway so that it seems like you aren’t wasting time? He stethoscoped me, finally, to give the appearance of trying, and then asked me about my eating habits and my weight loss, just to make it official, and then we agreed that I was losing him too.

These guys are going by the wayside and I am happy.

I don’t see the pulmonologist anymore. I forget what we decided, but his name has not come up and it is not on my wife’s legendary refrigerator calendar, so he must be gone too.

I think it goes without saying that the anesthesiologists are welcome over any time we want to have a nitrous oxide party, but that doesn’t count as doctoring, so they are gone too.

I’m shedding these guys (and gals) like back hair (just joking, just joking…I don’t have back hair). (Not that there is anything wrong with back hair. My wife has back hair and I find it attractive. Just joking, just joking, I don’t find it attractive :))

I think that is a good thing. It has been my goal. I think I need to shed my cardiopulmo dude, and that should happen a week from now, and then I am left with my ENT, my PCP, and OncoMan.

Not bad for a month’s work.

Meanwhile, a friend wrote that she was feeling sort of vulnerable when she learned that her doctors were stretching out the visits. I had not thought of that. (My wife doesn’t have back hair, by the way. It’s pretty sickening what I will do to try to get people to laugh. Please don’t tell my wife because she will beat me.)

I’m thinking about this vulnerability in two ways. One way is that we grow so used to their presence that they become like family members or even sort of surrogate lovers, certainly friends(like what happens to psychiastrists and patients, based on the movies I’ve been watching lately). The other way is that they have saved our lives and we expect them to continue to do so and it makes us nervous, frightful, when they are not there to give us that monthly AOK.

Both scenarios resonate with me.

Addressing the second first, it happens that my doctors were not providing quite all of the care I needed. Since I was a head/neck cancer survivor, their efforts in monitoring and maintenance were targeted in those areas and in areas associated with those areas. But no one was checking the rest of me. It was only because I had a continuing nagging little cough, really a minor thing, that I brought up to my PCP, that I got a CAT scan and then a PET scan of my lungs and I only complained because I thought that having quit smoking for more than two years, any semblance of a cough should be gone. He agreed. Or at least agreed to authorize the tests. The rest, as they say, is history.

And the moral of that story is that we cannot and should not rely on our doctors for 100% of our care. We need to take it upon ourselves, if we haven’t already, to monitor our health on a regular basis and to maintain our good health as well (I am working on that, although it is one of those projects I am likely to get to on a serious basis when the clouds rain dogs…but let’s not get me started on dogs).

We cannot let ourselves feel vulnerable for the loss of our doctors, not for this reason. We should rejoice in saying goodbye to them, knowing, as the infectious disease guy indicated today, where they are if we need them.

They are never too far away, but hopefully they are far enough away that you and I no longer need them.

As for the first possible reason, I saved that because that touches a closer place for me. I will miss some of these people when they are not a part of my life. They HAVE become friends to me, and I will miss them. There is no doubt.

But, I’ve gotten over friends leaving before, so I’ll get over this too :).

Maybe this is gender-based and I am not giving it the weight it deserves. I am certain it is an issue for some.

I don’t know. It WAS awkward leaving the infectious disease doc today. We couldn’t hug or anything, you know? I felt like a kid on the last day of school: I had really made an attachment to this teacher (if it was my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Pabst, I did more than that, I fell in love, although regrettably, teachers were not reciprocating at the time), in this case my doctor, the guy who did the most to relieve me of the MSSA junk, and now I was going to bail out, run out of the school when that bell rang and to heck with the teacher (doctor).

It WAS like that. When he said what he said about how I would know where he was if I needed him, my feet were shuffling like those of a sixth-grader anxious to hit the pavement, I was nodding and smiling and agreeing with everything, like a kid with a baseball game to play in exactly the time it takes to leave this room and pound my sneakered feet on the trash can lid we used for home plate.

Sad,  but happy. Happier than sad: “Bye, doc!”

“Bye, Mrs. Pabst!”