My phone rang. It was late on a Tuesday afternoon, and I was at work. It was Dr. H. “I hate to tell you this over the phone, but time is of the essence,” started my new gynecologist, in the call that changed my life. “The biopsy shows you have a rare and very aggressive form of uterine cancer. I’ve already obtained an appointment for you this week with Dr. K, a gyn-oncologist, and he is prepared to operate the following week.
I was unbelieving. I was at the height of health, vigor and engagement. There is no cancer in my family. I’m not the “type” that gets cancer. I’ve always been lucky. They must be talking about someone else. But no such luck. So started a five-year saga of hand-to-hand combat with uterine papillary serous carcinoma.
I was a new patient for Dr. H, a 40ish woman with a slight eastern European accent. I had gone to see her for postmenopausal bleeding. Upon manual examination, she had said, “I don’t like what I’m feeling. Let’s do a sonogram.” As she did the sonogram, she said, “I don’t like what I’m seeing.” Then, on the spot, she suggested a biopsy. In New York City, all of this could easily have taken three office visits and many weeks but, mercifully, she did it, unscheduled, within an hour and a half.
In the rush of preop preparation the following week–physicals, blood tests, CT scans, MRIs–Dr. H called three times to ask how I was doing and to offer her support. What a kind and caring human being! I told her my highest aspiration was to navigate the coming episode so that I could return to her for regular care.
I only ever had a single visit with Dr. H. But in that visit and in her subsequent calls, she showed me the very best that medicine has to offer, the very definition of patient-centered care–competence, efficiency, teamwork, coordination, empathy and concern.
New York, New York
New York, New York