A few days ago my cell phone rings while I’m at work. It was early in the day and I had forgotten to change it from ring to vibrate. This is a slight problem because my cell phone ringtone is my university’s fight song. My employer happens to be a rival university and most of the people there really don’t care for the song. But since it was only 9 a.m., hardly anyone was there–certainly not the boss.
So I answered and the male voice on the other end said “Cindy, this is Bill Jones.” (This is a made-up name.) My immediate reaction was “oh shit” because Bill Jones is my oncologist.
Yes…my oncologist–my cancer doctor. Someone that I admire and esteem greatly, but, truthfully, wish I’d never met. In 2002 I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma and Dr. Jones–my oncologist–has treated me ever since. At first that meant every two weeks for my 12 chemo treatments…then once a month…then once every two months and so on. Now we’re down to once a year and our visits are more social than anything else–at least on my end. We chat about travel and the fact that we’re the same age and were at the same college at the same time.
So I’m thinking to myself–why is he calling? Did I have some secret test that I didn’t know about? Were they lying when they said my mammogram was ok? What the heck does he want???
Turns out all he really wanted was some advice on Paris. We had discussed my favorite city several times and on my last visit I had given him a copy of Access Paris, my fave guidebook, for his 50th birthday. He said wanted to take his wife for their anniversary but they would only have four days in the city. He wanted to know if he should go. I pointed out that they could either have four days in Paris or four days not in Paris. He saw my point.
When my good doctor calls his family and friends, I’m sure he’s a welcome voice. But I’m here to tell you… a million scenarios went through my mind when I answered that phone. So I think it’s an occupational hazard of doctors that when they call patients, patients often expect the worst.
So here’s a tip…when you’re calling a patient–especially a cancer patient–about something non-medical–tell them right away. It’ll keep their blood pressure from going through the roof. And that’s healthier for everyone.