This morning, I rose at 5:30 AM for my appointment at the radiation clinic up at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. I missed the train I could have caught if it hadn’t taken me twenty-five minutes to walk up to the commuter train, but had left two hours ahead of the time they told me to be there—8:30AM—so I still had plenty of time to get up there before I’d be considered late. I actually arrived about five after eight, and they had me fill out a bunch of forms relating to my health history, emergency contacts, and whether or not I had a Do Not Resuscitate order somewhere. I did this standing at the counter, because sitting and trying to fill out a form with my hand falling asleep would have taken longer because sitting would have put the clipboard in my lap and required my wrist be slightly bent. The secretaries were quite willing to let me do as I wanted to fill out the forms because I did so at an out-of-the way spot.
I didn’t have long to wait after I finished the forms, and was taken back for vitals and to be shown to the room where my radiation therapy doctor would see me. At the Huntsman, they have seven doctors, and eight little swinging pointers connected to the wall beside the outside of the clinic doorways to indicate which doctor should visit which patient (the eighth is to indicate the room should be straightened up, iirc). I was told to undress the upper half of my body, don the nice plus-size hospital gown (the VA has a severe lack of these, so I’m always happy when another doctor/clinic I go to has them), and wait for the doc. I sat in one of the extra-wide chairs instead of the exam bed and read a new book.
I didn’t see my attending physician right away. A Resident physician and a Student doctor came in. I say it this way because the Resident was very much in charge as he went over my history and the forms I’d filled out with me, and the Student Doctor was very quiet until he prompted her to ask any questions she had. She was apparently very new to clinic visits like this.
Resident Doc (I’ve forgotten his name, sorry, and his business card has not been included in the paperwork I received as I was told it would be) had me hop up on the exam table. It’s couth in breast cancer care like this to put on any hospital gown they give you backwards, so the opening is in the front, and I had done this. Resident Doc performed a typical physical (not using a hammer to test my knee reflexes, for which I was glad—his finger-tap was just hard enough to elicit the proper response without causing pain), then had me lay back for yet another full breast exam.
You get a lot of full breast exams when you’re in breast cancer treatment, because all the doctors you come into contact with want to “see” for themselves the condition of your breasts.
He started with the left breast, pressing hard. Then he palpated my armpit with equal force, which tickled and made me laugh. When he was done, he moved to the right side as the Student Doc did an exam on my left breast for learning purposes. When Resident Doc got to my right armpit, he pressed hard enough to tickle, and I laughed again. Student Doc followed his example, her touch a little firmer than before, but still not hard enough to tickle me.
This done, Resident Doc had me hop off the exam bed and sit, and he and Student Doc departed to fetch my attending physician, Dr. Poppe (pron. poppy). I find it interesting that he turned out to be growing a beard. Mostly because his first name is the same as my Psych Doc and my Psych Doc also grows a beard in winter. However, the two could not possibly look more different.
Dr. Poppe had me hop onto the exam bed again and I got another breast exam. He pressed as hard as Resident Doc had, which made me laugh, and, at one point when he was on my right side, said “You’re funny.” Then, he palpated my abdomen, which made me laugh harder, and he asked Resident Doc and Student Doc if they’d gone through this too, which they of course verified, which induced Dr. Poppe to once more tell me I was funny. (I’m still chuckling over this whole thing.) I think I must have been Dr. Poppe’s first patient ever to be ticklish.
After this breast exam, I once again hopped down and returned to my seat so Dr. Poppe and I could chat. He said Chemo is done first, for anywhere from three to four months, then the patient comes in for Radiation Therapy for six and a half weeks, 20-30min a day weekdays. However, there’s a national clinical study being done with breast cancer Radiation Therapy, which, if I decide to participate in, will have me going in either three weeks or four and a half weeks. They’re trying to test the efficacy of shorter treatment periods. I’m not sure if that means I’ll be getting stronger doses of radiation or not.
At the end of this chat, Dr. Poppe gave me an information packet on Radiation Therapy, including a calendar of events happening at the Huntsman, and told me he’d fetch the paperwork regarding the clinical trials for me since I’d asked for it. Then he, Resident Doc, and Student Doc departed. I read a bit more while I waited, and the head of the clinical trials at the Huntsman came to give me the paperwork promised. She was kind enough to show me out as we chatted about breast cancer treatment in general.
I haven’t gone through the Radiation Therapy information packet yet, or even the clinical trial paperwork. I plan to do so by this weekend at the latest and will post about it once I have read the information.