Obligatory—This is not medical advice
We were nearing the end of our visit. He looked at me as I grabbed my pen.
“I don’t envy your job.”
At the time, I was gently rolling to the desk on my aseptic wheeled stool as he was perched on the beige examination chair.
“I can see where you’re coming from,” I responded. “We see the best and the worst of things. I might walk out of one room filled with pure elation--scans are negative after months of intensive treatment. Meanwhile, in the next room a patient may have a recurrence, or an end-of-life conversation. It can be an emotional roller coaster.”
We sat quietly for a moment as I wrote down dates for his next few appointments on a sticky note—per his request. I pondered, probably for the thousandth time, my role as an oncologist. I thought about how varied it is and how the concatenation of these appointments, independent and yet connected, forms my career. It is mind boggling.
In many ways, you take on a different role for each individual patient. For some of my younger patients, I’m like a coach or even an authority—I shuddered thinking about that. For patients around my own age, I’m a friend. To most, I am a resource, a set of experiences and knowledge formed in a way that can be utilized to guide and educate.
I handed him the square purple note, its adhesive probably not strong enough to be useful. We were about to say farewell until our next appointment. I spoke to him.
“I really appreciate your being here today and that you’re so organized. We’ll see you again in 3 months.”
We stood up nearly in unison. Almost as if completing a ritual, we faced the door slowly and left the 10 by 10 room with no windows. I remained in the hallway for a moment as he turned towards the exit. I took a deep breath and faced the door of the exam room across from me. I knocked twice. A new voice sounded.
Hearing that, I turned the handle and pushed inward, carefully. I began to see their face.