There are those in the medical profession who have a tendency to treat their patients like lab rats. Often this is not due to some personal social-deficiency on the part of the practitioner; rather, it is a result of our crippled system of care that charges by the second and asks $3000 for a dose of Tylenol.
Then there are those that treat their patients like, well, patients — human beings with the right to respect, caring, and the promise of every effort being made towards a return to health. These folks understand that people deserve an open ear and heart — an expert who can sit in the presence of their illness and understand. But, they do it with an emotional distance that is expected of mental and physical health professionals. So, they are fantastic support, and you might send them a holiday card, but they won’t be stopping by your house for dinner and a rousing came of Chicken Foot (I’ll let that one linger for awhile…).
Then, there is K.
I’m not quite sure if she’d be up for Chicken Foot (and no, I’m still not telling…), but K is in a class of doctors I have never worked with – that is, until the “Big C” parked its ass in my son’s head and wrecked our life. For her, patients are not lab rats, not even patients — they are full human beings, in the throws of a struggle she knows she can only begin to fathom. She understands, even without us speaking it, that we once had lives that are very different than the current reality, and that we want someone to make it all go away and return us to the world we knew. In our son she sees all of our hopes and fears — all of the plans that are now shattered, the grief that goes with it, and the desperate desire to move back to a place of dreams and possibilities as quickly as possible.
It is from that place of understanding that something amazing has happened: K has become a part of our family, and a friend in moments where the friends, family and community that are with us in spirit can’t begin to go. She has broken down the typical doctor/patient relationship, understanding that we are not on typical ground with this illness. She has made us feel as if we are the only family in her charge (even though I’m pretty confident that we’re not), and moved great medical mountains to get Vampbaby’s treatments moving forward without delay. She has answered our questions with great care and honesty, even when her answer was “You know, I have no idea, but let me go find out”.
In addition to this amazing professional grace and tact, she is also our age. To be an attending physician at one of the most prestigious Cancer treatment centers in the world at 32 is nothing to sniff at, certainly. But having someone who we can relate to on an equal level, even with a little dark humor thrown in, has made this “ninth circle of hell” far more tolerable than it would have been otherwise.
Of course, I have chosen this moment to regale you with her brilliance, because our time working with her as our lead champion is coming to a close. At the end of this week, K will leave her post in Boston to become the lead specialist at another hospital in Oregon. We have spent the past couple of weeks in denial at the end of our partnership on Vampbaby’s care, pushing off the inevitable “goodbye” and “thank you” in favor of small talk and plans for the actual moment of “see-you-later”. But Friday comes, and with it the inevitable moment where we will most likely just look at her, babble incoherently and cry.
We fear not about Vampbaby, as K has left us in the very capable hands of an entire team of brilliant doctors, including the doctor who worked underneath K whom I will lovingly refer to here as “Scrubs” (and she knows why!). There are also others we are now getting to know and admire, and I most certainly will be back with more tales of them once I come up with cute blog names.
But to K, in the presence of all of my readers, I say “thank you” — with the understanding that no amount of gratitude in any language I know of will exactly capture the gift you have been to us. You have often commented on how amazed you are at the strength and poise Vampmommy and I approach this nightmare. You should know that it is, in part, because you have created the space for us to function where perhaps others could not. We owe much to many, but we certainly could not have come this far without you.
And, as I’m sure she’ll be reading this at some point soon, Vampmommy and I will leave open the Dinner/Chicken Foot invitation for as long as necessary.