Powered by WebAds

Friday, February 6, 2009

How Much Do You Want Your Doctor to Smile?

During yesterday's meeting, my oncologist needed to make a call (to someone else), and warned me that now I was going to hear him when he's mad.

I commented that he was probably scary when he was mad, adding that he's a bit scary even when he's not mad.

He was a little taken aback and I felt bad for not thinking before saying what was on my mind.

"Do I really scare you?" he asked.

"Yes," I answered meekly, wishing I could be anywhere else, but not wanting to lie.

"Then you should find another doctor..." he advised.

PANIC -- did I just mess up my relationship with my doctor, of whom I am in awe?!?!

"But I like you," I quickly responded. I should have added "and I trust you, and respect you, and like that you are available on email, and answer my questions, and don't laugh at me, and..." I could have gone on and on.

It is not so easy for me to find a doctor I like, and I like my doctor.

"So, why am I scary?" he persisted, "is it because of me or because of what we discuss."

That was a fair enough question.

"I don't know," I answered honestly, wondering if I would be less intimidated if we were not talking about cancer.

I tried to switch the conversation, but my doctor sincerely wanted to know. "Tell me, so that I can improve."

So, I thought about it and suggested "you don't smile enough."

This surprised him. "Really?"

He noted that many patients want their doctor to look serious.

I can understand that. We discuss serious things. I don't think I would want him to be joking around all the time. So, what do I want?

Later, I asked my date-for-the-day, who is a former cancer patient, what she thought. "I don't want my doctor to smile more; I want him to be serious."


Smiling to me reflects optimism, a faith in the future.

My doctor always looks so serious, especially when he is walking around. I know that his head is in a million places, thinking, processing, exploring, and trying to meet the needs of all his patients. I know that cancer is serious business, and the news is not always good.

Sometimes, I'll catch his eye, and he'll raise an eyebrow. I never know quite what it means. Usually I interpret it as "yes, I see you; no time to stop; you know how it is here...." But sometimes I wonder if he is thinking "oh no, you don't have another question, do you?"

I guess I would like to see him smiling when he is walking around. Or, maybe, I just want him to smile when he sees me.

Smiling is inviting. Perhaps that is the problem. Maybe if he smiles more, then everyone will approach him in the hallway with all their not-as-short-as-they-thought questions. Or maybe patients will not feel that he is treating their illness seriously.

This is one of those areas where I do not assume that all patients think like me.

Apparently, I am not your typical cancer patient.

After reading this, Moshe asked rhetorically, "You know what I like about [our oncologist]? He's always smiling."

I looked at him curiously.

"It is always there, behind his eyes. He has this dry, wry sence of humor, that I really appreciate."

True. But I think my husband "gets" him more than I do.

I am the kind of person who needs things spelled out for me, even jokes (certainly sardonic remarks).

"He does not need to smile," Moshe added, "It would be overkill."

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

1 comment:

rickismom said...

This is a very nice post. It is nice that you can realize that not all cancer patients are necessarily "on-line" with you.