Give It To Me Straight Doc

   I know there is a question, that you my loyal reader may wish to ask, but are too polite to do so. Now that the transplant is done, and there is no further treatment available for my type of cancer, how long do I actually have to live? The answer… I don’t know! I’m afraid to ask!! I’m not sure I can handle the answer!! It’s not like the movies where I calmly look at the doctor and say, “Give it to me straight doc, how long do I have?” Asking that question takes courage. Do I look Ukrainian?!!? What if they have an answer??!! Am I really ready to hear it???

I was once told by a much wiser man than I, ‘don’t give a child more information than they are asking for’. It’s sage advice. If your child asks, “Where’s mommy?” the answer is, “the store”. Not, “the store to buy blah, blah, blah”. That’s more information than is being asked for, and will just lead to more questions. “Dad, what’s a bra?” “Uh… well, mommy wears it to hold…” If they don’t ask, don’t muddy the waters.

   There has been no secrecy from the doctors I have dealt with since my diagnosis. If I ask the question, they have always given me a straightforward reply. But I can say with some certainty, they don’t volunteer more information than you need to know. They give it to you in small portions, then pause to see if you have a question, or some kind of breakdown. Then if all is well, give you a little more information to digest.

“You have a cancer called Multiple Myeloma.” Chew… chew… swallow.

“There is no cure for this form of cancer.” Chew… cough… chew, chew… swallow.

“But there is a treatment.” Oh look… dessert. Chew… swallow.

“If successful, you could live for another 10 years.” Swallow.

“Any questions?” Burp… brain freeze.

Yeah!!! Like a billion of them, all swirling around in my head! All of them morbid! How long do I have to live? Will it be painful? How sick will I get? Will I be bedridden for long, before I die? Sure, there are lots of questions! All of which, I’m afraid to ask!!

   I would never expect a doctor to say to me, “… and it’s going to really hurt”, or “…and you’re going to puke for months…”, or “… and you will die a slow and painful death”. Even if they know what is about to happen to me, they’re not saying, if I’m not asking. They keep the information clinical, and avoid any reference to the nastiness about to unfold on me. No point making a bad situation worse, right?

Medical information from my doctors has pretty much always been given to me in the best possible light. They spoke using phrases like, ‘simple procedure’, ‘mild discomfort’ and ‘some nausea’, all in the effort to reduce the anxiety they know they are creating in me, and encourage me along a certain path.

  “Having the stem-cell transplant could add ten-years to your life,” I was told. It was sunshine and roses only, the sweet whipped cream for the dessert. I don’t remember any caveat about ten-years of extra time being based on having the best possible response to the transplant. A grade A+ response! I’ve never had an A+ in my entire life!! I’ve always been a C+/B kind of guy! I’m barely above average!!! And no one said anything about painful cramping or violent vomiting! They told me it was just a small needle and easy to self-administer. No one mentioned that there would be fourteen of them! I didn’t ask! Why would I??? The thought hadn’t even occurred to me!

I really can’t fault the doctors for the way they have informed me about my condition. Giving a patient the most optimistic perspective makes sense. In their position, I would do the same. They have no way of knowing what I think, or the questions I would like answered, unless I say something. As much as I wish they would just ‘give it to me straight’, and tell me just how long I have to live, I know they won’t.

   But I already know the answer, and asking the question of a medical professional will not change that answer. There is no way to determine what my final transplant grade will be, and any doctor throwing a number out would be reckless. This means that there is only one true answer to the question, how long do I have to live?

Until the end.






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