Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Medical Tourism

I got my stitches out today, and made an appointment to get steroid injections which will hopefully minimize my scarring this time around (and maybe improve my baseball game!). The appointment is with a dermatologist, which got me thinking about the wide variety of doctors this lump (and this now post lump collarbone) has seen.

Types of Doctors I Have Seen for One Little Body Part

1. Dr. N: My primary care physician many moons ago, who told me that the chronic pain in my hand and arm was, "probably nothing," and that I was "so young, what could be wrong with you?" Then she advised me to get manicures with hand massages.

2. Dr. B: A Chiropractor, several years later. I got a free consultation with my gym membership, and ended up seeing him for a few months in an attempt to eradicate the arm pain. When it just wouldn't go away, he discovered the lump poking up from beneath my clavicle. He determined that the lump wasn't a swollen muscle, and advised me to get some sort of follow-up. The day he discovered the lump, he let me stay on the water massage table longer than usual, and I was afraid he suspected something terrible was wrong with me. Later I found out he thought it might be the edge of a lung tumor, poking out by my neck. I guess that happens sometimes.

3. Various Residents at the sliding scale clinic at St. Mary's: The one I saw most often was convinced it was nothing but a sprained muscle at first, and got progressively more worried as more and more results came back inconclusive. They knew I had a tumor, but couldn't figure out what it was.

4. The guy down in radiology who did a needle biopsy: The needle was huge, and it hurt more than I could have ever expected (which makes sense when your realize the tumor was made up of nerve cells). He was the first person to tell me, "This thing's going to have to come out, no matter what." I was so scared, I cried the whole walk home.

5. Dr. P: A Vascular Surgeon who reminded me of my cousin Claire. It turned out that she had grown up in Massachusetts (like me!), and had attended Tufts medical school, right by where Brian and I used to live. She went in to take out my tumor, but realized that it was part of the nerve and that I'd need to see a specialist to get it out. She was really nice.

6. Dr B: The Peripheral Neurologist who took out the tumor, finally. He's one of the best in the business for the strange little tumor I had. People come from all over the world to see him, but I only needed to go 3 stops on the N train. His waiting room has the most amazing view of San Francisco I've ever seen. The surgery took nine hours. He's got a great bedside manner.

7. Dr L: An Orthopedic Surgeon who was part of the team doing the 9 hour surgery. She's the one who repaired my collarbone (which had to be broken to get the tumor out), and who put in the plate that held it together when they were done. She's also the one who took the plate out again last week. It seems like she's got a good sense of humor. Or at least she laughs at my dumb jokes, which makes me feel better about things.

8. Various medical students who assisted in the de-tumoring. When I woke up after the surgery, all these young medical students kept coming to check on me, each of them saying they'd been there for the surgery. They were all really excited with every little move I made in the recovery room, and twittered appreciatively at my lame jokes. Huh, I thought, my brain still foggy from the drugs, I must have looked really cute in there. Later, I realized that I'd just had a really cool, rare tumor, and that my rock star surgeons had done a great job at not damaging any of the nerves going to my arm. I could've lost the use of my thumb or pinky. As it was, my hand was alternately numb and painful for months, like it was constantly waking up from having been slept on.

9. The Physical Therapists at the Hand Clinic: Dr. B referred me to a hand clinic run by Dr. L at the hospital down the street from us. At the end of each session, I got to stick my hand in a machine full of corn husks with hot air that blew the husks around. The nerves in my hand were still waking up, and the hot air and husks felt indescribably good. The therapist I saw most was named Olga, and told me a funny story about holding a baby crocodile on a trip to Africa. After my last appointment she said, "Go ahead! Just live your life, you'll be fine."

10. A Dermatologist, and maybe a plastic surgeon for the scars: and that should be it. As I said to Brian today, if we could get Proctologist involved somehow, that would be impressive.


Tricia said...

Wow. You have been so nonchalant about this whole thing, but it really HAS been an ordeal. I am proud of you!

Now about that Proctologist....

seester said...


and i was scared to get random, ordinary, boring blood drawn the other day.

wus = me

momeester said...

It has been a trial, and you have been a trooper.

So, write a novel about it.

Nora said...

There's not enough there for a novel, mom!

And seester, I still have to close my eye when they draw blood.