Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Are we on Candid Camera?

I can think of a number of different occasions in which consistency is really important. Making frosting is one of them -- you have to whip it up just right to get it to that light fluffy texture. Another example is branding. Consistent branding can help better communicate a company's message and value to its consumers. But perhaps the biggest occasion in which consistency is important is at dr.'s visits.

Alan's doctors all work at the same hospital and all of them are working to help him get better. For this, I am thankful for their long years in med school and the extra work it took them to specialize in gastrointestinal medicine or oncology. It feels good to know that they must see hundreds of cancer patients a year, all with a different story, all with a customized treatment plan; treating people is what these dr.'s do. It's their job.

What gets me though, is that despite the fact that they are all seeing the same problem (Alan's cancer), they all see different things, or rather, different levels of things. This might be expected since they each do/look for/care about different things according to whatever specialization they have. It only becomes a problem when they speak to us about Alan's cancer and it seems as though they are all reading a page from a different book. The GI doctor who first broke the news said that the tumor wasn't that big. A few weeks later, the surgeon said that the tumor wasn't the biggest she'd seen, but also wasn't the smallest, and that the cancer was in stage 1b/2a. In passing, she mentioned something about lymph nodes. This morning, we visited the oncologist who informed us that since the cancer was present in the lymph nodes (so this is what the surgeon was talking about), the cancer was really in the 3b stage. Now, on a scale of 1-4 stages of cancer, it's quite shocking to go from a 1b/2a to a 3b in a week. This is where some hint of consistency across dr.'s visits would be helpful.

Next week, when Alan meets with his radiation oncologist, I am pretty sure (at least I'm hoping) that a "nurse" will come in and interrupt the dr. while he's speaking to us. She will hand the dr. a different chart than the one he is already holding in front of him. He'll look at the report inside, smile at us, then point to the upper corner of the room. "Smile!" he'll say. "You're on Candid Camera!"

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