One of the buzzkills of breast cancer is that I’m supposed to go see my surgeon once a year for the rest of my life. It would make more sense for the oncologist—whom I’m not scheduled to ever see again—to do these follow-ups rather than the surgeon, but then again, I realized long ago that precious few things in life make any sense at all. I know how to ride the undertow of nonsense. Trying to fight it only leaves you exhausted and drowned.
I’ll admit that this surgeon is good at cutting and pasting the human body, and I’m thankful he didn’t lose me on the table. But I find his personality to be a bit arrogant and condescending, and I’m not convinced that when he looks at me, he sees a human being. Over time, I have developed the Good Patient strategy in order to get in and out of his office as quickly as possible. I’m doing fine and I have no questions. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
This doctor always has a student shadowing him during office visits, which in principle I support, but in his case it just gives him an excuse to talk about me in the third person, gives me less of a chance to get a word in edgewise, and allows him to present himself as a brilliant know-it-all to these pretty, silent young girls.
Except this time, for the first time, the student was a male. Before they arrived, the nurse made a big deal of making sure I was okay with that, having me sign an extra consent form, and being present in the room during the exam.
I realized how quaint it all was as I was lying there biting my tongue while Doc told the student about the 2015 surgery, omitting the entire 2014 operation and treatments, which he’d either conveniently forgotten or which didn’t fit in with his narrative of himself as the all-knowing one who always made the right call the first time around. When he pointed out “the” incision scar to the student, I was prepared to tell the kid that those other four glaring scars Doc neglected to mention were claw marks from that time a tiger attacked me.
But then it hit me why this student’s presence didn’t bother me in the least: between the biopsies, daily radiation treatments, pre-op wiring and dye injections, operations, anesthesias, and hospital recoveries, more dudes have seen me topless in the last two years than in the forty years before then put together.
I feel like I should get some kind of prize for that. Or at the very least a few crisp dollar bills.