Although not familiar with the work of David Rakoff who recently passed away (some nice vignettes about him here), recently came across this piece on the ‘waiting game’ and the range of words and approaches that health professionals use – and how we learn the vocabulary and, over time, become more relaxed about some of the banalities (e.g., ‘have a fantastic day’!). Quote:
And there will always be waiting. It begins immediately. Unless your presenting problem is a headache and you show up at the hospital with a knife sticking out of your skull, tests will always have to be done and then results will have to be delivered. Biopsies must be frozen, sliced, dyed and analyzed. If a culture has to be grown, then you have to bide your time while cell division takes its course. Disparate hospital departments, if not entirely disparate hospitals, cities or states will have to find and speak to one another, leaving you with nothing but a lump, inexplicable bruising, months of unexplained fatigue, your own imagination or, heaven forbid, the Internet to occupy your mind. Those weeks before diagnosis can be among the most torturous times. There is a reason you’re called a patient once the plastic bracelet goes on.
It has taken years for me to learn not to analyze the voices and vocabularies of those taking care of me. For the most part, I’ve been very lucky even as I’ve been less than fortunate. The doctors and nurses in my life don’t prolong the anticipation with pleasantries. We joke around a lot, but that’s the second order of business. With a long illness, there are stretches of triumph that feel like cosmic rewards for good behavior followed by inexplicable setbacks that seem like indictments of your character. With so much muddy logic crowding out reason, it’s best when news, good or bad, is delivered quickly and clearly. I will forever be grateful to my oncologist for opening the door and saying, “Damn it, the tumor’s 10 percent bigger,” before he even said hello.