she appeared anxious as she entered the clinic. her daughter was with her, silent and watching.
“doctor,” she began, “i’m here because this is the first time i have summoned enough courage to see a doctor. i’m deathly afraid of you. not just you, but anyone in a white coat.”
“what happened?” i asked. and smoothly went into unassuming, clinical mode. i was conscious of watching the words to use. nothing too technical. none of those long words. i was careful to modulate my voice, trying to sound as soothing as i can. i asked her if there was anything in our discussion she did not understand – there was none.
she described a vague pulling discomfort in the abdomen. and i elicited a subtle weight loss. and she said that she thought she passed blood one time, but wasn’t sure. i guided her to the examining table, asking her questions as i probed her abdomen. the words were mostly to reassure her, as i had to touch her to figure out if there were things in her abdomen that felt abnormal.
“i suggest you have an endoscopy done,” i explained. and as i explained the process, i could see the apprehension building in her face. a couple of moments passed, and she came up with a decision.
“i trust you,” she said.
we scheduled the procedure a few days later.
there was a large polyp in her colon. this one was shaped like a mushroom. whenever stool would pass, i guess the stalk would stretch and give her this strange pulling sensation. sometimes, it would stretch enough that the blood vessels within would break.
i snared the polyp with a loop and removed it whole.
she came back a week later.
“thank you, doctor,” she said, “i feel much better now. there wasn’t really anything to be scared of.”
“you’re welcome,” i replied, “now let’s talk about your biopsy report.”
she had cancer that began at the tip of the polyp, and the base was clean from tumor cells. her succeeding work ups did not show any other lesions in the liver, lungs, or elsewhere. we caught her tumor at a very early stage. the endoscopic intervention was curative.
“you’re my miracle,” she said, as she smiled and went home.
it felt really good to be a doctor today.