Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Other Man

I write this post mainly for the male supporters in our lives.  The ones who would do anything for us.  The ones who we love more than anything.  The ones we've dedicated the rest of our lives to.  The ones who are standing by your side through your diagnosis, your treatment and your recovery.  The ones who kiss us good morning and kiss us goodnight.  The ones who may not understand this new relationship with the "other man" in our lives right now, but who will hopefully sympathize with what we're going through, and later understand what it was all about. My husband falls into this category.  We might talk endlessly about this other man, sing his praises and confer with other women about him, and I want to help you know why we do it.

Women, by nature, have basic needs that need to be met.  We need to feel safe and secure, we want to know we are loved, we want to nurture, we want to be appreciated, we want to feel like we can count on someone and we want our feelings to be understood (even if you don't really understand).  We form relationships and bonds with others when these needs are met.  Women hold relationships near and dear to their hearts.  We protect our relationships.  Its natural.  Its why you are number one in her life right now.  You met her needs.  So what's going on with this other man she's talking about so much?  She's made a new friend, that's all. 


When a woman goes through something life-threatening or life-changing, the people immediately involved in that experience become forever bonded at the heart.  For example, her doctor.  He becomes a hero in her life.  This can be any doctor in her life.  Her therapist, her OBGYN, her name it.  They see her through some of the hardest times in her life such as dealing with trauma, welcoming new life into the world or helping her go through the struggles of conceiving, or even performing life-saving surgeries.  This is a person who listens, sympathizes and shows concern for what she's going through, just like you do.  We, as women, tend to open up and talk to these people in our lives.  We love to talk.  And part of a doctor's job is to listen.  We like that too; we value that.  So its completely natural that her doctor becomes an important person in her life with whom she connects and holds dear.

I recently read an article that I can't get out of my mind called, "It is OK for the doctor to cry."  I was so touched by the story as it was so refreshing to hear the other side of the doctor-patient relationship, from a doctor's perspective.  It's not often you hear this, nor find it.  It's actually quite rare in my experience.  Early on the author recounts a moment with one of her patients:
She begins to weep into her husband’s chest but somehow manages to thank me for taking care of her for the past week and being “one of her nicest doctors.”  She even stands up to hug me.  I leave the room really quickly with tears forming and sneak into the bathroom as I begin to cry.
This doctor is humanized.  The doctor met the emotional needs of her patient, and a bond was formed.  The articles goes on to describe the compassion a doctor forms for her patient, and how she sees her patient as something more than a medical file number.  Her patients are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and more.  This is how I felt.  The author ends by saying:
Yes, we should distance ourselves emotionally if it affects our medical decision-making but when it boils down to patient care, feeling for a patient and his or her family makes medicine humanistic and real.
My journey was all about forming relationships.  I "read" people quite quickly, and I make decisions based on connections and my heart.  I know when I don't feel good about a person, or when we're not a good fit.  I made judgements based on comments doctors made in social media, on reviews left by other patients, by how the front office handled my calls requesting information and by how I connected with the doctor (IF I was allowed to actually talk to the doctor).  I needed what the article said, "make medicine humanistic and real."  If my needs weren't met, you weren't going to touch me with a knife.  My husband knew I had made my choice in surgeons a long time before we actually Skyped with my surgeon, as I had a good gut feeling from the PRMA patient liaison, Courtney, with whom I had been working. I couldn't stop talking about PRMA and Courtney.  Everything was, "Courtney said...", or "Courtney's so nice" or "Courtney is probably so sick of me...".  

 My needs, however, were eventually met with my chosen surgeon, Dr. Chrysopoulo.  He was real.  He IS real.  He provided assurance early on that built my trust. Throughout the process, he made comments that personalized the experience like, "if it was my wife...," or "you're the love of his [my husband] life and mother of his kids. Doesn't matter how positive you are...all bets are off [referring to my husband's biggest fear being that they'd find cancer when operating, but hiding it from me till all was said and done]."  My doctor cared about us as a family.  He took the time to ask my husband how he was really doing, husband to husband, after the surgery.  I kept telling my surgeon that I trusted him because he had taken the time to build the trust.  During my in-person consultation, he'd ask me if I wanted A or B, and I'd reply telling him I trusted his opinion and left him with the ultimate decision.  He had been welcomed into the 'circle of trust.'  He humanized the experience, just as the doctor said in the article.  In return, my husband listened to a lot of, "but Dr. C said.." or "according to Dr. C...".  I get it.  I talked a lot about my doctor, still do.  And Denise...oh Denise.  She's my nurse, and she's wonderful.  Up until my last day in the USA, I kept referring to Denise like she was my BFF and my husband would laugh.  She captured my heart too.


In a recent article, I spoke about the power of social media.  My doctor is wonderfully involved in it.  It's fun to see him interacting with people, patients, strangers and other doctors.  It's more fun to see how many other women are out there speaking highly of him, you're proud that you chose someone so revered.  I've become friends with some of his patients, like Terri, who also formed a relationship with him.  She spreads the word about how wonderful he is as well, like a personal cheerleader.  We love what he's done for us, plain and simple.  He's a doctor, he's brilliant at what he does and he cares for his patients.  We've gone through a very emotional time together, so of course we're all connected by that 'something common' between us.  I was talking to a friend from home this morning about my experience and how I was going to write this blog post.  She replied with, "it is such a unique relationship and situation." She totally understood and felt that I should write this to help other men understand what is happening.

My husband gets it now.  He said today, "I totally get (and support) the bond that you have. He essentially saved your life, and those words went through my mind weeks ago."  I know it must be hard to have your significant other speak so highly of someone else so often.  I don't think I'd like my husband coming home from his appointments speaking about his amazing female doctor and how supported he feels by her!  Not fair of me, I know.  But in the end, we're all friends now.  We can all chat like we've known each other forever, and we're all connected via Twitter and Facebook as well.  In the end, just consider your significant other's doctor, with whom you've all shared a major life experience with, as another friend to add to your circle.  At least that's my hope.  I hope you have a doctor who humanizes your experience.  However, I don't think my husband and I will ever be able to call him by his first name...he'll always be Dr. C to us.

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