Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What Not to Say to Eye Tumor Girl

But first, an announcement: my appointment with the oncologist is next Tuesday morning at 9:15. Prayers appreciated, as always.

Preparatory to this appointment, I had to have some blood work done, as well as a chest x-ray. The good news is that both were normal. The woman who registered me for the chest x-ray was very nice. You could just tell she had a good heart. I also wanted to kill her. 

Probably most of you are not in the habit of registering patients with ocular melanoma for chest x-rays. But if you happen to find yourself in that field, here are a few things you might want to remember not to say.

1. "I hope this doesn't offend you, but I know a great doctor. His name is Jesus."  This one came almost right out of the gate. Now, as it happens, it doesn't offend me personally. I'm an Orthodox Christian, my belief is pretty absolute. However...she had no way of knowing that. I could have been Jewish or Muslim. I'm pretty Semitic-looking, and either of those would be quite plausible. In that case, I would have been pretty offended. I could have been atheist or agnostic. I could have been a Christian who was nonetheless struggling with a recent, very upsetting diagnosis, and pretty angry with God, Jesus, whoever I felt allowed this to happen.

Here's a useful tip: If you ever find yourself tempted to preface a statement with, "I hope this doesn't offend you, " know that there's a good chance that what you're about to say could offend your hearer.. And then don't say it.

2. "You have such beautiful eyes. My kids always tell me I have beady eyes." Um, ma'am? I KNOW you read that sheet in your hand that states clearly that I have a tumor in my eye. I would rather have a couple of beady, healthy eyes than a beautiful pair that has cancer in one of them. So, um, please stop talking now. Please. Stop. Talking.

3. "Oh, you're a divorce lawyer? Let me spend the next ten minutes while you're captive at my window seeking free legal advice from you." This wasn't as bad as the time I had lost a few units of blood following a second-trimester miscarriage, and the nurse wheeling me to my room on a gurney kept pumping me for advice on her daughter's custody case while I was too weak to even lift my head. I mean, this time I was at least physically capable of walking away. But still. I was vulnerable. I was in need of a medical test that I couldn't get until this woman finished processing my paperwork. It was taking advantage. And even if it wasn't? I was a little too preoccupied with my medical situation to worry about a complete stranger's legal situation. Again, stop with the talking.

At the end of all this, this dear woman gave me her e-mail address and asked me to keep in touch. Because I think she really did, in her own way, care what happened to me. But there's a part of me that wants to e-mail her this blog post.


  1. Ah, the well-meaning but stupid. God bless 'em.

    And God bless you - continued prayers for you!!!

    1. Thanks, Julie! Now that is something I never get tired of hearing.

  2. The pretty eye comment is just as good as the pregnancy test they asked me to take boefore a D&C due to a miscarriage. Really? You know why I am here? My dad always says, "God protects children and the stupid." Perfect example.

    1. Ack. I know they probably have to do the test, but a little sensitivity is in order...

  3. Ugh. I might say something. She is a person who works with vulnerable people all the time.
    I mean, I know people say stupid things all the time, myself included. And I usually try to focus on the intent and not the actual words, but when it comes to professionals who have to work with patients, they should know better.
    But, I'm happy that chest xray and bloodwork came back well! =)

  4. Brandie, I think I actually will dig out her e-mail address and, as gently as possible, explain why the whole Jesus, M.D. thing is a bad thing to throw at patients. I'll mention how the other stuff affected me, too. If she writes back and says that it's her obligation as a Christian to spread the word, then I may forward the e-mails to hospital administration. Because she could really, really upset a vulnerable patient with that schtick.

  5. I can't believe she said the line about Jesus...oh wait...you live in the Bible Belt ...maybe you should just "bless her heart"! Personally, that line, combined with the beady eyes comment would have made me physically ill. I mean who needs to put up with shit like that after getting a cancer diagnosis???? Now I'm mad.