Opinion: Column: Phoning It In

Opinion: Column: Phoning It In

For my next post-scan, face-to-face appointment with my oncologist, we won't in fact be seeing him face to face. Instead, we will be speaking with him phone to phone. This bothers or concerns me not in the least. "I only mention this in passing," ("The Exorcist," 1973) and as a topic for this week's column since I'm being CT-Scanned on Wednesday, July 25.

Typically, we would meet my oncologist in person a week or so after my scan to allow for proper reporting/interpreting of the scan. This appointment would have been made — or attempted to have been made, during the previous face-to-face appointment, three months prior. However, sometimes the computer program managing such scheduling doesn't provide the doctor's schedule so far in advance.

When this happens, the doctor/staff makes a note in the computer's margins, so to speak, to schedule me automatically when the appointments become available. Well, for some reason, that didn't happen this cycle. That became clear to me when, a few weeks before my presumptive appointment, I went online to see when my it had been "computerized." I noticed it hadn't. I immediately called oncology to make inquiries and to schedule this kind-of-important, post-scan appointment.

I spoke with one of the nurses — with whom I'm familiar, and explained my circumstances. She went on the computer, entered my member number and, if I understand the process correctly, typed in something like "next available appointment."

"Aug. 31," she said.

I said "What!? I usually see the doctor the week after my scan."

"That's the next available appointment," she repeated. (I'd mutter "incredible" to myself but I have some prior experience with such blips.)

Stammering as I gathered my thoughts, the nurse casually offered up the chance of a phone appointment. "Sure!," I said, (having received a similar offer once before).

The nurse said "How about Aug. 6?" 12 days post scan and much sooner than Aug. 31. (Normally we try to schedule the follow-up in-office appointment for the following Friday, 10 days after the Wednesday scan which ideally would have been Aug. 3).

"Perfect," I said, since I'm home on Mondays and my wife, Dina, coincidentally had already scheduled that day off from work. (The phone-appointment process involves putting the phone on speaker — so that all parties can participate, and exercising some patience. It's a little awkward but given the appointment unavailability, it's what we have to do.) Not stressing too much about this unexpected set of circumstances, I am now prepared to move forward and hope for the best — results.

The only semi concern I do have is what if the conversation, different than the previous phone-appointment conversation, involves some significant decision-making/discussing about Kenny's life treating forward. If the conversation is potentially life-altering, I'd rather look my oncologist in the eyes rather than hear his voice over the phone.

And, of course, being that there are very few guarantees in the cancer business, there is absolutely no assumption to be presumed that since I'm having a phone appointment that somehow that means all is well with yours truly. Hardly. I haven't even had my scan yet. It simply means that the doctor is already double-booked for the time frame in consideration.

However, on the totally-plus side: There's no 45 minute drive to and from. Once on site, there's no 15- to 20-minute wait in the reception area. Then there's no 10- to 20-minute wait/getting vitals in the examining room until my oncologist comes in. And finally, there's no 30- to 45-minute appointment with my oncologist since there's no physical examination and no ability as well to computer-review the actual scan. It's simply questions and answers. This all works perfectly well when the scan shows "stable."

But, what if?

I don't do “what-ifs.” I do what I do until I'm told otherwise (that's why I'm a good husband). Moreover, I don't worry about things I can't control. My scan is in 10 days and it will show what it shows.

In the interim, I will hope for the best and await further instructions.