Doctors, Doctors, and More Doctors
Between my older son and I, we have almost every ~ologist, as he calls them, that you can imagine.
Endocrinologist, nephrologist, radiologist, neurologist, pediatric ophthalmologist, dermatologist, gynecologist, audiologist, and now, an oncologist. Then there are the non-ologists: ENT, geneticist, breast surgeon, and a few others I’ve probably forgotten, but these are the regulars.
Although I never dreamed our family would have the need for a pediatric endocrinologist (to monitor a completely non-functioning thyroid in my son), two nephrologists (kidney doctors), a geneticist (to tie this lovely mess together for me), or many of the other doctors, I must say, I really never dreamed I’d need a plastic surgeon.
And, I’m embarrassed to say, I never knew how much I could appreciate the profession.
Plastic Surgery? Really??
In college I had a close friend who wanted to become a doctor. Over the years I’d watch his choices in schools, in fellowships, in specialties, always curious to see where he would land. And after many years of basically trying it all, he chose plastics.
Plastics?, I thought. Cool, and I do mean cool choice, but why? He’s brilliant! I didn’t get it.
See, I didn’t understand the depth of the profession. I thought it was just about looks — the cosmetic stuff. And although I certainly knew there was a reconstructive piece to plastic surgery, I suppose I really didn’t give it much thought.
To be clear, let me touch on something I just said: “I thought it [plastic surgery] was just about looks….” First of all, I know there’s no “just” about anything having to do with looks. Think about how much time we spend daily showering, shaving, make-uping, fixing our hair, our nails. Our total grooming time is substantial! There’s no such thing as “JUST” when it comes to looks. I do understand that. Yet still, I never gave much credence to the plastic surgery profession.
Until I met Dr. Antonetti.
Interview MORE Doctors?
When I first met Dr. Antonetti, the man who would be performing my reconstruction, it didn’t occur to me to even interview him — that’s what little attention I gave to the role of a plastic surgeon, to plastic surgery in general.
I had done some serious homework on choosing my breast surgeon. After our first few meetings, she leaned over her desk, handing me a list of names saying, “I only work with three plastic surgeons. Here are their names. After you’ve interviewed each, you can let me know which you choose.”
Interview more doctors?? No. The process to choose her had been arduous enough.
Without glancing at the list, I handed it back and said, “You know my personality. You choose the one you feel is right for me.”
Yes, it was an act of Trust. It was my way of saying to her, “We’re a team. I trust your judgement to do what’s best for me.” And if I’m really honest, there was another element at play. It was indicative of my dismissive thoughts on the role of the plastic surgeon. I mean, really, if she only works with three, they all have to be good at what they do, right? Does it really matter who she chooses? Will it really make a difference?
I’m sure the other two would have been just fine. Each would have performed brilliantly with a scalpel in his hand. But now I understand something more. The way we look at ourselves and truly SEE ourselves is hugely important on an emotional and psychological level. My plastic surgeon understands this. And in his gentle, understated way, he taught this to me.
My Medical Anchor
He calls me his little Rock Star, in terms of my healing. And although my belief system is at the core of remaining positive throughout this whole cancer chapter, he, Dr. Antonetti, has been my medical anchor. He reminds me every week that my healing is going fabulously. He monitors my physical well being, as well as my emotional. And every step of the way, whenever I’ve had doubts, he has been the ever patient soul to guide me through it.
Shame On Me
How quickly we make up our minds about people, professions. How humbling to find out we were wrong — that I was wrong. It’s through the wrong, that I’m able to grow. Being right all the time may feel good for a moment, but those waters will soon become stale, stagnant.
Dr. Antonetti, you tied this whole experience together for me. You were the one who prescribed all of my medications, monitored me on them, told me when I could drive, when I could exercise, walk the dog, do yoga. You changed all of my dressings yourself, each and every time. And you taught me how I could see myself differently. What an incredible lesson that I will be forever grateful for. Thank you.
After receiving a cancer diagnosis, I went from not thinking too much about plastic surgery, to understanding that it’s what grounded my entire experience, what grounded me; it was eye opening.
Yep. Being wrong ain’t always bad.