How many doctors does it take to treat a patient?

Another day, another doctor. This time, another ENT, who is my age.

His first comments were those we’ve come to expect: how rare it is to see someone our age, female, nonsmoker, with this type of cancer. Yes, it is indeed rare. I always thought that if I were to be afflicted with cancer of some sort, it would be breast cancer, since that runs in the maternal side of the family. Then again, I have always charted my own path, so maybe I just had to be different.

More poking and prodding. The doctor runs his finger up the side of my tongue, which is excruciatingly painful. He also feels my gums, around the bottom of my tongue, feels around the back of my mouth, which makes me gag a little, and apologizes the whole time for the pain he’s causing. What a guy.

He then spritzes a vile topical at the back of my throat – the label has the funniest claims on the front of the bottle, one of which says “reduces gagging”. I was wondering what that particular claim was for. Until the doctor put a mirror all the way in the back of my mouth and used a wooden depresser to push my tongue down so he could also have me say “eee” and look down my throat. I’ve made a note that “reduces gagging” means that it will take three seconds instead of one to gag when someone starts messing around back there.

The doctor says for something like this, he’d recommend surgery, with radiation to follow if surgery did not get all of it. He also wants a CAT scan.

Since everything we’ve read about this sort of thing says surgery, and based on the side effects of radiation, we elect for surgery.

The doctor says he’ll need to check his schedule, since he’s leaving town for a week, but that he’ll give us a call and in the meantime, we’re to go ahead and schedule the CAT scan.

A couple of hours later, we get a call from the doctor. He leaves a message with his cell phone number (which shocked the hell out of me), asking us to call him as soon as possible, even if it is after hours.

So we do. He says he checked his schedule, and he would not be able to do the surgery until the first or second week of August (we’re in the first week of July at this point in our story). However, he has spoken to another doctor, for whom he has great respect, and discussed the case with him. They are in agreement that we probably should not wait that long for action. The other doctor is not leaving town, can see us that same week, and can likely do the surgery the following week. He has also been doing this sort of thing for about 30 years and is highly knowledgeable and respected. We agree that we’ll head over to the next doctor after the CAT scan and get things rolling there.

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