A few weeks ago, I had a physical and talked to my doctor about somethings that were on my mind. First and foremost, I’m a single parent now and I need to be healthy for Nathaniel. So, I candidly discussed some of my concerns. One being that I have colon cancer on both sides of my family. So, I want to be pro-active and aggressive to ensure that I don’t hear diagnoses like John did.
My PCP, listened to my concerns and asked the ages when cancer was diagnosed in my family…70s, 70s, 50, and a pre-cancerous polyp at 50. Fifty is young, so she told me to see a specialist and gave me the name of a doctor’s office.
When I called, the name of the doctor that I was scheduled with sounded familiar- Dr. Dababneh. I looked online and his photo looked familiar as well. I took a deep breath and told myself I’d be fine. I appreciated the compassion that he showed to John on his last day.
Dr. Dababneh is the doctor who would have performed the scope on John if John had stabilized enough. Dr. Dababneh had came in to see John on the 21st and the concern on his face was evident. He asked John how he felt and John slowly and methodically said, “I feel like crap.” He even sat and said a prayer with us.
Sitting in the waiting room, I picked up a magazine to read… A Newsweek that ironically had an article about cancer vaccines and specifically mentioned melanoma. I thought of John and his failed vaccine trial. There were many familiar words- IL2, interleukin, GM-CSF, NIH. It mentioned that they are finding that timing is critical. It mentioned that some of the studies found that the vaccine did nothing to extend life, but others were more successful. I know there has to be a link… genetic, timing, immune response, specific treatments for specific types of melanoma. I find it so frustrating that the treatments have such small successes… why does it work for one person, but not for another? IL2 for 5% of the people is the best drug ever- they get complete remission. However to probably 80-90% of the people who go through IL2 it is a terrible horrible treatment with severe side effects and great discomfort and no benefits. There are many mysteries left to be unraveled. Whatever happens, it has happened too late for my John which is sad. But hopefully in time it won’t be too late for others. I asked the nurse if I could have the magazine and she let me take it.
When I got called back, Dr. Dababneh, extended his hand and said it was a pleasure to meet me. I said, I believe we’ve met already. He looked puzzled. I explained that he had been my husband’s doctor and had seen him on his final day.
Dr. Dababneh surprised me by remembering. He even remembered the floor and room number– which I’ve done my hardest to forget the room number. There is a decent probability that I’ll end up in Union someday and I’d just rather forget the room number. He told me that John really touched him. We recalled memories from that day. The doctor said that he remembered that John had such pretty eyes. That surprised me… I’ve always loved John’s eyes and Nathaniel has the same eyes. But, I wouldn’t have expected a stranger to notice them…. especially on John’s last day when they were filled with yellow from the jaundice.
I explained my concerns with the doctor and how I wanted to be pro-active so I didn’t become a victim. Dr. Dababneh mentioned that colon cancer is a tough one because often people are asymptomatic till the cancer is very advanced. He said, in light of my situation and family history it would be a wise idea to get a colonoscopy early, just to be on the safe side. So, it’s scheduled for January. It’s not something I’m looking forwards to, but I’m looking forward to being around for a long time, so I’d much rather be proactive with a little discomfort than re-active with a lot of discomfort or even death.