In between the end of my chemo, genetic testing, and getting my mediport taken out, I've had to prepare for the next phase of cancer treatment: radiation.
We followed the directions to the door where a big sign said ONCOLOGY, me out of breath and needing to sit down. (I try very hard to walk from the car to wherever, but that usually means that I need to rest a moment afterwards.) No one was behind the reception area when we walked in, but there was a sign-in clipboard up front at the desk. I started to write my name.
"Who are you here to see?" A nicely dressed older man came from nowhere to stand behind the reception desk.
"The Radiologist," I huffed, still out of breath. I knew that wasn't the right word, but close enough, I thought. I was concentrating on trying to write my name and stay on the line, which has become very important to me now that I can't feel the tips of my fingers.
"We do not have radiologists here at this clinic," the man said, his tone patronizing. His name tag indicated that he held the lofty title of "Office Coordinator". "We have radiation oncologists. Is that who you were needing to see?"
I just stared at him like he was an alien, obviously a foreigner on the planet Cancer. Are you talking to a cancer patient like that? I had just walked into an office with ONCOLOGY on the door, right? You're lecturing ME? Really?
"Well, that's the wrong sign in for the radiation oncologist. His sign-in is over there." He pointed to a clipboard hidden away behind a sign about health insurance cards, where absolutely nobody without x-ray vision would see it.
I just stared at him. Really?
I signed the correct clipboard, and moved to the waiting room to sit down. My husband looked at me, then reached for my hand.
"I thought for sure that you were going to punch him."
"I wanted to."
We waited quietly, and I thought about how easy it is to treat people you don't know poorly. I've been guilty of that a time or two. But this is different.
The way I see it, if the guy was willing to speak to me like he did, then he's likely upset a number of other patients seeking treatment. Maybe not intentionally. I'll give him the benefit of that. He's likely hurt little old ladies or elderly men who can't remember as well as they used to because of chemo, dementia, or other issues, I don't know. That's not important. What is important is that those scared, frustrated people be treated with respect, not derision, when they get confused and say the wrong word.
I'll be seeing this guy five days a week for six weeks. He will know better by the time I am done.