Thursday, January 12, 2012

Adventures in Medical-land

By Susan Esther Barnes

I know I haven’t been writing much lately. Frankly, I’ve been a little pre-occupied with my health, but now that a doctor has said he doesn’t think I have cancer, I suddenly find it easier to focus on other things.

It all started with a minor irritation I mentioned in my most recent post. After a week on antibiotics and anti-inflammatories there was no change. As advised, I visited my doctor (actually a substitute for my regular doctor since she was on vacation or something), and that’s when things got a little dicey.

The doctor wasn’t sure what I had or what to do next. She said I could try a different antibiotic, but since the first one had made no difference at all, she thought I probably didn’t have an infection. Therefore, we decided not to waste our time on that option.

She said there are a couple of diseases that don’t involve bacteria that could be causing the issue, and she mentioned something called “Padget’s Disease.” Then, she said she would leave the room for a moment to consult with someone with more specialized experience.

When she came back, she told me she had spoken with someone, and per their recommendation she had scheduled me for a mammogram that afternoon. In addition, she said I should see a surgeon, and that they would call me later that day to make an appointment.

She said all of this rather calmly, so it wasn’t until the next day, when I looked up “Mammary Padget’s Disease” online, and started to think how odd it was that she wanted me to see a surgeon without even waiting for the mammogram results, that I started to put it all together. What she was saying in her professional let’s-not-scare-the-patient way was, “I think you may have cancer.”

One of the interesting things I noticed during this process, aside from the desire not to scare me, was the willingness of the medical professionals to make stuff up. When I went in the first time, the nurse who took my vital signs asked me what I had come in for. I told her swelling and irritation, but I noticed that she typed in “breast pain.” I never used the word “pain,” and she never asked me if it hurt. I wondered at the time whether there were only a limited number of options from which she could choose, but it looked like she was just typing it in.

A week later, after Padget’s was mentioned and I was in the radiology department waiting for my mammogram, I looked at my paperwork. I saw that the doctor had written that I had been symptomatic for two weeks. Nobody had ever asked me how long I’d had my symptoms, and at that point it had been something more like four weeks. I don’t know how much it matters, but it seems to me they should try to get these things right, which doesn’t seem so hard to do when all they need to do is ask the patient who is sitting right there in front of them.

At any rate, the good news is that the surgeon said my mammogram looks normal, and he couldn’t find any evidence of a tumor, so there was nothing on which to do a biopsy. He gave me some ointment, and said to call my regular doctor if that doesn’t clear things up within a week.

I still don’t know what I have, or whether the ointment will get rid of it, but right now “not cancer” feels like a good place to be.


  1. Refuah shleimah. A friend of mine had it about 20 years ago, and she survived. Try to get some sort of biopsy on the skin. Change your detergent and bra, the fabric. And do allergy tests.

  2. To pray that you dont already have cancer is a futile prayer, but you can pray that if you do have cancer Hashem will heal you and restore your health.
    There is a story about Rav Mordechai Eliyahu ZTZL that shows the power of faith in healing. A young girl from Jerusalem was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and the doctors said that she had to go to Germany to undergo a special surgical procedure which would be her last hope to survive. Her father took her to Rav Mordechai Eliyahu for his blessing. But Rav Eliyahu told him that the girl shouldn't leave Eretz Yisrael and that Hashem would answer their prayers and grant the girl refuah shleima. The father was in a terrible dilemma but in the end he had faith that Hashem would heal her so they didn't go to Germany. A month later the girl went for a checkup and the tumor started to shrink. Within half a year the tumor disappeared entirely. The doctors said that there was absolutely no medical explanation. It seems that Rav Eliyahu was right and their faith that Hashem would have mercy was not misplaced. May Hashem grant you perfect health