“How long has this been here?”
“I don’t know. Maybe six months.”
“Why didn’t you tell me? You have been in for a head cold and a sprained ankle in the past several months. Why didn’t you bring it up?”
Truthfully, I don’t know why we ask these questions.
What does it matter in the grand scheme of things, the why? It could be one or several of over a dozen things but knowing why does not change the what or the now. Asking why only makes the patient feel… worse.
Actually, I do know why we ask.
It is our way of saying, “Look, if you die, remember it isn’t my fault,” because we feel guilty, somehow. Responsible. It is our way of conveying that we are hurt that you didn’t trust us without saying those exact words out loud. And to be honest, we are in shock, scared, terrified of what this might mean for you. We know the fear and the pain and the hair loss and depression and everything else that may come your way because of this little lump in your breast.
I have been on both sides.
I can tell you that as the patient I understand the not bringing it up thing. I consciously chose to ignore it myself. Not because I was depressed or was in denial that it was there. It was certainly there. Nor was I lazy. Or ignorant. I knew full well the implications of a slow growing mass in my breast. I simply did not want to know. If it was breast cancer, fine. So be it. It wasn’t going anywhere. Death didn’t scare me. In some ways, I was probably playing chicken with death, with the mass.
Who was going to flinch first, I wondered.
Then one day my own doctor was saying those words to me… “What the hell were you thinking?!?!??!”
And the truth is, I don’t know.
Please note, that I do not have breast cancer. I’m not dying from anything, not yet anyway. My breast is just fine, thank you! I was just reflecting on this whole phenomenon last night, the ignoring of things we shouldn’t really ignore.