Chicago, IL

I Wanted to Hug My Oncologist

Sherry McGuinn

But, thanks to Covid-19, I hugged my phone, instead

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Let me put this out there: I am not feeling sorry for myself right now. Not in the slightest. In fact, I feel blessed.

But I wanted to write this as an illustration of how adaptable we all must be during this time. How we have to temporarily disable our dreams of what we thought would be.

For example, I’d been dreaming of yesterday. Allow me to explain. I had an appointment scheduled with my oncologist to discuss moving forward after being breast cancer-free for five years!

Anyone who’s had this disease understands that this is a landmark…a watershed moment.

Throughout this time, my oncologist has been a beacon for me. I went from someone immobile with terror to a kickass survivor. I love the guy.

From Day One, my once has been upbeat and supportive. He kept me from chemo and cut my radiation down to four weeks instead of the usual six, as my breast cancer had been, thankfully, caught early.

Over the years, my three-month follow-ups extended to six months. And, as I continued to do well, during our meetings, we’d spend about five minutes on lab work and other test results, and then we’d commence talking about everything under the sun.

As we’re both of Italian descent, we chatted about our Italian cars — a Maserati for him, a Fiat for me — and a variety of other topics. He was fascinated that I’d been in a band and every time I see him he still asks if I’ve “been singing.”

We talk about my writing, family, food…and sometimes, we discuss the number of new cases he sees a week. At least five.

That’s right. My doctor sees at least five new breast cancer patients a week.

So much for the pink crap.

It must be noted that he’s always late for our appointments. As I came to understand, and as one of his assistants explained, his tardiness is due to the fact that he spends a lot of time with his patients. Especially the new ones, who I’m certain are as terrified as I was.

He spends nearly as much time with me. One more reason to love him. And, at the end of our visits, I always get a big hug.

So, until the world was swallowed up by a virus, a deadly infection that our own POTUS refused to seriously address, I’d been looking forward to seeing him…looking forward to that hug.

And then I received a call from his office telling me that my doctor was taking appointments by phone. There would be no face-to-face.

At first, like a child who doesn’t get her way, I was crushed. And pissed. Not at him, rather, at everything in general. Boohoo. Poor me.

But then I thought, “Who am I to feel this way when there are other women facing extreme challenges? Women who may not be around for the next five years? Women for whom the word “blessing” has eluded them?”

Women who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis and a pandemic.

These women need him, too. Many, more than I do. And I hope that perhaps, he can make an exception, safety permitting, and meet with those patients who are feeling especially lost and frightened.

So I took the call. Gratefully. He remarked on my “beautiful milestone,” and that was all I really needed. We went over my recent lab results (perfect) and briefly discussed the virus.

We also scheduled our next follow-up, which will be in October. Blood work and a manual exam, followed by a mammogram in February.

I’ll look forward to seeing him then. Hopefully, we’ll all have something to look forward to by then. A lifting of the dark veil which, although it’s “only” been a month or two, feels like it has shrouded us forever.

We’ll look forward to the light.

When I talked to my beloved oncologist, yesterday, I gripped the phone tightly as I listened to him express his joy at my being five years clear.

And you know what? His voice was like a hug, and that was good enough for me. It had to be.

© Sherry McGuinn, 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Sherry McGuinn is a slightly-twisted, longtime Chicago-area writer and award-winning screenwriter. Her work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and numerous other publications. Sherry’s manager is currently pitching her newest screenplay, a drama with dark, comedic overtones and inspired by a true story.

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My goal is to educate, entertain, make you laugh, and above all, make you think. I will be running the gamut as far as my articles go because I have a restless mind and I allow it to ramble where and when it wants. I hope you enjoy what I'm looking forward to sharing with you. If so, I'd love for you to follow me. Thanks for reading.

Chicago, IL
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