I was reading a cancer forum the other day and one of the participants posed a thought - "I always wondered how the doctor felt just before he told me I had cancer." As I read her words, I was stunned. I'd never given much thought to the doctor's feelings and I certainly hadn't considered his point of view. But as I began to think back to that fateful June day in 2014, I did my best to imagine the scenario.
He stands outside a solid wooden door fingering the results of her recent biopsy. The news is not good.
He wipes beads of sweat from his brow as he waits, listening. Inside the room, he hears the crinkle of the exam table paper shift beneath her wait.
How long has she been waiting? Fifteen minutes, thirty? It must seem like an eternity to her.
Slowly, he reaches out and takes the doorknob in his hand. As he gently turns it, he pulls slightly allowing the bright light from the room to filter into the hallway. He should have knocked first. In his haste, he'd forgotten so he pulls the door closed and raps three times.
At the sound, she responds softly, "Come in."
With determination, he opens the door and smiles as he greets her. "How are you today?" He asks but doesn't want to hear the answer. It's just a formality.
He watches her eyes as he moves to his stool. She's fixed her gaze on the paper in his hand. She knows, he thinks...she knows.
Taking a deep breath, he waits as he thinks to himself, I must do this carefully. Although I've done it thousands of times before, it's always difficult. In an instant, her life will change forever.
Her eyes are so intense - those large brown, soulful eyes of hers bore into my soul. How can I tell her she has cancer? I can't choose to see her in any other way than professionally. The telling is part of my job. I'm just doing my job, he tells himself convincingly.
Mrs. Annis, I have bad news...no. I can't start like that. Mrs. Annis, I have your test results here. Let's go over them, shall we? Much better. Professional but not condescending.
And then he reads. And she begins to weep.
Oh no, he thinks, here we go again. I hate my job.