Thoughts: The Good Patient


Evidently it is odd that a 64 year old man in fairly good health has never had surgery before, at least if you were to believe the looks on all the nurses and nurse practitioners yesterday.

Yesterday was pre-surgery prep. You become some strange mix of student and machine as they poke and prod, take blood, check out your heart, attach diodes and run tests to make sure you have a good chance of surviving the surgery. All is well.

And then there’s all the information. “Here’s the catheter. Here’s how it works. Here’s what they are going to insert where and what it does and why. Here’s how anesthesia works.”  To someone like me with a mechanical mind, it was actually pretty fascinating. They explained things well, and had answers for all my questions except one.

I was kind of proud of myself, asking a question they had no ready answer for. The nurse practitioner had to leave the room and find the answer. Her hand written note sits in my slightly fat cancer file.

It was sort of fun looking at the different approaches to talking to me. We went through six different nurses and nurse practitioners and they all had their own style. They went from part time comediennes, to stark and serious, dragnet style (“just the facts, Maam.).
Most of them had tattoos. There was a lot of jewelry.  Most of it silver.

No doubt each of them came to their style after years of working with patients like me, watching what we respond to, and honing their act. And after years and years of doing their thing, they came to the conclusion that their way was the best.

Strange that they all came to different conclusions. There’s a federally funded study to be had in that.

“You’re a good patient.” the technician attaching the EKG diodes told me. “What makes a good patient?” I asked. The question stopped her and she had to think a minute. “You don’t freak out.” she said.

Pretty low bar. Glad I jumped it.

Electronic Records don’t work. In one day, I filled out the same group of forms multiple times. Everyone asked me the same questions. I gave the same answer. But I have to tell you, I seriously considered giving wildly different answers to each nurse and watching the computer trying to reconcile them. I suspect I would have lost my good patient status. And then there is the fact that at a mere 64 years old, I have somehow missed the joy of surgery. The looks I got told me that while I might be a good patient, I am a weird one.

No surprises after all the tests. I am what I thought I was going into the tests – a sixty four year old man in good shape and good health with cancer. And that comes out in a couple of weeks.

The fall trees are beautiful right now. As the Woman I Love and I made our way to NH and back, we did the requisite oohs and aahs. But it was rainy and so the colors were muted. Still beautiful and bright, just not AS bright. That’s life right now. Beautiful, with an overlay of “let’s get this thing gone so I can be as healthy as I feel.”

So I am oddly, looking forward to surgery. No, I do not like pain. Hate the stuff. But it’s part of the path. As a hiker, I know some of the best views come after the hardest climbs.

Be well. Travel wisely,



  1. My friend my prayers go with you and the woman you live and those 2 wonderful children of yours.
    Peace be with you.

  2. Sending prayers. I am nearing the end of my treatment and looking forward to it. I wish you all the best and keep you in my thoughts.

  3. Tom
    Wishing (and praying) for you during next period of time in your life.
    I do hope you had available, and opted for robotically performed surgery. Is a “piece of cake” after few days of discomfort.
    Your old friend here in Roanoke!
    Dave L

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