I have no idea why, but I’ve always had trouble keeping a doctor. In fact, I’m seriously beginning to wonder if I’m guilty of making them want to throw in the towel and become reclusive cave-dwellers or something, because just when I begin to feel comfortable with a physician, I inevitably receive the dreaded “I’ve decided to pursue another path in life” letter.
The first was Dr. Rosen, many years ago. He was young and new in town and I thought he was really cool.
At our first get-acquainted meeting, he asked me questions about my family, job, marital status and more.
Then he stared at me and said, very matter-of-factly, “You’re a dink.”
“Pardon me?” I asked, immediately offended, but certain I’d misheard him.
“A dink,” he repeated. “D.I.N.K. – it stands for double income, no kids.”
That was a new one to me, but I had to laugh.
Dr. Rosen always made me laugh, even when I felt as if I were on death’s doorstep. I remember having a bad case of the flu, and when I walked into his office, he looked up at me and casually said, “I sure hope you don’t feel as terrible as you look.”
I suppose his bluntness wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I liked his casual attitude because it made me feel at ease. So when he announced one day, completely out of the blue, “I’ve decided to quit family medicine and go into research instead – endocrinology,” I was crushed.
The doctor who replaced him was young, handsome…and serious. Now and then, he would crack a smile or laugh, but it all depended on which day of the week my appointment was.
I remember one day when he was particularly grouchy, as if he seemed to hate being where he was and wasn’t even trying to conceal the fact...so I tried to snap him out of it by cracking a joke.
He scowled at me and said, “You know, I can stand you only in small doses.”
I shut up and immediately thought, “Uh oh, we’re about to lose another doctor.”
Sure enough, a week later, the letter arrived, saying he was quitting.
“At this time,” it read, “I am not certain where my next chapter will bring me, but likely it will not be in this area.”
“Does ‘not in this area’ mean the area of medicine or this area of the state?” I asked my husband who, at that moment, obviously was too distraught over the news to even hear me.
I have to admit I also was upset. The reason why I’d liked having a much younger doctor was because I figured he’d outlive me. Granted, he probably still will outlive me, but somewhere else.
Even worse, he hadn’t even lined up another doctor to replace him. We were left completely doctor-less.
“He can’t do this to me!” my husband protested, whining. “He knows everything about me – my likes, my dislikes, my allergies, my medications, my problems! It took me years to train him to be exactly the way I wanted him!”
“I’m sure the next doctor will thoroughly study your chart and do what’s best
for you, too,” I said.
“Or he’ll probably be fresh out of college and have all sorts of wild, new ideas and use me as a guinea pig!” he muttered. “He’ll get rid of all of my current medications and then test a bunch of new drugs on me that will cause me to break out in weird lumps or lose my hair…or even worse!”
“As long you don’t lose your teeth,” I joked. “We can’t afford to pay for any new ones.”
I was referring to our dentist, who’d also abruptly left his
local practice. He always had accepted time-payments, which we dutifully had
been paying every month for ages. But the new dentist immediately had posted a
sign in the waiting room that said if you couldn’t pay in full at the time of
your appointment, then to reschedule it for a day when you could!
Ignoring me, my husband suddenly gasped, “What if our doctor’s replacement turns out to be a…woman! I’m not about to strip down and show off all my flab and cellulite to a woman! I mean, I used to have six-pack abs, but now I have only a two-pack…or maybe it’s more like a gallon!”
“Well, I wouldn’t mind having a woman doctor for a change,” I said. “As my dad always used to say, it’s better to have a doctor who has dainty hands than one who has fingers the size of kielbasas!”
My husband failed to see any humor in my comment.
In the past year alone, I’ve had two doctors quit on me, but I suspect it had a lot to do with Covid and the associated stress.
For example, when I saw my dermatologist for my annual checkup, I noticed he was acting…well, not like his usual self. Even though nothing on my skin had changed since my previous visit, he seemed overly concerned about every little spot and freckle.
“This could be cancer,” he said, over and over again. “I’d better biopsy it.”
By the time the exam was over, I’d lost count of the number of biopsies and stitches he’d subjected me to…and for a total of a few thousand dollars.
A short time later, I received a notice – not from him, but from the clinic where he practiced – saying he no longer was with them. There was no explanation, so I didn’t know if he’d died, quit, or if the clinic had decided to send him packing, but no replacement was mentioned. The letter said I would be contacted before my next exam and they would let me know which doctor I’d be seeing. It’s been five months and I haven’t heard a thing – other than my 250 biopsies (or so it seemed) all had come back negative.
And now, I’m understandably concerned about my upcoming cataract surgery on June 1st. I spent countless hours researching which ophthalmologist I wanted to perform the delicate task. I even posted a poll on Facebook, and a whopping majority recommended the same guy. So I was confident I’d chosen the right person to slice open my eyeballs, especially after meeting him. He made the surgery sound like a breeze – something he could perform blindfolded and with one arm in a sling, while holding the instruments in his teeth.
A few weeks later, I received a letter saying he had decided to retire early and I would be referred to another "just as competent" colleague of his who would perform my cataract surgery.
Easy for him to say.
With my track record, this new ophthalmologist probably will decide to quit right in the middle of my procedure and run off to become a mushroom farmer.
So wish me luck. I can't shake this gut feeling I’m going to need it.
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Sally Breslin is an award-winning, syndicated humor-columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines all of her adult life. She is the author of several novels in a variety of genres, from humor and romance to science-fiction. Contact her at: email@example.com