Thursday, March 29, 2007

Dear Ruth Marcus: Get Bent

Ruth Marcus opines in that oh-so-insipid way of hers that Elizabeth Edwards should back off campaigning for her husband because she’s got cancer. Incurable, but treatable, won’t-someone-think-of-her-poor-soon-to-be-motherless-children cancer.

Scholars and social critics more thoughtful than me can pick apart and mercilessly refute her arguments. Me, all I got is blind fury and a blog.

Many AOAPB readers know that my husband has incurable, but treatable cancer. Now you all do.

Ruth points out that there’s a double standard for women and men when it comes to handling illness. Well sure, as long as we got women like Ruth to reinforce said double standard.

Cancer sucks, no doubt about it. Incurable cancer sucks big-time. But the idea that Elizabeth Edwards is going to 1) die with horrible regrets for not spending more time with her children and 2) blithely announced to her children that “Mommy’s cancer is back! Now I’m off to campaign for Daddy!” just feeds horrific old-school stereotypes about cancer and motherhood.

Reality check: we’re all going to die with horrible regrets. For those of us who are parents, many of those regrets will center around things we did or didn’t do with our kids. But you accept this the minute you become a parent. You can’t let is paralyze you. Because if it isn’t cancer, it’s going to be something else that knocks you off your game.

It is possible to be a parent, wage-earner, and a cancer patient simultaneously. Only people like Ruth Marcus that think we should pick two out of three.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

I love it when the nurses all call me "Mom"

BoyChile and GirlChile had their first appointments with the dentist today. Nothing brings out the crazy quite so much as a first “ANYTHING MEDICAL” appointment with your toddlers. You can guarantee a couple of things:

1. You’re going to be late.

2. You’re going to need to fill out a metric shitload of forms.

3. You’re going to forget some vital piece of information. (SSN, blood type, insurance card, vaccination certification, credit score . . .)

4. You’re going to leave the medical establishment worried about something you’d never thought of before.

5. You’re going to leave thinking you’re a bad parent because you’d never thought of said thing before.

It won’t surprise many readers (hi Mom!) that I’ve been called “somewhat aggressive” when it comes to making my will known. Must be because I . . . you know . . . tell people what I want.

But not with doctors. Oh no. That urologist could have told me he was going to take my kidney out with a local anesthetic and a grapefruit spoon, and I would have said, “Hand me that consent form and let’s get cracking!”

So my babies are in these big chairs and there’s not enough time (in my mind) to explore the office, or the tools, and the damn Dora the Explorer DVD runs out just about the time the whiny brush starts up, and I’m bouncing back and forth between their chairs, trying to keep a big ole smile on my face because, hey! This is fun! Going to the dentist is fun!

When the dentist with BoyChile demands of me, “how did he break his front tooth?”

How does any kid break his tooth, I wanted to ask her. They’re generally not trying to bite the cap off a bottle of beer or playing ice hockey.

He fell down, I say.

The nerve’s exposed, she said We have to take an X-ray right now.

Now, in an incredible feat of timing, BoyChile took out his tooth exactly a week ago today. Managed to keep all those teeth in his head until one week before his first freaking dental appointment. But no matter – dentists are here to help us, right?

BoyChile was not about to stay still long enough to let anyone stick an oversized coffee filter in his mouth and point a lens at him. X-ray taking thus abandoned, BoyChile thoroughly over the entire dentist-thing, we head back to the chair of doom.

Lady Dentist has been replaced by semi-retired Dentist/Owner of practice, and he’s been called over for a consult. He takes off his mask, gets BoyChile calmed down, probes and wiggles things a bit, backs up, send BoyChile off, and talks to me like an adult – i.e, if the nerve actually was exposed, BoyChile probably would have stopped, you know, eating. And would be crying, like, all the time. My faith in the profession of pediatric dentistry is thus restored.

So here’s where I surprised even myself. When I went to the counter to pay and make BoyChile’s follow-up appointment, I specifically asked for Dr. Owner to do the follow-up. When told he doesn’t see patients regularly any longer, I said that I would take whomever was most similar to him in personality and patient treatment. No offense to LadyDentist, but I wasn’t comfortable with her and I don’t want her hands in my kid’s mouth again.

The moral of the story is this: if we are so goddamned determined to turn healthcare into a business, then patients have a right to act just like customers. It took me 34 years, two kids, and a unilateral nephrectomy to figure that out.

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