Posted by: Mary Crocco | May 1, 2011

“No, I wanted to know what an oncologist was first.”

I made a cup of tea and sat down at my desk. This isn’t the kind of call you want to make to your mother.

“Hello mom?”

“Hi Mary, how did you make out?”

“Mom, what is an onculogist?” I waited for her professional response.


“Mom, are you there?”

“Oncologist… do you mean oncologist?”

“Yeah, that’s it.”

“Who asked you to see an oncologist?” her voice quivered.

“I just came back from my new primary doctor. Remember I saw him for my knee last week?  He had my previous blood results faxed to him from the doctor I saw for my pap exam in April. The new doctor ordered a CBC. He said he didn’t want to alarm me, but to choose an oncologist and see him right away, something about white blood cells.  What is an oncologist mom?” I didn’t want to hear the answer.

“A cancer doctor Mary, an oncologist is a cancer doctor,”


“Did you make the appointment yet?”

“No, I wanted to know what an oncologist was first,” I muttered.

“OK, let’s not worry yet, make the appointment and I’ll call you tomorrow. How’s the stomach ache?” she asked with a different alarm in her voice.

“It comes and goes. Talk to you tomorrow, bye.”

“Have a cup of peppermint tea and get some rest Mary, bye.”

She didn’t ask about my knee.


“Any time after 3:00 p.m. would be fine…  Yes, I’ll hold…  It’s a referral from Dr. Kaveh, next Thursday at 3:30 p.m.?  That would be fine… Yes, I will bring my insurance card and I.D… May 7, 1954.  Thank you… you too.”

October 9, 2003

I can’t believe I’m sitting in my truck in another medical building parking lot. This time

it’s to see an oncologist. I start crying. At least I’m alone. I limp into the doctor’s office wondering what the oncologist will be like.  Right after I sign in, a nurse calls my name.

“My name is Shelly, how are you Mary?”  She says in almost a whisper as she walks me to

the doctor’s exam room.

I wanted to say something, anything, but I couldn’t. My voice was frozen.  She will think I am just plain rude.

“Have a seat. Dr. Sanchez will be in to see you shortly,” Shelly said calmly.

I sat down and held in my tears.

A knock on the door and I heard, “Hello Mary, I am Dr. Sanchez, nice to meet you,” said the soft spoken oncologist.

I tried not to sound nervous.  “Hello doctor.”

“I have your CBC from Dr. Kaveh and Dr. Sachs.  I want you to describe in detail how you have been feeling lately.”

His voice was soothing.

I took a deep breath, “I get tired sometimes and have had some nausea and vomiting.  Sometimes I feel like I was hit by a truck. I sweat a lot, all over my body. I keep getting urinary tract infections.”  That’s enough, I don’t want to sound dramatic, and I don’t want to have cancer.

Dr. Sanchez listened intently and continued to ask me questions; he wrote down everything.

“Describe your feelings of fatigue, Mary.”

“When I wake up in the morning, sometimes I don’t feel rested. I seem to have less energy during the day. Sometimes the feeling is overwhelming, and I have to lie down. The feeling passes eventually, and then I’m okay.  Maybe I just can’t correct my student’s papers at night anymore and I guess my knee pain doesn’t help either.”

The doctor wrote everything on his chart. “Do you experience this hit by a truck fatigue while at work, Mary?”

“No, but as soon as I get home, when I walk in my door, my body seems to know I am home and I have to rest before doing anything else. I never did this before. I would work out at the gym after work. I don’t go as much anymore.  And I just lost ten pounds too!”

“Okay, now tell me about your sweating.”

“I don’t know. I just start sweating all over. Since Dr. Sachs prescribed birth control pills about three weeks ago, it hasn’t been as bad. I guess they work.”

“How often do you feel nauseous?  How often do you vomit?”

“I get stomach aches about once every couple of weeks. I don’t vomit with every stomach ache, but I feel nauseous a couple of times a week or so. I bring Tums to work.”

“Mary, can you sit up here please, I want to examine you.”

The doctor examined my neck and abdomen. He listened to my lungs and heart.

“All looks good Mary, you can step down.” Dr. Sanchez took my hand to help me.

“Have you seen an orthopedic doctor for your knee, as Dr. Kaveh suggested?”

“Yes, I did. I have arthritis and a meniscal tear. I scheduled arthroscopic surgery on October 29th; it’s a long holiday weekend.

“Good. I want to draw blood today Mary,” Dr. Sanchez said. I want to check for possible reasons for your high white blood cell count, and reasons for the changes you have been feeling lately. I don’t want to speculate, so we will talk after I receive the results. It will take two to three weeks, so I will see you after your knee surgery. Do you have any questions?” asked Dr. Sanchez sincerely.

Yeah, do I have cancer?  “No, thank you Doctor.” What a coward I am.

The doctor opened the door and gestured for me to go ahead of him. He called for his nurse and instructed her regarding his lab order. He gave me a hug and said, “See you soon Mary, good luck with your knee surgery.”

“Thank you doctor.”

“Hi Mary, Come on, I’ll walk you to the lab. You know, everyone loves Dr. Sanchez. You are in good hands. He will take excellent care of you.”

“Thank you.”

Shelly escorted me to the lab on the premises of Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada.

When six vials of blood were drawn I was sent back to Shelly and we set up my appointment for Monday, November 3rd at 3:30 p.m.

October 29, 2003

I had arthroscopic surgery on my left knee.  All went well. I go for a post op appointment on November 4th.


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