Medicine Men

Heliotrope in my garden

Heliotrope in my garden

Neighbor and friend Kathy has been undergoing medical tests.  She had a biopsy earlier in the week, and her doctor shared the results yesterday.  Monday she will have an MRI.  Thursday she will see the Oncologist, one of the top breast cancer specialists in the U.S.   Kathy isn’t sure what the future will hold, but David and I both offer encouragement and support in visits to the hospital for radiation, or whatever.

Although Kathy has regular annual mammograms, she found the lump in her breast herself.  She then sought medical opinion which informed her via the biopsy she has an invasive ductal carcinoma.  According to the American Cancer Society, this type of cancer occurs in 80 percent of women who develop breast cancer, and:

“invasive ductal carcinoma” refers to cancer that has broken through the wall of the milk duct and begun to invade the tissues of the breast. Over time, invasive ductal carcinoma can spread to the lymph nodes and possibly to other areas of the body.

Kathy had no relatives who developed breast cancer, thus she suspects her cancer is not the kind inherited by women mother to daughter.

There is no breast cancer in my family, but my GP has been nagging me for years to have mammograms.  Eventually I do, having just had one in July, the first in three years.  Kathy found this lump herself, however.


I almost never do a self breast exam, leaving that to my GP who does a complete physical exam once a year, and has for over 30 years.  Otherwise, specialists have taken over much of his work, so he mostly acts like a traffic cop directing patients hither and thither, and keeping track of prescriptions.

Before he writes the script for the mammogram, my GP feels my breasts himself.  He always tells me I have smooth tissue, which I assume is good.  He used to check other body parts, but they are now missing or taken over by some specialist. Even my toes see another doctor, as well as my eyes, mouth and throat.  My skin sees the dermatologist every six months.

Before I met David, I saw a physician downtown. He was an older fellow, whose office was two blocks from mine on H Street NW (near the White House).  I could dash out at lunch time or take an hour of leave for an appointment, so he was handy.  His idea of a breast exam was to turn off the lights in the examining room and hold a flashlight under one breast at a time.  He would juggle the breast and shine the light through it.  I don’t know if his technique was effective, but it sure felt safer than radiation.  My girlfriends laughed when I told them what the doctor had done.  After that I began seeing another doctor in McLean, closer to home, and have been with him ever since.


David and I see the same GP.  Doctor L. is rated one of the top 100 physicians in the Washington Metro Area, year after year.  We found him through one of his classmates in medical school at Harvard.

Doctor L had a relatively new practice when we began seeing him, and his wife was his practice manager.  Today, his wife has retired and he soldiers on. Most of his patients are Medicare recipients. One of the specialists I see told me Dr. L was the last general practitioner in McLean to see Medicare recipients.  Every time we visit these days the waiting area of the office seems more empty than the last.  I’ve never seen a child in the waiting room. and the other patients all seem to be older adults. Dr. L prescribes PSA tests for the men and breast exams for the women. We pee in cups and have blood taken elsewhere.  Such is modern mechanized medicine.

19 thoughts on “Medicine Men

  1. Sending good thoughts to your friend … and thanks to you for the reminder (having no family history and not much in the way of boobs to examine it’s easy to put this possibility out of my mind). I think I had a mammogram last summer. We see a GP here in Oregon and have made our appointments. I have been pretty lucky (knock wood) and the only specialist I have is the dermatologist. Bill has about as many as you do. I always say we spend time in Oregon to see family and old friends. But it is also to see doctors and dentists.


    • Aha got it. The whole point of my sharing Kathy’s story is to give my friends a nudge. I don’t like mammograms and have argued with my doctor about having them because no one in my family has ever been afflicted with breast cancer.

      Yes, folks who relocate often must make unusual arrangements to see familiar doctors. My cousins who RV travel back to MN each year for the same reasons. Winters they are further South.


  2. Poor Kathy… This will be such a challenging time for her. This is a reminder for me to do a breast exam on myself too. I’ve been quite negligent. I had one GP who seemed so embarrassed about doing a breast exam that he put a sheet over me before manipulating the tissue quickly. He never actually looked at my breasts. I was glad to change doctors eventually.


    • I pay $350+ per month for medical insurance (government policy* + Medicare) and another $300+ for Long Term Care insurance. (I paid Medicare insurance premiums via my payroll check for many years before I retired.) They better take care of me.

      I still manage to lay out $500 per quarter for prescription drugs.

      There is no such thing as a free lunch.

      *And, I do not have the so-called gold or Cadillac health insurance plan.


  3. I believe it’s a good thing that there are doctors who know a little about everything, and specialists who know everything about something. And that they all have access to a patients history and records on line. Hope all goes well for your friend. xxoo


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