dr. ken award

dr. ken (aka superdoc) and ryan (aka abe lincoln with a glow band) – halloween 2014

Back in 2005 when I was pregnant with Ben, my then Type-A personality was obsessed with doing everything right. I was still under the false pretense that life was in my control. I had done my first time parent research and decided who I wanted Ben’s doctor to be. His name was Dr. Ken (I’ll omit his last name, lest you send him fan mail). After a slight bump in the road (i.e. he wasn’t taking new patients, so I hormonally cried and made Jeff call his HOUSE and beg him) Ben was in!

Ken took amazing care of Ben – and us as new parents. Two years later, when I suspected something was wrong, he listened, believed me, ran tests and helped us get fast tracked to Children’s. In those initial days and weeks after Ben’s diagnosis Ken visited us nightly at the hospital on his way home, clearly going above and beyond his job description (this is a theme). He was with us throughout Ben’s life and remains now after his death.

Since then, as our family doctor, he has probably wanted to admit me dozens of times into a psychiatric hospital. But he hasn’t. Instead, he has poured out more grace than you could possibly imagine. There really should be an award (or better a raise) given to medical professionals who have to interact with bereaved cancer parents on the other side of their loss. I’m pretty sure I have been red-flagged in every file folder of every medical office I have visited since 2008. See this entry from my journal in 2009 as an example:

Ryan has not been himself lately. Fussy, irritable, crying more than usual. Is it terrible twos? Is it a new tooth? An ear infection? Probably. But unfortunately my experience at someone’s personality changing ended with him dying. And so my paranoia kicks in. I imagine him having chemo, radiation, and going through transplant all over again. If he is diagnosed I will just kill myself.

Today while at his Little Gym class he started limping. Then his legs began to buckle. I started to sweat, my heart started to beat very fast, my eyes burned. I excused myself from the class, grabbed my cell phone and left a hysterical message for Ken on his cell. After all, our sweet friend Logan who went through treatment with Ben – his first presenting symptom was a limp.

I barged into the medical offices carrying Ryan, bawling and demanded to see Ken. A few hours later we arrived home, Ryan asleep in the car. He apparently just “tweaked” his leg. Ken assured me that in his professional opinion (and he would be overprotective if he thought anything) there was nothing wrong with Ryan. Yet.

I have made some progress in my mania since then, even accepting that attitude and sass are not signs of a brain tumor. Sadly though, the above scenario has repeated itself countless times. I have interrupted Dr. Ken at his daughter’s birthday party, while he is on vacation, post-surgery, you name it. Yet here is the most amazing part: he always takes my call. He always listens. He answers my questions seriously. Then he assures me that there is nothing in his professional opinion that makes him believe Ryan has cancer. Ryan is a seemingly strong, healthy child and hopefully will remain that way.

As time has moved forward and I am not so grief-stricken, I have gone for longer periods of time without bothering him – falsely thinking that I am doing better at managing my PTSD (because that is what this is). Then I realize I just went as long as there was nothing wrong with Ryan. For the moment he is not acting like himself – the moment there is fatigue, fever, anything out of the ordinary, or god-forbid vomiting – that is all it takes. Boom. I fall down the rabbit hole, where thankfully the kindest, most compassionate, smart, funny and thankfully now my friend, Dr. Ken awaits.