World War III Weapons

This entry is part 20 in the series Victory in the Valley

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Surgeon taking notes

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World War III entrance exam

Toward the end of our session together, Dr. Meiring took me through to his examination room, and for the first time examined my breasts. He prodded and poked with big warm hands on my extremely tender breasts. I think he probably tried to be gentle, but my right breast was extremely painful. The scarred tissue at the site of the tumor bed was still raw and my breast felt bruised.

Each time he probed with his fingers I wanted to cry out. Then came the moment I was dreading. He asked me to put my left arm over my head.

“I can’t do it completely yet.” I searched his eyes anxiously. “Every day I get a bit further. I am really working hard at it.”

Dr. Meiring stepped back from the bed with an expression of annoyance on his face.

“That’s no good!” he exclaimed in disgust. “We can’t start yet. Make an appointment for next week, and get that arm up by then.”

Failed exam

Before chemotherapy commenced, I had to deal with radiotherapy. And I had to get my arm up over my head. I saw why the physiotherapist hated me having my arm in a sling. 

Why do some surgeons make their patients wear an arm sling after breast surgery? Click To Tweet

One step at a time! I can do this,” I chanted to myself aswhen I got dressed.

He told us to go home via his rooms at home and collect a supply of Tamoxifen so I could at least start that part of my treatment. “Remember,” he told me again. We’re fighting World War III here. I have no time for World War II weapons. So get that arm up!”

Rob phoned a friend, Flip, who worked in central Johannesburg, and asked him if he would please go via Dr. Meiring’s rooms and pick up the tablets, so he could take me straight back to our house.

I battled tears all the way home. I had failed. Now I would probably die because I couldn’t start treatment yet. I had let Dr. Meiring down before we’d even started. I knew I could do no more. I felt discouraged and incompetent.

“I’m never going to be able to do this in one week,” I moaned tearfully at Rob, returning to my position in front of the wooden door.

That evening Flip arrived with his wife Karen and brought the tablets for me. There were other visitors there too, and a buzz of conversation filled the lounge. 

Meeting God?

I was still somewhat subdued from the disappointment of the afternoon when I overheard Flip saying enthusiastically, “I just walked into the room and it felt as if I’d come face to face with God!”

My eyebrows shot up in astonishment. I hadn’t been following his conversation.

“Oh? Who was this?”  I had never known Flip to gush about anyone before.

“Your doctor that’s who!” he exclaimed. “You can just see God’s love shining through his eyes!”

“You can?”

“Yes you can. Shirl, this has to be the right man for you. I am quite sure of this.”

So everyone was sure. Except me. I felt as if I was facing World War III with only a sling shot in my hands. 

I remembered a joke I had just read in Sue Buchanan’s book, Love, Laughter & a High Disregard for Statistics.

There was a lawyer standing in the queue outside the gates of heaven. He noticed a certain doctor walking right past everyone, nodding at Saint Peter as he entered heaven. The lawyer felt this was wrong, so he complained to Saint Peter.

“Who does that doctor think he is, going to the front of the line and walking right in?”

“That’s not a doctor,” Saint Peter replied. “That’s God. Sometimes He likes to play doctor.”

A week later we phoned to confirm the time of appointment for my first radiotherapy session at the Oncology Unit of the Rand Clinic in central Johannesburg. I could get my arm over my head . . . just. The war was about to begin in earnest.

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These events occurred between 17 and 20 years ago. I have tried to recreate events and locations as accurately as possible, but in order to maintain their anonymity, in some instances I have changed the names and identifying characteristics of individuals and places.

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4 comments on “World War III Weapons

  1. What a difficult time for you Shirley but how wonderful you came through. I suppose the saying ‘cruel to be kind’ might apply here. Perhaps the doctor was wanting you to get angry enough to push through just to ‘show him’. Have a beautiful week and I look forward to the next instalment.

    • Thanks for your visit, Sue. Yes, my oncologist was an unusual man. He invested himself totally in his patients so when he discovered I couldn’t lift my arm (thanks to the sling I’d worn for a while) he was frustrated. It made me feel I’d let him down, but it had the exact result you suggest. Once I got over the sense of failure, I gritted my teeth and got that arm up – slowly and painfully – but I did it! Thanks for reading. Blessings on your weekend too!

  2. That is a great approach! When I started reading this I was a little bit angry. Some doctors can be rude and abrupt and I don’t like that. But in the end I can see how this was good for you, he pushed you a bit further and it worked. Good perspective.

    • Yes, he kept pushing me. At times I was angry too. As you’ll see if you carry on reading, he did a few odd things, which once I thought it through I realized showed just what a great guy he was. But I often didn’t appreciate him at the time!

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