Column Olijfblad #1 2018

Friday is listening day. Friday is talk day. Friday is police day.

Contrary to what most people think, the consultation hours of a gynecologist-oncologist are extremely varied! Listening, telling, explaining, joking, coming back to previous stories that have been shared, reassuring, looking at baby photos of a grandchild or even better of your own child after fertility-saving treatment and breathing a sigh of relief together. But of course also being concerned together about whether the complaint is not caused by the recurrence of the cancer, telling them that there really is no longer a cure or telling them that there really is no possibility to have children after the treatment. In between another ultrasound of an ovary, a biopsy of a cervix or a puncture from an enlarged lymph node and the day is over. Is that alternating or is that alternating?

That is varied. But there is more than variety. Sometimes it rubs. Then it is as if the visit to the clinic only brings tension and stress. Tension that doesn’t have to be there because there is no reason to think that the cancer is back. Stress that is completely unjustified because things are going so well. Life after a year of being sick and a year of refurbishing is finally kind of normal again. Until that appointment appears in the calendar. As the week progresses and it is almost Friday, the tension and stress increase a bit. It is almost as exciting on the 12th floor of the parking garage as in the waiting room. “He won’t find anything anyway, I feel so good, I hope he doesn’t find anything.”

But of course I don’t like it when things go so well, when there really isn’t a single complaint. If things just keep getting better, normal life goes back to normal, then there is of course nothing wrong. After a little small talk, a few specific questions and a careful physical examination, we then come to the conclusion together that there is nothing wrong, that the cancer is still gone. A sigh of relief fills the room. I have nothing but gratitude.

When she goes out the door again, genuinely relieved, I feel guilty. Guilty that the routine checkup has kept her busy for so long, 1 week or sometimes even 10 days. She lay awake. Only because she had an appointment at the outpatient clinic. While there were no side effects or complications of the treatment to discuss, no guidance was needed with regard to coping or support and there were no symptoms that could indicate that the cancer might be back.

Those are the moments when the police is not varied. Then I feel guilty. Then I intend to take it upon myself to adjust the guideline for follow-up. And to conduct research into how follow-up can be tailored to the individual. I wonder how I can contribute to avoiding that pointless stress and tension purely because of the control. But first the next patient. The next patient of that alternating consultation hour of the gynecologist oncologist.