The Easy Patient

“Well, Mr. Duval, you made it pretty easy for me today.”

His small rounded stomach bounced with each chuckle at my statement.

“Your blood pressure is stable, you don’t have any complaints for today, and you don’t even need any refills. I guess I’ll just see you again in about 4 months.” I smiled and tucked my pen into the front pocket of my white coat.

“Yea, I try to be a good patient.”

“You are, for sure. One last thing. Did you want me to add a prostate screening with your blood work today?.”

“Oh, no, I don’t want that!”

“Oh, gosh, why?”

“I hate those exams! You’re telling me that you gotta put your finger up my butt today?!” He crossed his arms and shook his head.

“Oh, no, not that. If we’re just doing a prostate screening, we can do it with the blood work today. No digital rectal exam needed.” I tapped my antecubital area, reassuring him of the blood draw, instead of something more invasive.

“Well, thank you Jesus!” He threw his hands up high.

“Ok, so we’ll check your blood count, electrolytes, cholesterol, A1C for your diabetes, Vitamin D, kidney function, and your prostate level, correct?” I held a thumbs up.

“Yea, sounds good to me. No finger up the butt.” He chuckled and his belly bounced again.

“All right, Mr. Duval. Let’s head down the hall to the lab and I’ll see you in a few months.”

We walked a short distance together before parting ways. He carried a slight limp due to his overly worn right knee and obese status. But he also carried large deltoids, broad shoulders, a large chest, and wide hands, an indication of a man who carried heavy items back in his younger employment days. I turned into my office and wished him a good day one more time. 

“Oh, thank goodness.” I said to myself as I looked at his cart on my computer screen.

Mr. Duval was one of those “easy patients” at the end of the work day. No complaints, no concerns, and a quick in and out of the room type of visit at the end of a long, treacherous, complicated, work day. I could close his chart quickly, head home, and not be too concerned about his lab results tomorrow morning.

I was thankful for him.

As the sun rose and peered through the various windows of our office throughout the next day, I watched the minutes and hours pass with ease. As with each typically work day, I took the last 30 minutes to review lab results.

“Oh, shoot.” I whispered harshly.

I picked up the received, dialed the number, and waited for the raspy, older voice to answer on the other end.

“Y’ello?”

“Hi, may I speak to Mr. Duval, please?”

“You got him!”

“Hey there. It’s Avery Diggins, the PA from Riverside Medical.”

“Hi Avery!”

“Hi, sir. Do you have a few minutes to go over your lab results?”

“Sure.”

“Well, your diabetes is very well-controlled, your cholesterol doesn’t look too bad, and your liver and kidneys are functioning well.”

“Ok, sound good to me. I made it easy for you again, huh?”

I heard the same rhythmic chuckle I heard the other day.

“Yes, sir, you have made it pretty easy for me.  However, do you remember that prostate screening we talked about? Your level is awfully high. Typically, this means that I have to send you to a specialist for further work-up. It could mean that you have an enlarged prostate or even prostate cancer, God forbid.”

“Hmm.”

“I certainly don’t want to incite any panic and I’m sure all will be well but I want to be sure of it.”

“Mmm hmm.”

“Do you have any symptoms at all, such as difficulty with urination, dribbling when you urinate, increased need to urinate but then it takes a long time to urinate, anything at all like this?”

“Well, yea. All the time. I used to pee like a racehorse in my Army days but now, it’s like I gotta pee every 10 minutes but hardly anything comes out. I figured it was cuz I was gettin’ old.”

“Ah, I see. Well, I’ll get you over to the Urologist ASAP for a work-up.”

“Hey, doc….um…could this be cancer?”

“Well, sir, it is on the list of possibilities but I can’t be the one to confirm this. It can also just be an enlarged prostate, which is not cancer at all. Now that you’ve told me that you were in the Army, prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men and also more common in men with a military background so it’s very important that we get you checked out. It’s also very treatable.”

“I see.”

“How long were you in the service?”

“I did a full 22 years.”

“Wow! I greatly appreciate your service, sir.”

“Thanks.”

“I’ll let you what Mr. Duval. Let me pray for you. I’ll pray for the anxiety of having to wait for the diagnosis and I’ll pray for your treatment.”

“Thanks, doc.”

I wrote this blog in honor of Memorial Day, for those who have served in the Armed Forces. Every Memorial Day, I am reminded of those who have served and laid down their lives and it also always triggers me to think of those who are veterans and who are currently serving.

I find that a lot of my veteran patients simply deal with their symptoms, pain, and mental illness because that’s what they’re accustomed to. They were trained to tolerate certain things and survive.

But as a medical professional, it’s my job to practice preventative medicine, especially in Family Medicine. So I have offer prostate screenings, colonoscopies, mammograms, etc.

So, please, as a veteran, and in honor of Memorial Day, please discuss all of your cancer screenings, especially prostate screening for men.

And thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for you service to our country.

“No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 HCSB

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