I recently had my appointment with the second opinion surgeon. My reluctant surgeon sent me to him for a final opinion on what should be done to treat my condition. Before I get to the outcome of the consultation I want to say a few things about this doctor because I believe that who he is and how he dealt with meeting me should be described.
First, he wasn’t just any surgeon. He is THE SURGEON. More than thirty years ago, he graduated from one of the oldest and best medical schools in the country that today “teaches scientific excellence and humanity in medicine, facilitates leading health research, and influences social and health policy.” He then trained in General Surgery and followed that with a specialty in Colon and Rectal Surgery at another historied and world-class university – it was founded before our country was even a country. He completed is training in a prestigious Colon and Rectal Surgery Resident Training Program in Boston.
Since completing his training, the second opinion surgeon has amassed countless accolades. First, he returned to practice medicine at the medical school from which he graduated and within a few short years took on the role of Program Director of the General Surgery Residency Program – imagine the level of talent you would have to possess to have that role entrusted to you so early in your career. Within a few years he was back at his surgical alma mater to fulfill the role of the Program Director of a larger General Surgery Residency Program while simultaneously working as Head, Division of General Surgery – at the hospital where I am now being treated – for a decade. Within that same period he also became Program Director Residency Program in Colon and Rectal Surgery and still holds that role today.
The second opinion surgeon is a Member of the Board of Directors of the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery and is an Examiner for the American Board. He has served as an Associate Editor of Diseases of the Colon and Rectum and an Associate Editor of the Canadian Journal of Surgery. He has served as the President of the Canadian Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons and as the Chair of the Royal College of Canada Specialty Committee for Colon and Rectal Surgery.
If these years of experience and knowledge as a surgeon and professor of medicine doesn’t put him at the top of his profession, then I don’t know what will. Nonetheless, with all of this backing him, he was unassuming and very human. He bounded into the examination room followed by four residents. I’ll confess that this was the part of the consultation that unnerved me: four extra sets of eyes and ears acting as witnesses to the history of my illness, all its wonderful symptoms, the side effects of medications, all the results from diagnostic tests and scans, and failed procedures. But neither they nor the second opinion surgeon were fazed by anything I reported about my likely rare congenital condition.
At the end of the Q&A, the second opinion surgeon made a number of declarations. First, two years is too long for me to live as I have with so much pain and such low quality of life. Second, it isn’t feasible for me to continue taking all the medications I need to manage the pain long-term. Next, my reluctant surgeon has taken a conservative approach to treating me by exploring all non-surgical options, but “the time for conservatism is over”. And finally, the thing in my pelvis that is the source of my pain has to come out. He looked up from his note-taking and asked if I agreed with his list of assertions. Of course I said yes. Truthfully, at that moment he could have told me the earth is flat and I would have agreed.
There you have it. The second opinion surgeon has spoken. I will have surgery. The thing living in my pelvis must be removed – regardless of the risks. My reluctant surgeon educated me about the known and warned of possible unknown risks and he agrees there are significant risks inherent to a resection, but leaving me as I am is not an option. Besides, there are risks with every major surgery. The hope is that removing this interloping growth will end my pain. The fear is that it won’t. Whatever the outcome, at least once it’s out they will finally be able to say with certainty what it is.
David Bowie – Changes