Like millions of others, I have a chronic illness. Something that requires care from a team of doctors and a colorful variety of medications.
Recently, I visited a new specialist. He asked who he should send my test results to, since my regular doctor would be retiring.
I looked at him, laughed and said. “Surely, you must be mistaken. My doctor hasn’t told me he’s retiring. You must have him confused with someone else.”
The specialist assured me that he was not mistaken and suggested I call my doctor’s office to confirm it.
To my great surprise, he was right. The doctor who had treated my condition for nearly 20 years was calling it quits. And though he called it retirement, I felt like he was leaving ME.
I’d been treated by the same team of doctors for so long, that I thought it would always be that way. After all, though I’d missed an appointment or two through the years, they were always there when they were supposed to be. I took it personally that my doctor was retiring and set up an appointment to see him and tell him just what I thought about his abandonment of his duties. He was part of a team. He couldn’t just leave when he felt like it. As long as I was breathing, he had a job to do!
As my last appointment approached, I thought about all the times we’d shared together…good news, bad news, births and deaths. Test results, procedures and prescriptions. And the time I told him that I must have a kidney problem because my ankles were retaining water and he said “Nope. You’re just not eating the things I told you to and you’re getting fat. Those are cankles.”
I gasped, then realized he was totally right. We laughed hard together and from that day forward, his nickname for me was Cankles.
During our last visit, we were both very solemn. He gave me a list of other doctors and told me which ones he’d recommend. Then he thoroughly went through my chart and asked for an update on every symptom I’d had over the years and advised me on what to do going forward.
I didn’t go off on him like I planned to. I just told him I was sad he was leaving and handed him a card that I’d written. Inside was a photo of my family and a thank you, from all of us, for taking such good care of me.
As he stood up to leave, he asked if I’d like him to read the card first and I said “No,” holding back tears. He replied with “OK. I understand.”
Then, with a look of sadness, he turned to leave and asked if I signed the card as “Cankles.”
I smiled to confirm that I had.
Isn’t it funny how we take important people in our lives for granted? How we don’t think about just how precious they are until they’re gone?
Sometimes it’s family and sometimes it’s someone whose name we don’t know.
Maybe it’s the person who serves your food at the diner, or the person who delivers your mail. Or perhaps it’s the girl who gives you extra latte at the coffee shop or the security guard who monitors your building.
If you have been fortunate enough to have a doctor, or other professional, that has taken such good care of you that you feel like you’re their favorite customer, then you have truly been blessed.
Show them some love during your next visit. Let them know how much you appreciate them. Tell them how much their service has meant to you and make their day, before they move on to a well-deserved rest.
Happy retirement, Dr. P.
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