Cancer & Illness Healing Stories

A weekly column for individuals who have overcome cancer or a seroiusness illness or who are currently patients. The column will also include excerpts from "Draw No Conclusions", my new book about my 4 year journey with cancer. Due to be released in 2011

Making a Fast Assessment

This chapter embodies the philosophy of my new book, Draw No Conclusions. A year and a half after the cancer treatment, I had experience in two dentists’ office in a space of two hours that saved me a considerable amount of money and left me feeling grateful about the generosity a doctor and my growth with being assertive.
I had a tooth extracted and then some weeks later there was a tiny piece of bone projecting from the extraction site. This happens once in while. I saw my general dentist and he said, “No big deal, go see the root canal guy, who took the tooth out, and the procedure should take a few minutes”. I called the root canal-guy and he said that he was not fluent in removing bone fragment and he referred me to an oral surgeon, who I will call, Dr. X.
Now, my root canal-guy is a hero to me, an incredible healer and human being. This is important to note. So I called the oral surgeon’s office, Dr. X, and set up an appointment, which they wanted to schedule a week away. I said, “No, I am in considerable pain and living on pain killers and need to get this taken care of right away.” I communicated what was going on with me, instead of accepting what she was telling me. They replied, “Oh, let me see. Yes, we can get you in at 9:30 in the morning.” Then I asked, “What would be the fee for this?” “Anywhere from $150 to $750”. My response was shock. I hung up and called back my team of dentists. They all said, “It will be on the low-end, don’t worry.”
I went to the appointment the next morning. Let me premise here by saying that my best friend of 20 years is a dentist, so I grew up with his practice and understand the inner-workings of the business-side of dentistry. I pulled up to the office and right away notice that Dr. X’s office encompassed half of the ground floor of the building and his was the only Doctor’s name on the sign. I walked in and spotted the business cards that were expensively done. I did the usual filling out of forms and then asked where the rest room was. On the way there I was surprised at how expansive this office was and the number of operatories. I counted a staff of five. I came back and they said they needed an x-ray and led me into very new operatory. I noticed the brand new digital x-ray machine and the panorex. The dental assistant says they want a panorex. My inner alarm bell went off. I knew this was overkill and more than likely unnecessary. I said this to her and she got a little weird and went to consult the doctor. She came back saying that he really needs to see the bone. This panorex is going to be $60 plus $65 for examination plus the fee for procedure, anywhere from $150-750. The necessity of the panorex was not mentioned to me on phone. At that point, it became very clear to me that this guy is building his fee to pay for all this equipment and staff. My quick estimate was he had million dollar invested. He needs to create some money! I simply did not feel comfortable and asked if I could use the phone and see if another oral surgeon, who I will call Dr. Y could see me. I could feel them trying not react to this. This is about getting my needs met in the most kind and graceful way I can.
Now, the other thing that is going on here is that all the dentists in town are leaving for a conference. So there is some of fear on my part that bouncing back and forth between dentists could leave me in pain for a few days. But I let that fear go and went with my gut feeling.
I spoke with Dr. Y several months before and really like this guy’s vibe but I didn’t care for his staff. Here was another Draw No Conclusion–just because his staff is unfriendly doesn’t mean Dr. Y is! So I called and they said he was on his way in and to come on over. I thanked them gratefully and headed over.
I get there and it’s the same vibe by the staff and if they worked for me they be fired! But I ignored it. Dr.Y arrives and sees me right away and like on the phone, he is a very pleasant unassuming guy. He tells me, he can put in a little local (Novocain) and he might be able to just pluck the bone fragment out-ok, cool. Now my gut feeling at this point was not to ask him how much. Notice no x-ray! He shoots me up and in ten seconds pulls out two bone fragments and says it looks good! No stitches. We chatted for a few moments and I go to the front desk and get out my credit card and ask very nicely about the charge. The receptionist looks at Dr. Y and he says, “Oh, no charge.” Wow! I told him that was very kind and thanked him and left. And after some return visits, I found that the staff were really terrific great people. Sometimes you get people on a bad day!
You get it brothers and sisters! This two-hour period embodied so many elements I have talked about in this book. Let me review.
I remembered Draw No Conclusions in this moments: just because my hero, my root-canal-guy referred me to Dr. X doesn’t make him the right doctor for me for this specific procedure. Perhaps if it was a tricky extraction or something that required a special expertise, I would go back to him-see, even there I am not drawing a conclusion about Dr. X. Then I didn’t draw a conclusion about Dr. Y because his office staff needed an attitude adjustment. Third, I didn’t let fear take over that all the dentists were splitting for few days. I didn’t let Dr.X staff’s weirdness deter me asking them specific questions about billing or even to ask them to use the phone to call another dentist! And I went with my gut feeling about not asking about fees with Dr. Y and also at that point accepted my decision and whatever the fee might be. My attitude was, I need to get this taken care of-Now-that was my primary goal. I stayed calm and centered and just did my best to listen to my instinct. And didn’t worry about what staff or doctors thought about my actions. I was taking care of myself.
I love this chapter and was very excited about writing it. I hope you see how you can be active in your health care.

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