skot AT izzlepfaff DOT com
Wednesday, 24 March
Topics of Cancer
At work today, we had what is known as a "committee meeting." Cancer research is often broken up into "disease sites," or "committees": that is, the differing types of cancer. Brain, lung, myeloma, gynecological, etc. They all have different treatments (well, many different treatments even within committees, but never mind), so it's kind of a waste of time for the head and neck people to talk shop with the melanoma people. You don't want the muffler guy fixing your brakes.
Anyway, we had a guest sit in on our typically half-numbing, half-bitchfest of a meeting. He was what's known as a "young investigator;" that is, a doctor who is interested, for whatever self-immolating reason, in getting acquainted with the process of launching and coordinating a research protocol. Against all stereotype, he turned out to be a really decent fellow, remarkably unjaded (give it time), and equally remarkably without a discernably bloated ego. I mentally christened him Dr. Improbable, and we discussed for a little while the study he was trying to shepherd into the research world, a study involving something so mindbendingly awful that it had its own mindbendingly awful new word for the day, "myeloablative," which I take to mean "scorches the fucking shit out of your brand new bone marrow, your blood counts, and your will to revisit hospitals."
Dr. Improbable received our comments on his protocol with much good grace, and even took notes, a first in my experience with research doctors, who are, as a rule, typically more accustomed to you listening while they are talking, particularly about stuff you never wished to hear, like how patient X obviously shouldn't have melted into a brackish goo, and it was really puzzling, because "We didn't anticipate the goo-effect." There's nothing quite like working with investigational drugs to open up new vistas into horrifying unanticipated effects, but Dr. Improbable seemed game. I refrained from needling him with the suggestion that his treatment might likely result in someone's face falling off to the floor with a wet plop, and then would maybe slither horribly to the mail slot in search of fresh dogmeat to devour. And if you're curious, that particular toxicity would probably fall under "Dermatologic; Other," with the appended clinical note, "Sloughing of Animate Facial Tissue Exhibiting Carnivorous Appetite." Grade 3.
When we were done giving Dr. Improbable's woefully underdeveloped study the Torquemada treatment, we retired to that great tradition of Getting To Know You, the slagging of people we all knew. Dr. Improbable proved to be a great font of lore when it came to certain doctors we were all familiar with, so we dished delightedly.
Dr. Plotz wears the biggest of wigs in our world, and only two years ago was universally reviled as the biggest prick in Christendom. Then, abruptly, he moved from a certain snooty mid-Atlantic school to a certain snooty East Coast institution, and has been mildly less reprehensible since. Which is a little like saying that Mussolini became a lot more easygoing once he was killed, but hey, small favors. The first time I met Dr. Plotz (at a giant committee meeting), he greeted me with "Hey, who the hell are you?" Six months later, another meeting: "Are you supposed to be here?" (No, I'm a freaky civilian who enjoys incomprehensible oncology consortiums. We're everywhere!) Six months after that: "I don't know you. Are you with a drug company?" I wanted to tell him, yes, I was from Bolivia and had some quality blow, and did he love his wife?
So named because she resembles some barnacled thing from an unhappy sea. I originally named her "The Sea Hag" because of her baleful, rheumy eyes, which made me think that she was skilled at seeing nervous crabs skittering the gloomy depths of the ocean's bottom, but I eventually decided on "Dr. Kraken" because she depressed me just as much as the terrible film "Clash of the Titans," and is kind of scaly and beaky. I also like to think of her being destroyed by Harry Hamlin.
He's well over six feet tall and has the kind of unruly, alarming hair that one normally finds on playgrounds, which also causes me to think of him as Dennis the Doctor Menace, an image not helped by his small stutter and his utter inability to respond to my frantic requests for data clarification. I am Mr. Wilson to his Dennis, and when I send my inevitable queries to his office--"Please, please help me figure out what this means!"--I basically get this back: "I shat in your glove box last night, which was great fun. See you soon!" I know that when I die, Dr. Hair will show up to graffito my tombstone: "Your best work yet!"
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My childhood pediatrician (a woman) was named Dr. Phallix. I'm not making that up. And I wasn't too young to get the joke.
Hey, I like Clash of the Titans.
Skot - your ability to make anything interesting (even oncologists) is why I continue to read and laugh at izzlepfaff every day.
An old friend of mine used to have a gynecologist named Dr. Arm, which seemed kind of chilling.
andy had a cucuzza
I don't know where it's gone
perhaps you'll recognize him from this polaroid?
something's very wrong
maybe it's hiding up inside lambchop
I am so glad I get to miss those meetings. I am on the other side...when the PIs descend from on high and check on us worker bees in a weekly meeting. And then tell me that subject # 341 should not stop study just because her face is falling off. I am beginning to hate research.
Have you met my boss yet? He's a nice guy! (Also an oncologist).
I am a regular reader. Both mombrain.com and odiouswoman.blogspot.com point to your site, and I direct theatre in Seattle, so it's an added bonus that sometimes you're talking theatre. I love your writing. My faves are the ones, like this oncology one, that mix the absolutely concrete stuff of life with your perceptions. More reality, more truth. Keep it coming.
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