Open letter to the OBGYN who waved off my tiny lump

Dear Dr. G.:

It has been 12 years since that day in your office, when you dismissed a pea sized lump in my right breast. Before I spoil what became of that lump, I am going to back track a bit.

I was one of your first patients, when you started your practice in Beverly Hills about 17 years ago. You were eager and excited about helping women through child birth and whatever other issues they presented. You were a fantastic ear and a good doctor.

I left Los Angeles shortly after establishing a rapport with you and returned a few years later, in 2005, because I had gotten engaged to a man who had remained in California. Most of my prior support system was no longer here, I was having some issues with painful sex and I had a lump in my breast. So I made an appointment to see you.

This is a day I will never forget. I walked into your office feeling afraid and alone, really hoping to see the doctor I had known so many years before. But you were not there. Or at least your warmth wasn’t. You treated my visit much like an encounter at a cocktail party, almost looking over my shoulder to see if there was someone better to talk to, even though we were the only two people in the exam room.

I told you about discomfort with sex and you asked me if I really loved my fiancé. When I said I did, you mentioned another patient who had had a similar problem and, it turned out, wasn’t in love with her partner. I then told you about a lump that was concerning. It was small, it was hard, it was nothing you said after kneading around it for a minute. Plus, you said, I was way too young to worry about something like breast cancer. I was 33. After that you rushed through the rest of the exam and had me meet you in your office once I got dressed. This was the fun part. We could shoot the shit and you could introduce me to your next patient who was tangentially related to the entertainment industry. It was amazing how far you had come.

What wasn’t amazing was the way I felt when I walked out of your office. I was confused, insecure and not less anxious than when I had arrived. I can’t fault you for not offering the same kind of support or comfort as our past visits. Your bedside manner had changed. And, in my opinion, not for the better. But that was the doctor you had chosen to become. I can, however, fault you for carelessness. For using your fingers and opinions as a diagnostic test. What would it have hurt to have ordered a mammogram back then?

I went through years hearing your words in my head – that it was nothing – even as the lump grew. I was meek, I was afraid to assert myself and truthfully, I probably didn’t want to know it was something. Until another lump appeared under my arm. That was 5 years later. I was almost 38. And you guessed it, it was cancer. It was in my breast and had spread to my lymph nodes.

I was resentful at you back then but, rather than look backwards, I chose to put one foot in front of the other with chemo and surgery and radiation and surgery again and hormone therapy. Through all of that I learned to be my own advocate, something I didn’t know how to do when I saw you back in 2005. I learned how to do research, get second opinions, ask for tests I thought were necessary even if they weren’t readily recommended. And for all of that I thanked you in a weird way. It was a hard lesson. A terrible lesson but I swore never to put my health and wellbeing squarely in someone else’s hands again.

I was upset that maybe I could have escaped with a lumpectomy and medication instead of the barrage of treatments I had to undergo. But I was willing to let all of that be the past. Until summer of 2015, when the cancer returned: in my bones, my liver and my brain.

So now, Dr. G., I am a stage IV breast cancer patient. Do I know that I wouldn’t have gotten here if you had ordered a mammogram on that day in 2005? No. I know there is no guarantee but my odds would have been better. My chances of living a cancer free life would have been much higher. So I am writing this letter to let you know this.

The lesser part of me wishes you would stop practicing. The lesser part of me is calling you out on your arrogance and ignorance. I sent a lot of patients your way, most of who ultimately left you because of their own experiences with you. Some of those experiences were fatal. The lesser part of me feels better for pointing that out.

The better part of me wishes you well. It hopes that you move forward more responsibly. That you take my story and the story of others you have affected to become a better doctor. You are in a position of power and I hope you recognize that. Not just with your ability to diagnose and write prescriptions but with your words as an expert and someone people look to and trust.

I do hope that somehow this reaches you. I hope that you think of me every time someone comes in with a breast abnormality and every time you write a prescription for a mammogram. I also hope you are writing those often. That very small action, that scribble on a pad of paper could have changed the trajectory of my life. While I missed out on that opportunity, please do give that to the women who come to you for guidance and care. You can’t do anything to make this right, but that would surely help.

All the best.

Irresponsible dummies


I try not to focus on the past. Letting go of the doctors that misdiagnosed me – and there were a few – has been an important part of healing for me. From the OBGYN in 2005 who said I was too young to have Cancer to the Thermographer in 2011 who said that, based on her heat sensing test, my growth was benign. And that was about a week before I found a lump under my arm that turned out to be lymph node involvement.

Obviously I still harbor some resentment. It’s tough to feel let down by people you trust to look out for your best interest. When I reflect on my journey to this point, I ask myself why no one ever recommended a mammogram. Why would getting more information have been a bad thing? I already addressed in this earlier post that I was afraid of Western medicine and found people to support that fear. So some of the blame falls squarely on my shoulders.

But I’d like to move on from blame, towards doctors and towards myself. Constantly looking in the rear view mirror will only make me crash the car I’m trying to drive forward. Also anger and blame seem to generate more anger and blame rather than run its course. And I have enough new anger to not have to deal with the old stuff.

So I’m using this post as a package to the Universe. A way to hand over ill feelings to those that failed me and to myself. And as for the title of this post, it’s my way of staying true to the imperfection that makes me human.

From Eastern vs. Western to Eastern and Western


Prior to my 2011 diagnosis, I spent considerable time futzing with doctors who said I was fine and steered me away from the mammogram. The first visit was in 2005 to my OBGYN, who felt the pea sized mass I was worried about. He told me I was too young to have breast cancer and I was fine (I was 33 at the time).

I’d like to say all of this is his fault because my life would probably be different had I caught everything that early. But the truth is I walked around afraid of Western medicine for a long time. I looked for healers and doctors who also shied away from traditional modalities or who supported my intentional blindness to what was to come.

Even so, from most of those practitioners (minus the lousy OBGYN), I learned how to connect to my body in a different way. Through Ayurveda, I learned how to eat for the seasons, and for my body type. From Chiropractic, I was able to tap into certain muscle groups and improve my gait. My workout regimen got better. Actually I embarked on a workout regimen at all. Acupuncture helped with stress management.

So while I walked into this journey late for the party and terrified of traditional medicine, I did have the sense that my body and I were a team. Something I might not have felt in 2005. This doesn’t mean I’m happy it took an extra 6 years to get diagnosed. Or that there aren’t times when I want to give up, drop this body because of the pain. But it does mean that I now know the difference between diagnostics and support. It also means that I am conscientiously throwing everything at this disease with the hope that something will work. Stay tuned for the results…