2 min

Patient paranoia

Does my doctor care if I'm gay - or if I lie about it?

Six years ago I had testicular cancer. I went through surgery, radiation and lots of visits with the shrink. Over the last six years, I’ve become quite friendly with my doctors and a little while ago, on a visit I asked to read my medical file.

Although the trauma of having cancer has not been forgotten, for the most part it’s behind me. I wanted to read the file just for my own interest. I figure that I had dealt with everything that cancer had thrown my way, so what the hell.

I opened up the file and started to read the surgeon’s covering letter. It started off, “This outgoing heterosexual…” I couldn’t read on. I had completely forgotten about my first visit with the surgeon. I tried to read on. I couldn’t. I was crying. Because those words reminded me of a whole bunch of stuff I had forgotten and how the secrets I had tried to keep loomed larger than the operation itself.

When I called into the doctor’s office back then, he examined me and asked questions, the first being whether I was heterosexual or homosexual. I had forgotten being asked the question, how I felt and everything that happened after that.

For the six seconds it took me to answer, about two hours worth of information ran through my brain. The first thought I had was whether the doctor would treat me better if I was straight? Maybe he wouldn’t pay as close attention during surgery if he knew I was gay? Then I thought, does he even have the right to ask that question? Should I challenge him? What would happen if I did? I was more scared of the surgeon than the cancer.

A self preservation instinct took over and I answered him, “straight.” Then I thought about whether straight guys say “straight.” Fuck, he knows I’m lying. I walked out of his office frightened, depressed and hyper-ventilating. Surgery was the next day.

I didn’t bother sleeping that night. I couldn’t anyway. I had to be at the hospital early and I figured I’d get all the sleep I needed then. My mom came to the hospital and masked her anxiety well.

I was prepped for surgery and taken to wait outside the operating room. As I was lying there awake with other patients, a doctor came up to me and asked if I was there for wrist surgery. I told him no, thinking my doctor had told the other surgeons that he would be operating on a fag. Other factors seemed to feed this paranoid thought: it was why I wasn’t drugged, I thought, and why this other doctor was jerking me around. I started to cry out of complete fear and helplessness.

Finally a nurse was sent over to try to calm me down. I didn’t tell her the truth or explain, but told her I wanted another surgeon. She just kept telling me not to worry.

I was wheeled into surgery, someone stuck a needle in my arm and the next thing I remember, I was waking up in recovery and calling the nurse. I sat up and examined my body to ensure that only that parts that were suppose to be removed were gone. They were. My mom arrived, smiling.

Does what a doctor thinks about my sexuality make a difference? Was my paranoia real or imagined? I wish I could just say “whatever,” but the fact is that my suspicion that my doctor thought I was gay eclipsed all my other surgical worries. Which can’t have been a good thing.