Exceptional Patient

One of my favorite curious medical phrases was used on the old TV show Friends, when Monica and Chandler were having trouble conceiving a baby. The doctor told Monica that she had an “inhospitable uterus.” Monica’s response was something like, “I’ve always tried to be a good hostess!” So many medical terms can feel like blaming the patient, and even if we try not to take them personally, they can get into our psyche.

So, I prioritize how my doctor talks to me. My oncologist is generally upbeat and focuses on the positive, but I also know that I have no control over what comes out of his mouth. To protect myself, I often avoid topics that might head in an unpleasant direction.

Last week, however, a friend suggested that I talk with my doctor about how I am doing overall. I sometimes feel like I am out there on the skinny branches and, to be honest, I wanted to hear from him that I was doing a good job with all of this. But because asking “how am I doing?” would open me up to any answer he might give, I plunged in tentatively.

He responded that I am an “Exceptional Patient,” and I laughed out loud.

I know that he didn’t mean that I am scoring all A’s on some patient scorecard, and he certainly didn’t mean that I am so wonderfully compliant with his advice.

“Exceptional Patient” turns out to be medical speak for a patient who does not conform to the norm or to expectations.

He talked about his other Exceptional Patients and how the norm is constantly being redefined (because current statistics are based on past data, and all of us are creating new data every day we live). He explained that we don’t really know what creates an Exceptional Patient, though it involves some degree of luck regarding where the cancer migrates and how quickly it grows.

Even if it was a medical term and not the result of anything I specifically did, I liked hearing a positive phrase, especially a positive medical phrase. And chemo went pretty smoothly last week – I think that positive talk helped.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge your positive thoughts and positive talk, which  keeps me going and often arrives just when I need lifting or encouragement to continue. Thank you. Your words are powerful and I’m sure you see the impact they have on others as you go through your day. What a gift you give. I hope that you are lifted by the good words of others as well.

Love and blessings,

22 thoughts on “Exceptional Patient

  1. Marie, you’re an exceptional patient, friend, mother and person! I’m blessed everyday to have you in my life. You inspire me in so many ways with your ever evolving and involving way of viewing our lives and the world we live in. With the utmost gratitude, thank you.

  2. You deserve the exceptional label for every positive definition of the word. Amazing, wonderful, inspirational would also fit.

  3. Marie, We’ve always known you are exceptional. You’re just an odds-defying kinda gal. Good to know the doctors know it too. xoxo Maja

  4. Your post made me laugh out loud.  You are an exceptional person, so it’s no surprise that you’d be an exceptional patient, in every sense of the word.   You deserve all of the positive reinforcement you get, but you should also value positive reinforcement you give yourself.  The older I get, the less I care (or even notice) what others think of me (and I’m starting from a pretty low bar…).  This is both good and bad.  I think I embarrass Spencer sometimes.  And sometimes, I hurt people’s feelings, because I’m not sensitive to their need for reinforcement. But being relatively free from social approval needs is something I value about myself; it lets me be thoughtful about how I want to live in the world.   Thanks for the opportunity to reflect!-Gina

    • Gina-bean, you are my role model for so many things and you have been so integral on this path. From the time I watched you hold court in grad school, though the time I stayed with you in NYC where I knew in my heart that something was wrong with my health, through all those amazing times at Kripalu and much more. I think of you every time I do “back walking” and it makes me laugh.

      You totally hit onto something for me, how much we do for the approval and reinforcement of others! I’ve thought about it in some ways – like how so many of us felt pressure to have a certain kind of life that really wasn’t who we are but what was almost dictated to us as what life “should” be: like college, grad school, get married, get a great job / career, buy a house, etc. And then so many of us follow that path only to drop off it at some point and find that we are way happier that way.

      But to truly live in a way that does not require social approval, or does not rely on social approval, enables us to really be who we are and to bring our gifts into the world and to have fun! I think that others can be offended because they are confused – they are following certain rules and it looks like you might be too, so when you don’t exactly follow them, it is confusing and might even make them uncomfortable. But that’s okay. It is one of the MANY things I love about you, and I appreciate as your role model for me. Thanks for being you in every way.

  5. Exceptional. Yup. That is a word I think of when I think of you. Realize that was ‘doctor speak’ but, boy is he right! xo MaryP

  6. Marie, you have always been and are an exceptional gift to all of us. We love you and are blessed to have you in all of our lives

    Love – Art, Ang and family

  7. He “nailed it!” 🙂 Of course you are an exception! But you are also exceptionally positive and proactive! So glad youve had a good week!

  8. marie

    I can’t comment on this fully but I did want to say that this was such a beautiful post. i loved it. still do

    much love


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