Monthly Archives: January 2006

Prostate Cancer Screening Clinic

Denial is a powerful force. I learned this, in a new and special way, after volunteering for the free Prostate Cancer Screening Clinic at the hospital this Saturday. I’m a sucker for desparate pleas for help.

Somehow, I imagined that I would be seeing patients with clip-board in hand, seated pleasantly across from a patient who, dressed with full dignity, detailed to me their past medical history, urinary problems, and pertinent medication use. After this time of information gathering, I would direct the patient to the back, where the urologist would be waiting with a gloved and lubricated finger, ready to detect any concerning anomaly in this spongy, golfball-sized gland.

When I arrived early at ten of nine, however, a sense of panic slowly but steadfastly took prominence in my now frail psyche. The nurses and volunteers seemed relieved to see me. “Okay, there’s a doctor here! We can get started!” Fifty aging men milled about in the waiting area. I convinced them to wait to send the patients back until one of the urologists came (around nine o’clock), but it was soon clear to me that the urologist was here in a collegial and only occasionally consultative role. If there was something I was unsure about, I could ask for his finger’s expert advice.

So there I was on my Saturday morning, doing prostate exam after prostate exam. I think I did about forty. My typical patient interaction started with a brief pleasantry, “Hello, Mr Smith, I’m Dr. _____; how are you this morning?” And continued with my reviewing the survey they’d already filled out: “I see you have some trouble getting up at night to urinate, and often have difficulty starting your stream of urine. Let’s see, your last prostate exam was three years ago? And it was normal at the time?” And then came the meat of the encounter: “I’m going to have you lower your pants, and simply lean over this gurney. Do your best to relax…and…a little pressure…okay, done. You can get dressed.”

Sometimes there were amusing variations in the conversation. Such as when several patients asked, “Do I need to lower my underwear too?” Or another patient who looked at the cart with gauze, lubricant, gloves, etc, and asked, “So is that all the free stuff?” I said, “I’m sorry sir?” “Are those things free?” he replied, “How ’bout those socks?” indicating the brown socks that were handed out to the G.I. inpatients, as the clinic was held in G.I. endoscopy lab prep/recovery area. “I’m sorry, this isn’t an airplane. Go ahead and lower your pants,” was my reply.

I guess it was nice to do a community service, and I think there may be a $50 honorarium involved! I definitely feel more comfortable with my prostate exam. But most significant was the experience of finding a nodule, as I found on three patients. Even though it’s bad news to tell a patient, referring them for biopsy means they have a chance of catching a potential cancer while it’s easily treatable with surgery. It was a chance to make a big difference in those patients’ lives!

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Alito’s nomination

From today’s CNN.com:

Alito “will tip the balance of the scales of justice,” said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat. “He will tip the balance against protecting our basic privacy and personal freedoms. He will tip the balance in favor of presidential power even when it violates the law.”

I typically don’t offer much political commentary; there are many more comprehensive and informed sources for dialogue than good ol’ Mulberry Street. I thought this comment was interesting, however. Sure it’s rhetoric-al, and even practical as every high school student learns in government class that the highest court is to be a check on the executive and legislative powers.

However, I’ve never quite understood the Democrats’ inherrent concern in swinging the “balance” of the court. The president, elected by the people, has the power to nominate Supreme Court justices. Hence the make-up of the court can shift slightly as different presidents are elected by the people. That, in fact, is the very check–and the only check–that the executive branch has on the judicial branch of government. Whatever one’s politics are, I would think this would be taken as a good thing, rather than focusing on replacing one justice with another justice who most closely mimics the departing one.

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Webster’s dictionary defines…

Pregnant adj. carrying unborn young within the body; gravid.

Hence, when my attending cardiologist asks his young patient (with her husband standing in the room), “So, are we going to get pregnant any time soon?” I didn’t know whether to cringe or laugh. It was wrong on so many levels!

Might I take this time to helpfully clarify that pregnancy is a physiological state, not a state of anticipating a baby. “We’re expecting a baby!” is an acceptable phrase for a young father-to-be. “We’re pregnant,” most certainly, is not.

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Now reading…


Today I was delighted to receive this book in the mail. For those who love grammar and the precise use of words, this is the book for you. It has helpful clarifications between such words as adjure and abjure; it rightly denounces the use of everyday as an adverb; and it relishes its stance of preserving the clarity, and even the truth and goodness, of language: To misuse allude for elude is common, and can mean only that the writing of those who do so is itself common.

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How to waste thirty minutes…

Today I spent way too long purusing a web-site dedicated to a randomly absurd collection of lists. A few of my favorites:

Things said by the crowd gathering around the Body of Phildippides, Reporter of the Greek Victory Over the Persians at Marathon, Soon After He Gasped, “We Won,” and Died.
BY BRIAN HUBBARD

  • “Gosh, he must have run five, six miles. He looks beat.”
  • “It seems that, after a clear conscience, the best thing for a man to take on a journey is a little water.”
  • “I admire his diction.”
  • “Back up. Give him a little room to catch his breath.”

Possible First Names for Count Chocula.
BY ADAM SELZER

  • Steve
  • Don
  • Todd
  • Norm
  • Lawrence
  • George
  • Bradley

7 Habits of Highly Successful People.
BY BRENDON LLOYD

  1. Skiing
  2. Yachting
  3. Snorkeling
  4. Golf
  5. Polo
  6. Dinner parties
  7. Shopping

Adjectives Rarely Used by Wine Tasters.
BY ADAM KOFORD

  • Chunky
  • Super-charged
  • Pondy
  • Wine-a-licious
  • Caffeinated
  • Sludgy

Food and Drink Combinations That Would Make a Horrible Afterschool Snack but a Great Buddy Cop Team.
BY LISA SEGER

  • Pickles and Mad Dog
  • Marmite and Everclear
  • Scrapple and Bosco
  • Eggs and Falstaff
  • Salami and Zima
  • Chichirrones and Sangria
  • Skittles and Hot Dog Water

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Today I have learned…


…not to sing Phantom of the Opera‘s “Prima Donna” in the seemingly deserted hallway as I carry an armload of newspapers to the trash, gesturing roundly and grandly with the other arm. There may be someone coming around the corner.

If such a thing were to happen, my book of Worst Case Scenarios instructs me to avert my eyes, pretend nothing out of the ordinary has happened, and hurry on my way.

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National champions!


Despite the fact that my Texas A&M friends outnumber my Longhorn friends, oh, about 10-to-Clay, I have to offer a well-earned congratulations to my home-state team!

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