My Cell Mate

Posted on: February 21st, 2013 by

I have a turbulent relationship with my cell phone.

Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy my downloaded music, my photos, and a variety of apps. I love texting my friends and family. Thankfully, my phone contacts are literally at my fingertips – not only is it convenient, but my post-chemo-besotted brain wouldn’t be able to remember all these contacts’ numbers.

My cell phone has also locked me into a prison of sorts. Numbers that leave haunting reminders. Numbers I never wanted there in the first place but am happy to have now.

I cannot bring myself to delete my deceased friends as contacts. Maybe I will someday, but their phone numbers comfort me and connect me emotionally to these treasured individuals.

I’m really too young to know so many deceased people.

Then again, I was “too young” for breast cancer.

I could never have imagined so many doctors’ numbers topping my “favorites” list. I’m talking an entire cadre of doctors – from primary care physician to oncologist. All my doctors’ numbers are plugged into my trusty device in alphabetic order by doctor last name. I don’t use the words Doctor or Dr. before their names because there are simply too many.

So when that panic button goes off – and it does go off rather more regularly than I’d like – or I have a pressing question, I want to know immediately which doctor’s name to press: Smith, Jones, Doe, and so on.

When I have medical questions, I’m entitled to a phone call or two…or three…or a couple million.

And my oncologist has had his share of calls over the years. Poor guy.

My cancer diagnosis was delivered by phone. So was the news that I had osteopenia. So was the news that something abnormal was seen on an MRI. And then the good news that this abnormal something was just scar tissue from the multiple lumpectomies I had.

I need my doctors nearby, not just for convenience. They are my security blankets. I need to know that when something seemingly abnormal shows up on a scan that my doctors have my back.

Even when I’m on vacation and am told that my back is mysteriously breaking and healing.

That time my oncologist talked me off the ledge, as he has done so many times before.

My phone has been the device through which doctors reassured me, scared me, and buoyed me up.

This winter I had pleurisy, and I called my primary care physician ad nauseum to get pain medication.

If you haven’t had pleurisy, I can tell you one thing: it’s a bitch.

And I was not about to be the “noble hero” who would just bear the misery. (Noble hero narratives don’t sit well with me.)

So as soon as I got home from the emergency room, I called my PCP and got my pain medication.

And some days later I called her with the punch of her contact name to tell her I was still in agony and needed a refill.

My smart phone is not all fun and games – it is designed for the serious business of staying healthy. I’ve made an important choice to connect with doctors for the sake of my physical and emotional health.

And to connect with fellow blogger sisters, which means the world to me.

Come to think of it, my cell has turned out to be my lifeline. And I’m holding onto it tightly.

Cell Phone

Have you ever gotten bad or good medical news by phone? Do you have a smart phone and, if so, what do you primarily use it for?

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16 Responses to My Cell Mate

  1. Nancy's Point had this to say about that:

    It is rather a love/hate relationship at times isn’t it? I relate to so many things in this post. I received by cancer dx via my cell phone. Could say a whole lot about that, but won’t! I do not have my oncologist’s number in my contact list. For some reason I don’t want it in there. Maybe it’s because I’ve had so many oncologists, not sure though. Like you, I keep contacts in my phone of loved ones who have died. In fact, I still have my mom listed (together with my dad) even though it’s almost been five years. I don’t want to change it. I also have another dear friend’s contact in there who has died. I can’t bring myself to delete them. The same is true on my Facebook page. A fair number of friends are no longer alive and yet I keep them listed. Anyway, I love my smart phone and would be lost without it. Great topic. Great post. Thank you! And I’m sorry about the pleurisy. Sounds awful.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Nancy,

      Yes, it is a love/hate relationship with our cell phones. Like you, I keep contacts of my deceased friends on Facebook. And, of course, Rachel’s blog and others are still in my blogroll. I’m so sorry about your mom, and I totally understand why you don’t want to change the phone number status. I remember your excellent post about the phone diagnosis. Ironically, the timing of my pleurisy was good — I’m off from teaching 10 weeks in the winter, so I didn’t have to worry about working through it. However, I was miserable for most of those 10 weeks. Thanks for the comment and support, as always, dear friend.

  2. Facing Cancer Together had this to say about that:

    I’m sorry to hear you’ve been in pain. It’s great you have those numbers so handy to chase up for your needs. I’d be scrambling.
    As for receiving news by phone, I’m not a fan. I received some fertility results once, and the nurse left me with the impression that I couldn’t have children. That wasn’t true . . . but it took about a year to learn differently.


    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      Thank you for your well wishes. Receiving the news you did by phone sounds horrific. I can totally understand why you aren’t a fan of this. My diagnosis by phone wasn’t a shocker to me, as I had been told by the surgeon two days before that it was probably cancer. However, the other news — getting information by phone was a big blow to me. Take care and thank you for commenting.

  3. The Accidental Amazon had this to say about that:

    Oh, what a great post, Beth. Oh, my…

    First of all, I do hope you are over your pleurisy. I’ve never had it, but I remember witnessing the agony it put my mom through on a few occasions, not to mention a few patients, and it’s perfectly ghastly.

    Second, I confess that my cell phone contact list is also a reflection of the deep inroads that cancer has made in my life. I think maybe most of my contacts are there in one way or another because of cancer. Oy. And I confess that, morbid though it may seem, I still have saved on my voicemail one of the first follow-up messages from my surgeon when I was on the verge of being diagnosed. It’s not comforting, but it represents that moment when life as I knew it turned upside down. Somehow, I still can’t delete it.

    Glad you are writing again. xoxo, Kathi

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Kathi,

      Thank you for sharing your story about your cell phone. Wow, the fact that you kept those follow-up messages from your surgeon is significant. And I can understand your reasons for keeping those messages from your surgeon. As you say, cancer has made many inroads in our lives, and that is reflected in so many ordinary things like cell phones. Thanks for your well-wishes regarding the pleurisy. I’m about 90% better. Still feel awful pain when I sneeze and mild pain when I cough, but I’m getting there.

      Stay well, my friend!

  4. Lisa Ellis had this to say about that:

    I don’t normally carry a cell phone as I consider them a leash. In addition, I can’t really get cell phone reception in my office. So if I wanted to use it, I’d have to go hunt for a place with reception. Too much bother.

    I have a calendar with important phone numbers (onc, pcp, hip surgeon, LE therapist, climbing partner, and husband’s cell) on it. Combine that with my office phone and I am good to go.

    I got two of my breast cancer dx via my office phone. Except for the lack of privacy I didn’t mind.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      I can understand your views about cell phones. Sometimes, I feel I’m married to mine because it’s always with me.

      I think whatever works for a person to be able to contact key people is a good thing. Your calendar sounds very efficient and helpful.

      Lack of privacy is an issue with getting any medical information on an office phone. In terms of getting news via phone, many people mind it, and many people don’t.

      I hope you are doing well now.

  5. Renn had this to say about that:

    Beth! Nice to see you posting again. So sorry you have been so sick! Sending {{{hugs}}} that you are feeling better each day.

    I too got “the news” via cell phone. Sucked.

    But what I never expected to have is such a long list of doctors in my contacts! Unfortunately they are all listed under “Dr.” so it takes me forever to find the one I need!

    I got an iPhone for Xmas this year. Which was MAJOR for me, as I had been using the same flip phone for 7 years and was still pressing aaabbbccc in order to send a text. I was a smartphone holdout!

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      Thanks for your warm welcome back into the blogosphere!

      Thank you for the well wishes; I am getting better each day. I plan to swim sometime soon and am nervous about it, but I don’t want to baby myself too much LOL

      Wow, an iPhone? That is awesome. I also remember the days when I had to work hard to send a text. I hope you enjoy your smartphone!

  6. lopsided blogger had this to say about that:

    I don’t use a cell phone enough to pay much for one. But if I did shell out, I’m sure I’d love it. I’m at that past-six-year mark and have actually been at this long enough to have seen many of my doctors move on–and so have I, halfway across the country. It’s been way more than 6 months since my last onc appt, and since he has a new job now, I guess I need to call and start the process of finding a new one. We got new insurance at the first of the year, so I might have been in for a change anyway. I haven’t bothered with numbers for a while–and honestly, I’m really bad with even remembering doctors’ names anymore. I’ll call up and have to ask them who my doctor is! I don’t make a point to remember my son’s doctors anymore either, though you can bet I knew the peds number and all that when he was little. Guess I’m moving on or past doctors as much as I can for now. And I know I’m lucky to be able to do that. Though I should find an onc and do at least a yearly check. I’m glad your doctors are there for you, though. That is very important.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      It’s so difficult when doctors move on, isn’t it? Especially if they are good. I hope your new insurance does what you need it to. Yes, it’s worth it to make an appointment and get your doctors in a row. To this day, I hate going to doctors. The fear factory. Oy.

      Thank you for reading and commenting on my post.

  7. Scorchy Barrington had this to say about that:

    Coincidence is a funny thing. Just the other day I purchased a new phone. It was a scary prospect seeings as I was moving from a decade of Blackberry loyalty to the Galaxy S III–the phone the dominates market share and tipped iPhone from sole dominance.

    As I removed the SIM card I thought back on the use of the phone and how so much of what has changed my life over the past eight months has filtered through that phone. I haven’t recycled it yet. I imagine it will sit on my coffee table for a good week before I can say a final goodbye.

  8. Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


    Thank you for reading and commenting on my post.

    Yes, phones have that nostalgic significance for us, don’t they? Take whatever time you need before that final goodbye to your Blackberry.

    Congratulations on your new purchase. A new phone sometimes signifies a new chapter of one’s life. I didn’t know about the Galaxy S III’s popularity.

  9. had this to say about that:

    I also received my diagnosis over the phone. Some people have a problem with that delivery, preferring they’d be told to physically come into the office. If my doctor had merely told me to come in, I would’ve made him tell me on the phone right then. That in-between time has got to be torture.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Eileen,

      Yes, I’ve heard that some people prefer a phone delivery, while others do not. I actually was fine with receiving the news on the phone because I had a heads-up that something was awry two days before. My surgeon told me in a gentle way, and if I had to make the trek into his office on that fateful day, I’d be a wreck. I guess it partly depends on who delivers the bad news and how it is delivered.

      Thank you for reading my posting and commenting.

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