Dr. Heiden

My annual check up with Dr. Heiden has brought me back to Chicago. I’m also going to close my safety deposit box, the last remnant of my 30 years in Chicago.

I love Dr. Heiden. I know from working in hospitals that this is common—it is easy to love the person you believe saved your life. When I was first told “thyroid cancer,” I did what all the newly diagnosed do: internet research. But I didn’t research survival rates or treatment options, I researched the variables most likely to result in a successful outcome.

Thyroid cancer isn’t like most other cancers. The treatment is as simple as surgery to remove what’s gone rotten followed by one pill a few weeks later to kill any stray cells that remain. The primary variable in a successful outcome is the skill of the surgeon. Internet sources recommend a surgeon who performs at least 100 thyroid surgeries annually.

My friend Laurie went with me to vet surgeons. We had selected two, both at prestigious teaching hospitals. We met with Dr. Heiden first. I led the questions and Laurie took notes and asked more questions. When I asked about the number of surgeries per year, Dr. Heiden’s response was quick. “Two hundred and fifty. And I only do thyroid.” On the way out of the office Laurie spoke first. “I think we found your doctor.”

Dr. Heiden is beautiful. I’m not saying that because she saved my life. She is quantifiably beautiful. My face looks molded. Hers looks sculpted. You could shave off the blond hair that she wears pulled back and she would still be beautiful. Her large hazel eyes sit above high cheekbones and between a Michelle Pfeiffer nose. Her lips spread to reveal beauty right down to the bones of her teeth. When she smiles she could light a room. She’s not just beautiful, she’s kind. But right now we’re focused on her beauty.

At another appointment when Dr. Heiden was running the ultrasound across my neck, I said “I bet people underestimate you.” Normally she speaks quickly but this time she paused first. “All the time.”

I’m working on a novel that has a character inspired by Dr. Heiden. She’s not a surgeon, she’s an attorney but she has the same problem—her intelligence and ability are discounted by others due to her beauty.

PS: If you’re wondering how my check up went, Dr. Heiden declared the innards of my neck “Beautiful. Everything looks beautiful.”

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