Sunday, December 6, 2015

Calling Dana-Farber

A sign that I've been around for a while: I knew many of the hematologists and medical oncologists among the 60 Dana-Farber physicians in Boston Magazine's 2015 "Top Doctors" issue.

Seeing Richard M. Stone on the list took me back to a wild Friday in April, 2003, the day after I received the shocking news that I had leukemia. I had gone to work at The Republican. Friends and family members called all day, determined to disabuse me of the idea that I would just be treated in Springfield. They said I would be crazy if I didn't go to Boston. I said OK, OK, but I didn't know exactly where.

Serendipitously, Diane's sister-in-law, Suzanne Koven, a doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital, gave her a name: Richard Stone, chief of staff and director of Dana-Farber's adult leukemia program. At just about the same time, I had been on the phone with my parents' across-the-hall neighbor, also a physician, who had given me the same name.

Close to 5 p.m., Diane called Dr. Stone's office. Over the years, when the two of us see him around, she whispers what he said when he picked up his own phone.

"Stone here."

What top physician picks up his own phone on a Friday afternoon? Luckily, Dr. Stone did.

He couldn't take me, but one of his associates, Daniel J. DeAngelo, could. I got right through to his secretary, something also amazing when you consider all the times you get a voice mail. She wanted to know my blood counts. They were somewhere in the pile of papers and notebooks strewn around my desk as I tried to finish up my stories. My editors, Mimi and Ray, dug around with me until we pulled the paper out. I don't remember exactly what they were, but they were low.

Dr. DeAngelo's secretary gave me an appointment for Monday. She said to pack my bags, because I wasn't going home for a while. The speed with which this happened still amazes me. Acute myelogenous leukemia is a fast-growing cancer, and I might not be here now if I hadn't gotten into the right hands so quickly.

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