Yeah, I know, I am at least three weeks behind. A trip to Boston and adjusting to my new job have interrupted my routine. I am just catching up on emails. A number of new cancer blogs has surfaced. Renn was diagnosed with breast cancer last October. She writes below with humor and verve of an experience that is all too familiar. The Big C and Me
PERSONA NON GRATA
My bilateral mastectomy is scheduled and I’m at my primary doctor’s office on Monday to pick up a copy of my chest X-ray from a couple weeks ago. But they can’t seem to find it. Hmmm. I make a pre-op appointment for two days later and tell them they can give me the results when I come back on Wednesday. The nurse says great, we’ll see you then.
Since my cancer diagnosis, my husband has been accompanying me to all my doctor’s visits; but since this next appointment is for simple blood work, I go alone. And guess what? When I get there, they have no record of the appointment I made two days beforehand. And they have no approval from my surgeon for any blood work. And they still can’t locate the results of my chest X-ray. WTF???
Of course the receptionist asks who I made my appointment with. Of course I didn’t get the nurse’s name. This isn’t the first time I’ve felt this office doesn’t have a clue that I exist (persona non grata, anyone?) and this makes me very scared. I’m afraid I’ll fall through the cracks and I’ll get to the hospital and things won’t be in order and my surgery will be cancelled and my cancer will continue to grow and then I’ll die. OK, I realize this is catastrophizing, but I become so flustered by these thoughts that now I can’t remember when I was in the office to make the appointment they have since forgotten. Was it yesterday? Was it two days ago? And why was I even there then? For the life of me, I can’t remember. (I have chemo brain and I’m not even on chemo!)
Apparently there is some confusion over what kind of labs I need, and they have to wait for my primary care doctor to sign off on the order. “You can wait if you’d like. But it could take 5 minutes or 5 hours.” You have got to be kidding me! Do you really expect me to sit all morning in this waiting room filled with coughing kids a week before I have major surgery? I don’t actually say this, of course; instead I just passive aggressively leave the office, cursing the nurses under my breath. I reach the elevator with tears in my eyes. I’m not sure which doctor’s office is at fault here, but I’m going to get to the bottom of it. Like I even have energy for this crap!
I go outside and call my surgeon. His nurse says they faxed the lab request over yesterday. Great. At least now I know where the fault lies. I really like my primary doctor, he’s a brilliant man, but his office is SO busy and his staff so obviously disorganized and they don’t even know who I am and what am I going to do about all these details that I simply can’t control? I want to scream. Why does every single thing fall to me to follow through? Why can’t one thing go right? Preparing for surgery is a freakin’ full-time job. I hate this.
I call my husband from my car and start sobbing. (Who knew I would need him to come with me to get my blood drawn? Geesh. And the fact that I skipped breakfast for the labs I’m now not getting? Not helping.) But rather than give me sympathy, my hubby tells me I need to stand up for myself! WHAT?? He says, “Go back upstairs and demand that they do your blood work. You made an appointment. They screwed up. Make them fix it.”
Yikes. I can’t even catch a break with my own husband. Cancer sucks.
I don’t want to deal with this, but I know he’s right. So back in I go. But when the elevator doors open and the receptionist sees me, she quickly picks up the phone and whispers, “She’s back.” Oh great. They’ve all been talking about what a b**** I am. I sit back down in the waiting area, in plain sight of the snarky receptionist. I wait there for 25 minutes. No one comes out to help me.
My cell phone rings. It’s my husband checking on my progress. I tell him I haven’t made any, and start crying again. I’m not usually this passive (in fact, I err in the opposite direction: control freak) but this whole cancer thing is turning me into a vulnerable, fraying mess. This time, however, hubby offers to come over to the doctor’s office on his way to work and bring me a banana (how cute is that?). I tell him, “We have to switch doctor’s offices — this isn’t something a banana can fix.”
I hang up, get in touch with my inner warrior and approach the receptionist. “Look,” I say, “I just need to make a new appointment for my labs.” She quickly buzzes me back into the nurse’s station. Progress! I explain my story again to the one nurse who “knows me” (and I use that phrase very loosely). She again explains that they don’t know what labs need to be done until the doctor releases the paperwork. “We’ll call you when he signs it and you can come back then.”
I’m shocked to hear this word come out of my mouth. Warrior Woman has finally broken free. I decide I’m done for today. “I want an appointment. For this Friday. At 9 AM.” She hands me an appointment card, just like that. I get her name.
And you better believe I’m bringing my husband.