If You Think You Can “Get Over It” Think Again

For anyone who knows me personally, you know my story. Twenty years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and started my treatment.

For 20 years I’ve tried to be brave, and mostly calm when it comes to my annual foray in to “does she or doesn’t she?” However this week’s visit for a mammogram sent me over the edge again.  While I have managed to maintain decorum through past surgery, testing, surgery again, and 6 months of chemo, an insensitive radiology policy caused me to melt once more into a puddle of tears and terror.

For the last 19 years, whenever I go for mammograms, I am always asked to wait for the radiologist to make a first reading. While this is never a pleasure, it has nearly always resulted in a second – or third – set of films taken on the spot. And a definitive answer to what is going on with the girl. This time I was told that because I’m more than 5 years post-surgery (yeah!) my mammo has somehow morphed into a screening and that I would not need to wait. When I questioned this, I was told it was “policy”.

And that’s where I lost it.

A person who has overheard the bad news through a thin wall at a doctor’s office – which I did as the radiologist was discussing my initial diagnosis 20 years ago – needs to have some peace of mind on the one day each year that is hell on earth. For me, it doesn’t matter that what I’m feeling is illogical, I am feeling vulnerable and scared. My need on that day last week, was to either hear good news and move on or not-so-good news and figure out what to do next. Clearly this “new policy” which was meant to move mammogram patients through quickly, was not going to be much peace of mind for me.

So, sitting in the parking lot of the medical center after having been told to go about my business and I’d hear in 3-10 days (!) , so unhinged that I was unable to talk with my dear spouse, I finally regained enough composure to drive home where I was convinced to speak up for my self and call my internist to see if she could get somewhere. Can you believe I had to be talked into it? I’m an adult, not a pushover. Yet that’s how conditioned I have become to  just accepting “policy”.

Lucky me that my doctor and her staff are far more compassionate and a good deal more sensitive. The nurse I spoke to knew immediately that, even after 20 years of living with this disease, I was unnerved and made a call to the head of radiology. The news was good and all ended well, make no mistake I am grateful for that.

But this event shows once again, that no matter how far you get from cancer, it still comes back to bite you in the behind at least once a year. No one is a “pro” at this. Especially me.

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