Friday, September 19, 2014

Healthcare Hijinks--A Rant in Two Parts

To recap, I found a lump, went to the doctor on the 4th of September, had a mammogram and sonogram that day. Scheduled a biopsy for the 9th, got the phone call from hell on the 10th.  Since then I've seen the surgeon and scheduled the MRI and the visit to the oncologist.

It is now the 19th, two weeks after my initial mammogram.  YESTERDAY I got a letter in the mail from the radiology center where I've been poked and scanned without anyone ever telling me that I'm pretty.  The letter referenced my visit on September 4th:  

"As a federally accredited facility we are required to notify you of the results of your recent breast imagine evaluation.  Your examination revealed an area of concern that needs further evaluation at this time." 

Area of concern?  Understatement, much?

The letter was typed up on September 12th, after I'd had the biopsy AND received the results.  From the same facility. 

That concerns me a little.  Yes, I understand that these radiology facilities are huge businesses with 4700 employees, each assigned to a specific task and no other. I am familiar with the medical model--I've seen ER and General Hospital.   However, I'm just me, a single person.  I should have just a single record in that building, right there in their computers, with every single procedure I have ever had with that company.  If the person typing the letter on September 12th had looked at my file, which they would have had to do in order to find my address, they should have noticed that I had had a biopsy three days prior, as well as what the results were.  These people certainly know where I am when it comes time to bill me, but they can't be bothered to update themselves regarding services I've received three doors down the hall in the same building?

"Area of concern", my big behind!  

I've also had enough of trying to schedule appointments.  When I was trying to schedule my biopsy, I was transferred to a person who didn't have their voice mail set up, so it hung up on me.  I called back, explained what happened, and they transferred me again.  Same thing.  After the third time, I got a bit testy, so they put me on hold while they went to investigate...and I got disconnected.  I tried one more time, only to be chastised by the person who answered the phone because obviously I should have spoken to the person who sets up those appointments.  You know, the person who wasn't answering their phone and didn't have voicemail set up?

After I saw the surgeon, I received a phone call from the practice letting me know that orders had been sent to this same facility for my MRI and that they would be calling me to schedule it.  But just in case they didn't call, she said, I was supposed to call them by the end of that day to make the appointment.  I followed her directions, and called at 4pm that day.

"We don't have any orders," the scheduler said.

"Look again," I said calmly, enunciating every word very clearly.  "They said that they sent them to you this morning.  They specifically called and told me that they did, so I could set up the MRI."

"Hold, please."

Three holds later, they still couldn't find the orders.  Really?

"So," I was still calm, but not really. "What am I supposed to do here?  Do I call over to the surgeon's office and yell at them for lying to me? Is that what you're saying?"

"Hold please."

While I was on hold that last time, I decided that I was not enhancing my Chi or whatever by getting angry about things I had no control over.  My need to have everything cancer-related done, finished, and completed as soon as possible so I could move on might never become reality, and I needed to just let go of that.   So I did what I could.  I pictured the Knight from Monty Python's Flying Circus, the one with the rubber chicken, slapping all of them over the heads with the bird. I meditated upon the Hand of God coming forth from the clouds above, smacking those thwarters of my calm upside their heads to reboot their competence. I visualized the large glass of wine I would be drinking once I arrived at home. 

Yeah, I need to work on my visualizations...

Has anyone else had a similar experience with the medical field?  Or is it just me?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

That One Time In Show Choir

I am in the front row, at the very end, that way ----> With the hair.

One of my friends from Montgomery Blair High School posted this on her Book of Face page awhile back.  Oh, those were some good times, in the show choir.  We sang, and sang, and danced. Well, we sort of danced.  Many of us were rhythmically challenged, because we were nerds.  Yeah, that's right. Geeks didn't exist in the 80s, at least not in the current rendition of the word.  Smart people were nerds, and nerds wore goofy looking sweaters that their choir teacher found on sale somewhere, and we were PROUD to get up in front of a bunch of other teenagers and dance and sing. Sometimes we fell down, but we got back up again, because the show must go on.

Also, that hair?  Took me about 45 minutes to create that hair on a daily basis, minimum.  I get mad if it takes me more than five minutes these days!

So yeah.  

Go visit Mamakat over at her Writer's Workshop!  That's where I got this prompt: Share an old class photo.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Battle Plans

We had my appointment with the surgeon this week.  I say 'we', because my husband took off work to join me for the general hand holding, and also to be one of the hemispheres of my brain.  Who needs Siri when you've got a Larry?  These past seven days have consisted of me saying aloud, "Remember that we have to ask about ____," every seven or eight minutes.  And Larry only forgot one of the questions, so I call that awesome.

We finally met with the surgeon, a very calm man with a matter of fact manner.  I adore those qualities in my doctors.   He reviewed my medical history with me, which meant, of course, that I remembered all sorts of things that I forgot to write down myself, like that time I forgot to take my blood pressure meds and ended up in the ER with supraventricular tachycardia.  (How could I have forgotten that?  My heart was stopped twice!)

My husband, ever helpful, then remembered "that thing". 

"What thing?"

"You know, that thing."

I stared at him blankly, because "that thing" could have been anything.  I've had a lot of "things" over the years.  Lots of mileage, as Indiana Jones would say.  Larry was determined to help me out.

"You know...remember when Zane was born and you told the anesthesiologist about it and he decided to do general anesthesia...?" 

"Oh, yeah! That thing."  I felt that Larry and I had bonded over our shared inability to remember something.  That "thing" was a mild Chiari Malformation, where part of the brain ends up in the spinal column.  The doctor wrote that down, too.  I started to feel as though I was already battle scarred, with all the surgeries and various illnesses I'd survived over the years.  But the surgeon didn't even bat an eye, and I realized that he'd seen this scenario played out many times.

We then found out that the kind of cancer that I had was what they call "infiltrating"; which means that it likes to travel.  That part was bad.  The good part was that, for now, it appears that the cancer has stayed in one place, because the biopsy of my lymph node was negative.  At this point, my surgeon noted that I was pretty calm, and I commented that he missed the waterworks by a day or two.

Then the surgeon outlined all of my surgical options, least invasive to most invasive.  I was surprised to learn that a complete mastectomy did not improve my survivability rate, compared to all of the other options.  No, the survivability rate was the same no matter which option I chose.  The doctor also spoke about chemotherapy, and radiation, and gave me the names of several oncologists that he deemed 'competent'. 

Competent is good.

He gave me the option of thinking about everything before I made a decision, but I had already decided on a direction.  A lumpectomy would be the least invasive, with minimal downtime.  As long as the cancer hasn't decided to up and leave town, that's what we're doing.  The doctor said that an MRI was the first step, prior to surgery, to see how big is big and how bad is bad. 

As we walked out of the building, Larry observed that the doctor had never used words such as "You need to be prepared for___" or other terms used to impart bad news.   No wonder I liked him.

So...Step 1. MRI.  Step 2. Oncologist. Step 3. Schedule surgery. 

"Team Tina" has a plan.