Illness brings great lessons. I’ve personally come to learn this as my battle with breast cancer has unfolded over the past several months. Learning you have cancer just weeks after the world was shut down for a pandemic can be a bit confusing.
I share this story for a few reasons. My primary reason for sharing anything personal is my firm belief that knowledge is power and my simple story may help another in their journey, just as others have helped me. I also share because during this current season of my life I’ve been aware on multiple occasions of my good fortune.
My treatment and plan has gone quickly. My team one I could not be more pleased with, working together as well as keeping me constantly informed.
I’ve also been reminded in certain moments of the importance of advocacy. In this particular case not for another or a loved one, but for myself.
Early on as tests were being conducted, time frames were a bit ambiguous. Techs sharing “due to COVID-19” being unsure of how long or how quickly results would be available. Staffing after all had become limited, fortunately for me, so had patient load. I mean who wanted to be anywhere in early spring as the virus began shutting down the world.
I still recall sitting in waiting rooms … alone and thinking about what I might be exposing my “quarantined” family to.
There are times when I feel as if I was diagnosed with cancer at the most ideal time. After all, I’m not missing anything, socially speaking and as I quickly learned the lack of patients caused my results and appointments to happen rather quickly.
Yet even the best laid plan has its glitches.
One which comes to mind most was waiting for one final test ordered by my oncologist before chemo could begin. My time line to this moment had gone quickly. Diagnosed April 15, port placed in my chest by early May and then nothing as I awaited approval and scheduling of one final test.
Staying in communication with my oncologist’s office became paramount in the process, as I embraced the old adage of “you get more with sugar than vinegar.”
This after all was my “team” on the other end of the phone and I needed their help now and will continue to as my battle goes forward.
In short a conversation with the referral office, followed by a call to my insurance, as well as the hospital resulted in an appointment within days. Not to be confused, there is (in my opinion) a reasonable amount of time to wait and allow the referral process to happen. Yet in some cases, as the patient it’s important to intercede and manage your own plan.
Fortunately as we’ve gone through this, I’ve maintained good relations with the team involved. Regularly ending calls reminding them I appreciate them, as well as their commitment to help.
My point in sharing all of this is to remind, as well as empower others to take your health and your care as seriously as you do tracking a much awaited package. The lesson I’ve learned through this, is while much may have gone quickly the fact still remains that we are in a pandemic and balls may be dropped.
Most importantly I work hard not to take it personally, yet recognize that just as doctors are “practicing” medicine, the techs, admins and nurses are human and doing their best to serve their clients as well.
I type this today as I continue through a battle of breast cancer. It is indeed a fight and I’m grateful each and every day for a body which is strong and a tribe even stronger. Yet when it comes to the ultimate outcome, I recognize I can’t leave my health in the hands of another. I must advocate for myself. I must ask the hard questions and make my health my business, pandemic or not, my care must remain my primary focus.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.