Monday, September 10, 2012

What Would You Do?

Can I tell you a story?
Now that it's in the past tense, I think I can get away with telling it, without getting in too much trouble.

Several years ago my sister went to the doctor thinking she had appendicitis.
She left the doctor's office with these words ringing in her ears, "you have a tumor growing on your ovary.  We won't know for sure until next week what we're dealing with, but you may only have two months left to live."

My sister was honest to goodness okay with the thought of dying.
I was not okay with it.
Not even a little bit.

The following week they removed the tumor, which was the size of a basketball, and after biopsies were sent clear back to Boston for testing, they came back and told my sister she had borderline cancer.  The tumor had been filled with cancer, but as far as they could tell it hadn't spread outside of the tumor.  Their course of action was just simply to do monthly exams and blood work.

Had the tumor gone too much longer, it would have burst and sent cancer throughout her entire body.

A few years later, in a routine follow-up appointment, the doctor discovered another tumor: this one the size of a baseball.

The surgeon who removed the tumor came out to talk to me in the waiting room after he finished the surgery.
Knowing what the last tumor had looked like, the surgeon had called in another specialist to assist with the surgery.  He wasn't taking any chances with Becca's life.

"We debated for 20 minutes on what to do.  We were this close to doing a complete hysterectomy.  But in the end I knew that if she were my daughter I would want her to have a chance to have children.  I left one third of one ovary, and when she's ready to have kids, I will do everything I can to help her."

Becca has never had another problem until recently.
She had some concerns and called to make an appointment with her doctor.
He didn't have openings for several weeks, and so Bec made an appointment with his nurse practitioner.

After an exam and a cervical biopsy the nurse practitioner said to Becca, "you're either fine or you have cervical cancer.  We won't know until we get the lab results back.  I will call you as soon as I have the results."

Becca called me and said, "do you want the good news or the bad news?"

Becca was 100% certain she didn't have cancer.  (Remember that she's the girl who had no problem with the possibility of death.)
I told her I wanted the results before I could be certain.

Every day I asked Becca, "have you heard back about your test results?"
And every day her answer was no.


Who does that?
Who tells their patient that they possibly have cervical cancer and then never calls them back?

Bec called the office.
She left messages.
She asked for the nurses to call her back.
She left a message for the office manager.
She left a message for the nurse practitioner.

THREE WEEKS and they didn't call her back.

Becca told me more than once, "if I were dying I'm sure they would have called.  I'm fine.  Don't worry."

I don't care if you're as healthy as a horse.
If someone tells you that cancer is a possibility, especially when you've already been through this twice,  they better darn well call you matter what.

Finally, Becca did hear back from a nurse...not the nurse practitioner.
She was sitting in my office when she got the call.
I had been coaching her on what to say.
She didn't say any of it.
Instead she thanked the nurse for calling her back and hung up the phone.
Before I could say anything Becca said, "that nurse doesn't care one way or the other about what I think Noelle; it wouldn't have done any good to say anything to her."

"Oh, and I don't have cancer.  My tests came back clean."

I'm not sure if you can tell, but I still get a tad fired up just thinking about it.

The moral of this story?
I should be more like my sister.  She's nicer than I am.


Kristin @ Simply Klassic Home said...

I've had horrible issues with nurses and such at my gyno, including one questioning why I was on hormone therapy because I was "way too young for that." She needs to talk to the doctor specifically. He/She is the one who will do something about it. My mom actually mentioned it to the doctor as she went in a week later. The doctor was floored, and that employee was eventually fired. (I'm sure for more than what she did to me!)

TortugaRachel said...

I woulda freaked out on that office, plain and simple. I am so very not patient when it comes to things like that.

Anonymous said...

What the WHAT???
I want to be more like Becca too. She's rad!

Nessa said...

Wow.. three weeks is a crazy amount of time to not call someone back after telling them they might have cancer. I wouldn't have been so nice about it either.

Jackie@The Cookie Corner AZ said...

Oh my! I think I am like you Noelle--I'm kinda lit up right now for your sister!

KC said...

Wow, what a journey she has had. I think the moral of the story is that we have to be proactive in our health care. That is unbelievable that they didn't call back sooner.
I am glad to hear she is okay.

Anonymous said...

What a scary story! I was scared until the very end. I am still scared.

I hope everything will be fine, and Becca lives a long life.

Shan said...

Whoo! I'm glad she's well. But dang, if it took me all of 30 seconds to read this post and I could feel the tension in my neck, I can only imagine what three weeks were like for you.

Bridget said...

You are the best sister ever, and I love it!
And holy moses! The size of a basketball?! My gosh, I can't imagine all y'all have been through with that. SO glad Becca is ok!

Dazee Dreamer said...

that makes me mad. that doctors office should have been more responsible. they're lucky I wasn't her sister. they would have totally gotten a piece of my mind. and then you would have to come visit me in jail.

Loralee and the gang... said...

I would say she may be 'laid back' than you, but you are Plenty nice yourself, I can tell from your blog. She SHOULD have been more upset, or, maybe she is like I am - I have a husband that gets plenty upset about everything so it's not necessary for me to. It's kinda nice. Maybe you are that for your sister....