I know we are over the whole broken-promise issue of my posting every day but still I never thought it would be 10 days before I uttered words onto these pages again. It’s been quite a week.
Work is crazy as usual but thanks to the addition of our new Electronic Health Record system, crazy takes on new meaning. Clinic days have gone from 9-10hr days to an mind-crushing 12-13hr days. And I have to admit here that my brain shuts down at 11.96 hrs. No reboot possible. Battery-Dead. Screen-Blank. Hard-drive-MUSH. Thankfully, we are a surgery practice and only have two clinic days per week.
Normally, I can handle the long hours of our clinic days because I get all those other days to recharge my batteries. But last week …… no such luck. My schedule went as follows:
Monday – 13 hr clinic day – this turns into a 15hr work day when you add in my commute. *yawn*
Tuesday- 7 hr work day followed by dinner meeting one hour South of office. (I live 1 hour North of office.)
Wednesday – 7 hr work day followed by another dinner meeting. I actually worked in the office until 6:30 to make up for * a visit to the doctor’s office with a friend during the day.
Thursday – Due to a miracle from God, we were able to leave the office by 7:30 on this clinic day. Don’t scoff at me for calling this a miracle. It is a bonified, full-body MIRACLE. (which can hopefully be repeated again this week.) Am I asking too much?
Friday – This is my work at home half day. All I’m gonna say is that after four 12+ hr days putting one foot in front of the other was about all I could manage by Friday. Does being fifty mean that I can no longer handle these long hours with ease? That’s not fair. I call foul!
*Now about that doctor visit with a friend. It was awful. Gut wrenching. Eye opening. I was honored to be there and hated every minute.
Without divulging too many details, I will tell you about my friend. Because you need to know.
In almost 13 years of working in the breast surgery field, I have really only had two patients whose diagnosises have rocked me to my core. That may sound really insensitive to you. But when you do what I do for a living, you can’t let a cancer diagnosis blow your mind because it happens EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. Some days more than once a day. Yeah, it sucks. And I always feel terrible for the patient and their family. But I can leave it at the office when I go home for the day. I have to.
It should be said here that with early detection and advanced treatment options, breast cancer is no longer an automatic death sentence. Most people diagnosed with breast cancer go on to lead perfectly normal, cancer-free lives.
The first time I had my world rocked by the cancer diagnosis of one of our patients, it was a beautiful twenty-two year old new mother. Take a moment to let that sink in. TWENTY-TWO YEARS OLD! And she had a baby less than a year old. She wasn’t even old enough to have a screening mammogram. Her mother was in treatment for her own breast cancer. Can you imagine? Her cancer was a very aggressive type but it was caught early and her prognosis is good.
That night, I came home and told MHS that I couldn’t cook. I barely had the energy to eat. We went out to dinner and I just sat and stared at the wall. I was not a good dinner companion. I couldn’t get this young woman out of my mind. If her diagnosis affected me like this, can you imagine how she and her family must have been feeling at the same time? For the record, she had her treatment, was the most beautiful bald woman I have ever seen and is doing very well today.
Then last month I was contacted by a colleague who said that his wife had a recent abnormal mammogram and biopsy was advised. I told him to bring her in and we would take good care of her. I had never met her before but when we met, it was love at first sight. I told my friend that I was certain I had a girl crush on his wife. He gave me a very wary look. *Men can be so homo-phobic* We just clicked immediately.
I’ve had several friends come to my office to be seen by our doctor. Abscesses, cysts, benign masses. I’ve had five biopsies myself – all thankfully benign. It never occurred to me when I offered up our services to my new friend that the end result would be anything other than sunshine and rainbows.
By now you know where I’m going with this. She just turned 37. She has three kids under the age of 12. She is a lively, beautiful, healthy, active woman with so much to look forward to in her life. She had never had a mammogram before this. Her first mammogram showed the abnormality. A biopsy was performed. Pathology confirmed what we already feared from the images.
My friend was diagnosed with breast cancer that had already spread to her lymph nodes. A PET CT scan showed metastatic disease in her liver as well. All this adds up to stage IV breast cancer.
Medical science doesn’t hold much hope for stage IV disease. They say it can’t be cured. The only hope is palliative treatment to hold off the progression of the disease.
I went to my friend’s second opinion appointment with a respected medical oncologist last week. I sat there listening to the recommended treatment. When my friend expressed her concern with side-effects of the treatment, the doctor explained that the side effects were minimal in her opinion. My friend pressed on saying that she had read about more side effects of the medication. The doctor said, “But your cancer will kill you.”
And my heart stopped. My mouth went dry. I suddenly found it hard to breathe. And all I could think was that if this was how I was feeling, how must my friend feel? How would you feel if those words were said to you? Can you even imagine?
My friend is a Christian woman. She is not accepting that her diagnosis is a death sentence. She has too much to do. She has a life to live, children to raise, a handsome hubby to love up on. She has hope. She has faith. She is an inspiration. She is a remarkable woman, I tell you.
As a Believer myself, I know there are miracles performed everyday. I have hope. As my friend explores alternative treatment, weighs her options and makes life-changing decisions, I will pray. I will hope. I will plead with God to perform one of those Biblical-like miracles that we cynical, modern citizens of the world explain away as coincidence or unexplained phenomena.
Faith, Hope and Love. Lean on these. Lean in hard. Pray. I can think of nothing better to do. Can you?
WOW for today: Get your mammogram. Don’t put it off. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200. Get your dang mammogram. Do self-examinations. Feel up your ladies. It just might save your life.