This uplifting blog post is written by my friend, Jen. She's a mother. A dreamer. A fighter. Her brave battle with stage four metastatic breast cancer gives her a unique perspective on the preciousness of life... of the sweetness of time that the rest of us can often take for granted. Enjoy her words.
It was that time again. Time for my 3 month scans. My doctor ordered a CT and a bone scan to make sure that my cancer was still stable and there was no progression. It meant another early morning at the hospital. I arrived at 7:15 and approached the receptionist desk. The woman jiggled the mouse to wake up her computer and asked me for my license and insurance card. She shuffled through some papers and handed them to me to sign. She wasn’t rude or unfriendly, but she did all of this without looking at me.
I felt invisible.
They called me back to get my IV for the CT scan and my injection for the bone scan. Because of my past chemotherapy, my veins were not what they used to be. The first nurse was afraid to put in the IV. When the second nurse arrived, she went to the nurse’s station that was about 10 feet from where I was sitting and discussed my situation. After the second nurse put on a tourniquet and looked for a vein, she decided it was best to page the IV team. A third nurse arrived. All three of them sat together, discussing the events of their weekends and the state of their 401-K’s. They were laughing and having a good time. I felt like I was intruding on their conversation. As I waited for what could have been a very difficult IV stick, and worried about the results of the two tests I was having that day; their laughter and carefree attitudes were in direct contrast with the way I was feeling.
I felt uncomfortable ... and invisible.
The nurse from the IV team was able to find a vein and insert the IV in one try. That was a good start to the day, as I frequently had to endure several failed attempts before they found success. The nurse inserted the IV and filled the three vials for my bloodwork, then wished me well and left the room. The three nurses continued on their conversation until one of them finally noticed that I was ready for my injection. She was smiling and still conversing with the other two nurses when she came over and took the bag with the tubes of blood. She told me that another nurse would be in to give me the injection for my bone scan, and then she walked back to the nurse’s station to continue their conversation.
I was alone, uncomfortable, and invisible.
A few minutes later, a nurse wearing a mask walked into the room. I couldn’t see her mouth but her eyes were smiling. She sat down next to me and asked how I was doing and then inquired about my health history. As I told her about my chemo, radiation, and surgeries from my first diagnosis; she looked my in the eye with astonishment and empathy. She put the pen down, and listened as I told her about the biopsy, radiation, and surgery I had after my stage four diagnosis. She wrote down what she needed after I finished, not as I was talking. She asked me about the tests I was having that day and what was going on with me. She was sincere and I could tell she was concerned and really wanted to know. We discussed what it was like to be a
cancer patient and how it felt to live my life between scans and doctor appointments. She smiled with her eyes, told me she would pray for me, and then she left.
She was only there for a few minutes but she put me at ease. She made me feel like a person and not just a patient. She made me feel heard. She made me feel acknowledged. This cancer stuff takes its toll and as many times as I have had these scans; the process doesn’t get any easier. I may know where to put my hands during the bone scan and I may be able to recite the discharge instructions for just about any test I have; but, I would give anything to go back to the days when I didn’t know the difference between a CT and an MRI.
I had the utmost respect for nurses and medical professionals; but I had experienced patients being reduced to numbers or the names of their procedures. I had been that patient. How many times I had heard things like “your CT is ready” or “your injection is in chair #2”. I understood that it was a job that got busy and was often overwhelming, but sometimes those professionals forgot that what was routine for them, was often terrifying for the patient.
They worried about the schedule and paperwork and procedure... We worried about pain and dying and leaving our families.
That day was hard for me. I felt alone and scared.
But God sent me a nurse named Angela to help me through it.
She was my angel.
Sometimes all it takes is a smile and a listening ear to make all the difference. Make a difference today.
Be someone’s Angela.