Be Careful What You Wish For

I have toyed and tampered with the content of this blog over the years. It started out as my call to action to stave aging, whatever it took, which wasn’t too much at the time. Ah, the good old days! Then it changed course and became a chronicle of my experiences with the health care system, which intensified when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019. As I have waxed and waned with what medicine has to offer, I waver between serving as patient and caregiver (to my husband). The next iteration of this blog is that of band aid, mental health professional and otherwise salve to my creaking body and soul as I use humor to make my way through my own personal wilderness.

When I wished for patience as I approach my 70th year, the universe misunderstood and made me into a patient. This is a role I am not prepared for, and I admit to kicking and screaming all the way to, in and out of the infusion room.

Are there life lessons for me to gain from this experience? Perhaps a crisp note-taking ability, as I write verbatim “You have cancer” while the surgeon delivers the news. Maybe learning to bite my tongue rather than shriek at the phlebotomist who clearly met her match with my “slippery veins” (her phrase) as she fished through my veins like a polar bear on an ice floe. Then there is learning to trust medical providers who have shifty eyes and sport the smooth cheeks of a recent high school graduate.

I wonder why my foray into this netherworld of medicine began with a cancer diagnosis. Couldn’t I instead have had a nasty splinter in my left index finger, as practice for my newfound status of “patient”?  If I were queen of health, I would decree that no one enter the world of medicine with a life-threatening illness. Rather, one would advance up the ladder of health conditions to that position of repute. After all, it takes a lifetime of experience in the world of medicine before one finally has the chops to stomach a diagnosis of cancer.

If I were to rate myself as a patient, I’d give myself an “F”. In all fairness, this is due to lack of experience. I doubt much of what the doctors tell me, and usually refuse their prescriptions and treatment recommendations. I have read that I need to be my own advocate, but, judging by my doctors’ shifty eyes and mild twitch in their wrinkle-free mouths, I am merely pissing them off.

Do I care? Absolutely not. My oncologist, resembling the kid who mows my lawn in the summer, tries to convince me that the toxic Drano cocktail that will be poured into my veins is good for me. And I’m supposed to trust him with my life, because he got a degree and models a stethoscope like it’s jewelry? Sorry, doc, you haven’t earned me yet.

Each time I enter a hallowed treatment room, replete with blank walls and perhaps a diagram somewhere of a body system that I’m about to be treated for, I can feel myself cease breathing. I am terrified of pain and discomfort, especially those inflicted by the medical profession. In my short venture thus far in my new role as patient, I have acutely felt the tug, pinch and uh-oh of many a white jacketed professional. They seem unaware of their ability to foist terror as they casually pull on their plastic gloves as if a terrified human isn’t sitting mere inches away.

My wishes from now on will be razor sharp specific, replete with details designed to keep myself in control of my health and my attitude. Next time there won’t be any surprises.

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