From the category archives:

Health Care


“As part of a regular ongoing effort to provide quality patient care,” reads the letter from the Breast “Care” Center. “We encourage annual follow up care.” It then goes on to say that they would greatly appreciate receiving information concerning my health status since last treated there.


This is the Breast Care Center where I had  mammograms for ten years without ever receiving a bi-rad score, and where they could no detect a hazel nut sized, slow growing, tumor from one year to the next. I was the one who discovered my tumor when it  was T1C-almost Stage 2.

This is the Breast Care Center where the radiologist, as she measured my ominous lump on the computer screen during my biopsy, said: Oh, we saw that last year. But we did not know what it was.  How about finding out? Is that not what radiologists are supposed to do? Are they not supposed to investigate a lump seen on a mammogram? Is that not why women have them?

This is the Breast Care Center where I was sent me home after a biopsy with detailed instructions on how to apply an ice pack on my breast every fifteen minutes. They told me not to have vigorous activity for 24 hours. Told me, that if I had a large area of redness or fever, I were to call them  immediately. But there was not one word what I should do in the unfortunate event the biopsy was not what they had hoped. No instructions at all how I should proceed if my biopsy was positive for cancer.

This is a letter from the Breast Care Center where its own radiologists calls me at work and tells me: You have cancer. Any questions? And hangs up on me when I, too stunned to even understand what she just told me, answers: No, no questions.


This is a Breast Care Center where a major overhaul of both procedures and training of staff is needed – an overhaul of everything from how to communicate with a patient, how to read an x-ray, what to do when a radiologist sees something “she does not know what it means.” How about consulting with another doctor? How about calling the patient back for additional x-rays? How about a biopsy?

And as part of the general over haul, this Breast Care Center should consider some new magazine subscriptions.

Most women no longer crochet doilies or make many casseroles. At least no one I know.

I will write them back and let them know my status: I will never set foot there, ever, again. The letter came with a stamped return enevelope.


Breast cancer excision

“Yesterday was horrific, “ says  Dr. Guru’s assistant when I call to complain that he never called with the pathology results, as promised. “I had to snatch him to even get one second.” She lets out a deep sigh, the kind that seems to come from  the bone marrow, not from the lungs.

I feel guilty for nagging her about my pathology results. I have no problem understanding the plethora of emergencies Dr. Guru must face each and every day.

“And he is going on vacation, you know,” his assistant tells me.

I imagine the scene: Phones ringing. Faxes rattling. Lights flashing. Intercoms blaring: Dr. Guru, Dr. Guru. Line 2. Dr. Guru, Dr. Guru, OR 5. Patients, like me, but a lot sicker, clamoring for his attention. Patients with melanoma cell spreading like wild fires, begging him to intervene.

And here am I, on the opposite end of the spectrum: BC stage 1 . I am  the patient who is never an emergency. Of course, he didn’t call. With only 24 hours in each day, Dr. Guru is forced to set priorities.

And now he is going on a much needed vacation.  How long will  he be gone? Two weeks? Three?   I picture some luxury junket paid for by the scalpel manufacturer.  No, not at all. It turns out he will be gone one week, working in a summer camp for kids with disabilities.

I am ashamed, feel selfish and petty, but I must find out what was in the tumor and what will happen next.

“When will I start treatments? When he comes back?”

“You need the oncogene test first,” Joy tells me.

My blood drains: he wants my oncogene tested?  Is it not the oncogene result I was supposed to get yesterday, the day before, really? Is that not the test result I have been chasing?

Did Dr. Guru not tell me: I am just waiting for the oncogene report? But how could he be waiting for that report if I did not even have the test?

Good grief, why don’t I understand anything?


Uncertain Destinies in the Waiting Room

August 20, 2009

In the waiting area, before receiving my mysterious “wire,”  I immediately set eyes on a young woman, at the most 25 years old, too young to be wearing a hideous hospital gown and a plastic ID bracelet at the Magnolia Cancer Center. The middle-aged woman next to her is fully dressed. I feel emotional as […]

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Surgery Day Hurray

August 15, 2009

The day I have worried about, fought for, and pushed for, is finally here. Last time I had surgery, 26 years ago,  two healthy full-term babies, a boy and a girl, were removed from my body. This time the surgeon will remove a specimen of malignant neoplastic tissue, surrounded, I suppose, by normal grizzle and […]

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Little Pink Bows Everywhere

August 13, 2009

Before my diagnosis, I paid no attention to pink bows, the symbol for breast cancer awareness.  But now that I have been initiated into the pink bow sisterhood, I see pink constantly and everywhere. It is obviously a powerful marketing tool. Water bottles,  T-shirts, hats,  and slippers are decorated with pink bows. There are pink […]

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Dr. Guru, I Am Mad. Where Are You?

August 7, 2009

Thursday, I only have one thing on my mind, one thought circling my brain like a  hungry wolf.  I want to go under Dr. Guru’s scalpel, I need for him to get rid of my nasty, ugly tumor. Now. Not a word from Dr. Guru’s office.  Not a word about the MRI results.  Not a […]

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My Gynecologist Was a Drug Pusher

August 1, 2009

Dr. Bored, my gynecologist for more than a decade, was a drug pusher and his drug of choice was Premarin. -Take this and you will feel great. -But I feel great. A little insomnia perhaps, but don’t you need less sleep as you age? -Premarin will take care of it. -A little creaky sometimes. -Premarin […]

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Seven Sick Reasons Not to Check Your Breasts

July 27, 2009

I. Nobody in my family has breast cancer. But: Eighty percent of  post-menopausal breast cancer patients do not have a family history. II. I need to wait until my son’s wedding, my husbands 50th birthday, our 20th anniversary trip/my daughter’s high school graduation/until after my high school reunion. But: What could have a higher importance […]

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Bills, Bills Everywhere

July 24, 2009

The post man sprinkles me with bills. How many have I managed to accumulate, considering I have not yet had my MRI or surgery? Did their computerized billing system over heat? Reluctantly, I open the first white envelope. “This is not a bill” it reads. Then what is it? It is a letter from the […]

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My Medical History Is…Lost

July 22, 2009

My medical records have evaporated. Buried in some nuclear waste site? My “health file” at home contains a brochure regarding an ancient, and expired, insurance plan. Not a single piece of paper refers to past doctor’s visits or mammograms. Not a single reference to the benign findings of my earlier biopsy. Certainly no pathology report. […]

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