When I wasn’t sure what the status of my chest x-ray was this week, I called the place that I typically go through for CT scans to see if they had obtained my script and just hadn’t contacted me yet. It happens, I’m sure. A kind woman answered the phone, listened to my story and searched her different systems for the order. She explained that it had not yet arrived and wasn’t anywhere in their pipeline, apologized and recommended that I ask my doctor how and when it was sent. I agree to do just that, thanked her for her time and for looking. She replied with a bit of shock, saying “Well thank you, Meghan. I appreciate your kindness and for being so understanding. It truly is appreciated.” When I shared this story with my husband, I asked if people are generally unpleasant and he remarked that unfortunately that seems to be the reality.
In December when I initially had pleural effusion, the pulmonary doctor’s office called me and asked if I was available to come in first thing the following morning. The key word here being asked – it was not a statement but a question. I informed her that there was literally one meeting that I could not miss or rearrange and it was the one the following morning. My husband was receiving a surprise award and I had the incredible privilege of surprising him with it, in front of his entire department. There was no way that I would miss it, fluid or not. The woman’s response to me was, “So even knowing that you have fluid in your lungs, you’re not willing to miss this meeting?” I am sure you can interpret the tone. “I’m sorry but no. I tend to be quite flexible and this is probably the first time that I’ve ever said no to an appointment time. I can literally do any other time tomorrow or the next day.” I told her the earliest that I could arrive was 10am the following morning because it was downtown, about 45 minutes from my office and over an hour from home. She said she would check with the doctor to see if he would be willing to work me in later (A conversation that I imagine went something like, “I’ll take her whenever she can get here, it’s totally fine.”) She called me back and told me that I could arrive at 930am. Sure. I arrived at 10am and guess what? No one was concerned. The nurses and the doctor was incredibly kind and minus the front desk lacking any sense of politeness or friendliness, I was quite pleased with how the doctor was ensuring that I was cared for that very day.
When the nurse at my oncologist’s office called me yesterday to let me know the fluid was back, she indicated that she would also call the pulmonary doctor and have the fluid drained before vacation. I anticipated a phone call last night or early this morning but hadn’t received one by 10am so I decided to call. I had just seen the plastic surgeon and was a little distraught (at no fault of his – I’ll get into that later), so I was on the verge of tears already.
The appointment desk receptionist answered the phone and I squeaked out that I needed to make an appointment as soon as possible to have fluid removed from my lungs. With no acknowledgement and a bit of annoyance in her voice, she took my information to pull me up in the system and placed me on hold to review the schedule. She returned to inform me that I could be seen mid-February. I explained through tears that I was leaving on Saturday and that my oncologist had already called to ensure I am seen prior to this weekend. I explained that I have pretty intense pain in my chest and that I am having difficulty breathing because my right lung is only filling up by half. With no apology, she advised me that there was nothing she could do sooner. At this point, I couldn’t hold back the tears and they freely started falling, which caused my voice to crack between words. I explained that the last time this happened, the doctor fit me in the following day despite a full schedule. I can obviously have my oncologist call but I am trying to make the appointment myself. I reiterated that I’m having shortness of breath, assuming that this would spark some sort of “urgency”. She indicated again that there was, quite literally, nothing available for me and nothing she could do until February. I indicated that I would have my oncologist make the call and get in this week.
I will pause here. I mentioned before, a long time ago, that there are times where I am treated as a number and not a person. I find this rather interesting because I have yet to meet a doctor or a nurse that I didn’t like. They are always incredibly kind and often sit with me a little longer than they need to in order to chat about what’s happening in my life – regarding cancer and not. The front office staff though, I often find to be a little less friendly. There are exceptions to this rule of course, like my oncologist’s office staff who knows me by name and asks about my son. They even schedule me and tell me that they don’t have a time available that’s next to another appointment that I have elsewhere but that I should come on over at that time anyway and not wait the hours in between to be seen. Or the treatment room staff, who always comment on the Love Jars or my curls. But there are other places that seem to have missed the memo on pleasantries or have simply become too jaded to have any. This saddens me, as they are the face of the office and have the ability to make or break someone’s day. In a case like mine today, it is an urgent matter in which she was refusing to help. There was no acknowledgement or apology but there was also no hold to ask the triage nurse if she can fit me in or a quick look at another doctor’s schedule to see if I could see someone else. Perhaps I expect too much?
A text to my oncologist’s nurse and she was on the phone with the triage nurse from the pulmonary doctor’s office. Within an hour, I was speaking directly with the doctor himself. Though he is out the next few days, he fit me in with his colleague and I will have the fluid removed tomorrow afternoon.
I share these stories because I want to express just how important it is to be kind. We all have challenging days, I completely understand that, and I have absolutely had my fair share of unpleasantries. But on a day like today, I needed kindness. I needed someone – particularly the medical office that I was calling – to tell me that it was going to be ok and that they would ensure I am well taken care of. There shouldn’t be a need for me to call my oncologist’s office and ask them to handle it for me. Yes, I know they will but shouldn’t have been necessary…not when you are simply willing to be kind to others.
In this industry especially, I feel as though a smiling face or a simple how are you should be a baseline for how to treat others. I imagine that these particular individuals don’t want to be treated poorly either.
Be kind, my friends. Spread the love…always.