Thursday, November 5, 2009

Twenty Five Years Ago

Twenty five years ago today, my life forever changed. The early morning drive to Tacoma General, telling myself that if I left that place later that day with good news I would celebrate with what was then a NEW thing - a vanity plate for my car. I would order it up to say B-9.
Alas....I never did get to order that particular license plate.
When I arrived, I was directed to put my clothes in the provided plastic bag and climb into the bed to await someone to come and start an IV for me. Task completed, next in was the anesthesiologist. She assured me that her part of the job was purely routine and that I would wake up just fine from the anesthesia. Next in came the physicians assistant. I remember his name was Manny, and he was really short, and really cute! He was very calming and reassuring as he patted my arm and told me not to worry. He should have been patting Lynn's arm as he sat nearby looking like he'd eaten some very bad mexican food the night before....
Soon the OR staff came to roll me out of this room and into the OR hallway. It was really kind of interesting. They placed me at the end of a line of gurneys against a wall, feet to head with 3 other people also dressed in the same hospital gown, with their IV's hanging and the same look of fear and dread in their eyes. Then it was like a bell rang and the person in the front of the line was taken around the corner and through the automatic double doors, which then closed behind her. The rest of us were then moved up one position in our line. Was I at Disneyland waiting for a ride???? Soon it was me at the front of the line waiting for the doors to open. Anticipation, and interest filled me at this point. DING and around the corner, through the doors I went. And sure enough, just like at Disney, I found myself again at the end of the line of beds waiting their turn.....At least I had something different to look at in here. Oh COOL! A big white board just filled with information. OR room numbers, DR's name, Patient Name, Procedure to be done. A plethora of great information to distract me! Until someone came by and took my glasses!!!! How RUDE!!! DING....around another corner I went. Now there was only one person ahead of me....and on my right side, there was a big glass wall, with people on the other side! Looked like nurses and lots of medical "stuff".....I wasn't a nurse at the time, not that I would have been able to tell what any of it was without my glasses.....but in the center of this glass partition was a speaker like object. Made me think of a fast food restaurant, when you would go up to the window and order., being me.....leaned up to the portal and said "EXCUSE ME!!!" Several heads turned my way in surprise and I said "Could I get a strawberry shake and small order of go??" Laughter erupted on their side as well as with the people ahead and behind me on my side. A moment of levity for us all.
My next stop on my way to the OR had me in front of a display showing different medical instruments and how much they cost, so staff needed to be careful in the OR not to lose them, or drop them. Yeah....that was reassuring.....
Into the chilly, sterile OR I went. Moved off of my now comfortable, warmed gurney onto the cold, narrow operating table. People scurrying about preparing for my surgery, everyone covered head to toe, and masks on their faces. How nice it would have been to have seen a smile somewhere. The anesthesia doc came in, followed by the surgeon and Manny the PA. A few words of reassurance and off to sleep I drifted.
When I woke up I immediately knew that the news I was going to receive was going to be bad. The reason I knew is that I wasn't in a "recovery room", but in a private room. Lynn was sitting on the window ledge, looking like the bad food had now left his body every way possible and all that was left was a pale, sweating shell. I asked him if he had heard from the doctor yet and he lied to me and said "no"..... a few minutes later the surgeon and PA Manny came in looking very sheepish and reserved. 'Yes', they said, 'you have breast cancer.' At the unbelievable age of 32 years old, with three little boys at home under the age of 8, I was given what I was afraid was a death sentence.
What happened next, I'll cover over the next few days, weeks and months.....keeping in sort of real time to how it happened. I will also back up in time and tell the horrendous story of what I believe to have been medical malpractice, and how I had to fight to get to the OR in the first place.
Get a Mammogram. Follow up on any suspicions you may have. Ultimately it is up to YOU to get the medical care you need.


Alycia said...

Wow - that alone is a scary story. But I am glad to hear that it was years ago... that let me breathe a little bit!

Dawn W said...

Sharon, one of my best friends died at age 33 of breast cancer so your story hits home for me. She had spotted the lump right away, her doc kept saying it was just a cyst, etc. Later on the mammogram didn't show anything to be concerned about. She finally went in to have it removed because it was bothering her, and during that procedure she said she was able to hear the doctor say, "Uh-oh" when he removed the lump and got a good look at the tissue. By then it was too late. It has already spread to her lungs. So I wholeheartedly believe people should get second, third, fourth opinions if necessary.