Monday, October 26, 2009
Learning to Speak Up
Sometimes people say the stupidest things to breast cancer survivors. Unfortunately, sometimes the people who make the worst utterances are doctors.
Recently, my husband's cousin was in a pretty bad accident. She is a stage four breast cancer survivor as well, although only for about 4 years. She doesn't remember much of the accident--someone ran a red light and hit her as she was making a left hand turn on a green arrow. The impact drove her into another car. She suffered a broken foot, a severely shattered wrist, and several hairline fractures on her spine.
The day after the accident, a doctor came into her room and told her about the breaks and in addition said "We also see something else, but it might be cancer." With that, he left. He wasn't an oncologist. He wasn't even a specialist in reading MRIs. No explanation...he just dropped this tidbit of information and left.
She was in pretty fragile shape to begin with and to have him say this was just unconscionable, particularly when he hadn't ascertained that this was indeed the problem.
It brought me back to the time when I had my mastectomy. I was in my room when the resident and his little herd of doctors in training came in. He bruskly looked at me and said "Well, you didn't have anything important removed, so you'll be going home tomorrow." Hmm...I wonder what he would have to say if I had removed one of his "not very important parts." I didn't quibble with the fact that I was going home and I realized that what he was saying was that I didn't have any abdominal areas opened or whatever, but this was a pretty insensitive thing to say, and I told him so. In no uncertain terms in front of his students.
If we as patients don't speak up when something idiotic or insentitive is said, then how will anyone ever learn?
Words can be pretty dangerous. We are fighting enough, we don't need the extra burden of thoughtless comments.
The image on this page is a datura plant. It had been given to me and I over wintered it...or tried to. I thought it was dead and tossed it on the compost heap...only to discover it growing like crazy. It is a plant I don't particularly care for. It is HUGE..or at least it grew huge in my compost heap. It has prickly fruit on it which produce copious seeds. The entire plant is poisonous. This plant has the same effect as thoughtless, painful words. They are thrown out, they grow and can pop back and make you sick. We need to weed them out.
Here's more on datura.