On the first day of the 2001 summer vacation I had an appointment with my Family Practice doctor. During the exam he felt something in my abdomen.He told me not to worry because it was most likely scar tissue from an earlier surgery to remove fibroid tumors, but he wanted me to get it checked out. What followed was a solid month of going from doctor to doctor, test to test, appointment to appointment. Meeting with so many unknown doctors was scary, intimidating, and coldly impersonal. I wanted them to understand the depth of my fear. After each test I would return home to wait for the results, becoming desperate for a sense of direction, something that would lead to a diagnosis and treatment. I was beginning to feel like a piece of meat being passed from inspector to inspector, with none of them able to grade or label me.
The final insult came when a substitute nurse called to give me the long-awaited verdict. The regular nurse was on vacation, taking advantage of the Fourth of July holiday. Our conversation began with her mispronouncing my name, and was followed by her trying to explain why the doctor was not available to speak with me. You see, he was wrapping up all his business so that he, too, could leave for his long holiday weekend. She explained that my case was more involved than "they" felt equipped to handle, so I should contact the UW Comprehensive Cancer Center after the holiday. I hung up feeling like I had been slugged by an all-powerful fist. I could barely breathe much less answer any of the questions my daughter had concerning my diagnosis. She strongly encouraged me to call back, insisting to speak with the physician. After extended minutes of gut-wrenching sobs, I gathered up every atom of courage I had and phoned his office, firmly asking to have a few moments with the busy doctor. When he picked up the call, even I was surprised with what escaped from my mouth! "Is this the way you would want your mother to be treated?" hung in the air for several moments. "I don't care if you're leaving for a long weekend, I deserve more than a call from your nursing substitute." He apologized for his insensitivity and proceeded to explain the complexity of my case. He assured me that he would put in a call to the UW before he left so that they would be expecting me.
This was the day I learned that no matter how vulnerable you feel, you must stand up for your beliefs and rights. If you don't, who will?