And Then She Told Me I Have Cancer

Having Cancer is News to Me

Last week I was diagnosed with cancer by an ultrasound technician before the test even began. I sat down and she sais, “so we are looking at the state of your thyroid cancer.” As far as I knew I was just having a thyroid nodule checked. I was nervous, but her comment terrified me. I confirmed with her that the order did say I had cancer. Did the doctors know something I don’t?

I then proceeded to ask the name of this doctor who said I had cancer. Somehow, the order was from a doctor I’ve never even seen. A doctor I hadn’t even been to yet said I had cancer. My primary doctor is the one who scheduled the test so I was very confused. Maybe this new doctor didn’t care enough to enter the correct code for the technician. I can’t even imagine what happened to make that mistake. As a result, my weekend was stressful. I had to wait four agonizing days before the doctor finally called me back.

At least for now, they have determined that the tumor doesn’t need immediate attention. I don’t understand because it has doubled in size in the past year. I also have mysterious thyroid blood test results. For some reason, I don’t feel relieved yet. Maybe it is taking a while to sink in because I was trying to get used to the idea that I do have cancer in case the ultrasound technician was correct.

I am confused and frustrated over this situation. Patients shouldn’t have to deal with a fake cancer diagnosis. Telling someone they have cancer should never come so lightly! And you definitely shouldn’t have to hear it from an ultrasound technician.

I try to be understanding of people just making mistakes. However, these sort of mistakes happen all the time to me. I’ve been misdiagnosed a few dozen times. In fact, this isn’t even my first time being told I have cancer. The first time I was told I had cancer was by a Gastroenterologist. He diagnosed me without even doing tests. As someone who struggled to get my diagnosis, I am usually all for getting diagnosed. But only is if it the correct one! Incorrect diagnoses are stressful and harmful to patients.

The first time I was misdiagnosed with cancer, I was referred me to an oncologist and they did many painful tests and put me through a lot of stress before determining I didn’t actually have cancer. For months, I thought I had cancer because my doctor didn’t care enough to get all the facts. That stress takes a toll on your mental state.

When you're really not okay but you don't want people to worry... - Imgur (1)

Too Many Rules

I also had bronchitis/pleurisy last week. I was coughing, hadn’t slept in three days, and was in terrible pain. It is now taking three weeks to get into a Pain Specialist for an appointment. So I called my doctor. She called me in an antibiotic and cough syrup with codeine to the pharmacy to help me sleep. I was excited to finally get sleep and feel a little better.

Cough syrup with codeine is monitored closely under the law. A hard copy of the prescription is required to refill it. So obviously the fax from my doctor didn’t work. I called my doctor at 4:30 PM and they were already closed! So just because of ridiculous rules and regulations I had four pain filled and sleepless nights in a row instead of just three miserable nights.

I understand that many of the rules and regulations in the medical system exist for a reason. However, people who are chronically ill have to deal with all the inconveniences created by rules daily. While I am sure that requiring hard copies may lessen narcotic abuse, but it makes it so difficult for chronically ill patients to get the medication they need. When these problems arise, doctor’s offices take hours if not days to get back to you. The rules and regulations may not stop, but how medical professionals can change to make their patient’s lives easier.

When problems do arise, doctor’s offices take hours, if not days, to get back to you. The rules and regulations may not stop, but medical professionals can change to make their patient’s lives easier.

I'm overwhelmed. - Imgur

We Need Change

The medical profession exists to help people. However, when things go wrong the medical system can ruin your day, week, or life. Even small mistakes, like the failure in communication between professionals I experienced, can really make the patient’s experience worse. Dealing with an illness is already a trying time and incorrect information can affect people’s quality of life. Shouldn’t medical professionals be working to make their patient’s quality of life?

It needs to be easier to contact doctors for questions; it needs to be easier to refill a prescription. There has to be a better way for medical professionals to communicate with each other.

Most importantly, we need to value medical professionals who do care about their patients. There is so much focus is on competition and learning in medical school that by the time those students are doctors, they have a hard time seeing them as humans. When intelligence, competition, and apathy are encouraged in medical students is it really any surprise that doctors don’t value their patient’s quality of life.

My largest complaint with the medical profession is that I am treated like a number. I have bounced around hundreds of doctors and am constantly bombarded with tests, but rarely does a doctor treat me like a human being. Treating patients like humans instead of numbers will solve many problems the medical system has. I know a doctor who cared about patients as people wouldn’t accidentally diagnose someone with cancer.

I feel overwhelmed with emotions and I don't know how to handle them. - Imgur

9 Ways to Be Supportive When You Don’t Understand

There are many experiences common to every human. Most of us will go through these, so we can easily relate and empathize. Nearly everyone is affected by the common cold. Therefore, when someone says they have a cold it is easier be understanding and supportive.  Memories of soup, towers of tissues, and feeling miserable immediately come to mind. We know how to support and help each other through a cold because we can remember what we needed. But what happens when you have no idea what a loved one is going through? How do you support them?

1. Realize you don’t have to understand to lend support. As humans we all go through hard times. Two friends I used to babysit, Julia and Evan, were young friends who both supported each other through an incredibly trying year. Julia and Evan show that humans, including children, don’t have to go through the same experiences to support each other. For Julia, the worst experience of her young life has been the loss of her mother. For Evan, the death of his beloved dog has been the most difficult time of his life thus far. So how did Evan support, empathize, or even begin to understand Julia? It is obvious that they couldn’t entirely relate to each other’s experience. However, this doesn’t mean that they can’t support each other. Both children went through an experience that was incredibly difficult for them. While Julia’s mother’s death had a more profound effect on her life, both children felt sincere grief. Sorrow and struggle are real and in the moment. The cause of grief didn’t change the despair either child felt. Because both children went through those hard experiences and felt grief, they can better relate to each other. Even though the causes and degrees of these feelings were different, both Julia and Evan supported each other through their grief.

As humans we all go through hard times. Two friends I used to babysit, Julia and Evan, were young friends who both supported each other through an incredibly trying year. Julia and Evan show that humans, including children, don’t have to go through the same experiences to support each other. For Julia, the worst experience of her young life has been the loss of her mother. For Evan, the death of his beloved dog has been the most difficult time of his life thus far. So how did Evan support, empathize, or even begin to understand Julia? It is obvious that they couldn’t entirely relate to each other’s experience. However, this doesn’t mean that they can’t support each other. Both children went through an experience that was incredibly difficult for them. While Julia’s mother’s death had a more profound effect on her life, both children felt sincere grief. Sorrow and struggle are real and in the moment. The cause of grief didn’t change the despair either child felt. Because both children went through those hard experiences and felt grief, they can better relate to each other. Even though the causes and degrees of these feelings were different, both Julia and Evan supported each other through their grief.

MRW when my friend's GF starts saying bad things about me and my friend says You never talk to him like that or we're done - Imgur

2. Don’t compare experiences, but do relate to feelings. Whatever your loved one is going through, you have at least some experience you can look at and relate it to. We have all felt frustration, despair, hatred, and pain. For example, if you want to relate to someone who is chronically ill look at what you felt when you were sick. You likely felt pain and frustration, just to a different degree. Therefore, you have the tools you need to empathize with them. Just think, how would those feelings change when sick much longer? What else would you feel? What would you need in terms of support?

Today I got my first full paycheck. After more than a year of just barely getting by due to illness. - Imgur

While searching for common feelings remember to never compare experiences. You would never say to someone who just lost their mom “I understand what you’re going through because I lost my family dog last year.” Instead, you want to consider what feelings that loss stirred in you and what support you may have wanted from others. Then you can adjust your actions accordingly and support them successfully.

While searching for common feelings remember to never compare experiences. You would never say to someone who just lost their mom “I understand what you’re going through because I lost my family dog last year.” Instead, you want to consider what feelings that loss stirred in you and what support you may have wanted from others. Then you can adjust your actions accordingly and support them successfully.

3. Seek to understand and learn. When your related feelings and experiences just aren’t enough to understand what someone is going through, seek understanding elsewhere. Even if your loved one may not want to walk in detail about what they are going through, the internet is a great resource to find people who will give you insight. You can just look up ”

When your related feelings and experiences just aren’t enough to understand what someone is going through, seek understanding elsewhere. Even if your loved one may not want to walk in detail about what they are going through, the internet is a great resource to find people who will give you insight. You can just look up “what it is like to lose a parent” or what it is like to live with a chronic illness“. Reading these will help you to understand what your loved one is going through. If you still have questions, approaching your loved one and saying “I don’t understand what you are going through but I want to support you” can be enough! This gives your loved one an opportunity to explain what they are going through or, if they do not wish to talk, they will at least know you really care and feel your support.

4. Never judge. The fastest way to make someone feel unsupported is to judge them. Never judge how someone deals with something you have never dealt with. Even if you have dealt with it, avoiding being judgmental is a great practice. For example, you should not say “it has been six months, shouldn’t you be getting back to normal?” Instead offer support and say, “I know these past six months have been hard on you; is there anything you would like to talk about?” Try to understand and support first, judge later (or never).

5. Offer more than your prayers. Prayer is the most common support offered to loved ones going through a hard time. Letting someone know you are thinking about them is great, but what are you really doing for them? Even if you believe in the power of prayer, you telling them you are praying does little for them as far as feeling supported. Letting them know that you are there to listen, cooking them a meal, or cleaning their place is much better. If you want to let someone know you are there for them, do something! Actions speak louder than words. These helping actions will lead to your loved one feeling much more supported than they would with a prayer.

The power of prayer! - Imgur

6. Reach out. Don’t assume they will ask for support. Asking for help is not my strong suit. Asking for help isn’t easy for a lot of people. When people are going through a hard time it may be even more difficult. Vague offers for help with “anything you need” begin to feel empty and contrived. So if you really want to help and support someone ask, specifically, what you can do. Reach out to them whenever you think of them or wonder if they need anything. Even if they don’t need help, they will feel much more supported.

7. Suggest specific ways in which you may help. Suggesting specific ways in which you may help will make your loved one feel even more supported. Even if you aren’t aware of exactly what they need, offering concrete ways in which you want to help shows your support. Suggesting tasks also gives your loved one an idea of what you are willing to do and gives them an idea of what they can ask for comfortably. When I need help I ask people who have offered some specific help in the past. I assume people who say “if you ever need anything just call,” are simply being polite.

8. Listen and empathize; hold the advice. If you have no idea about what going through a situation entails, please don’t give advice on it. I can’t tell you how many people have given me unwarranted medical advice because I have a chronic illness. It isn’t being supportive. When you give advice on something you know nothing about you minimize what your loved one is going through. I have spent the past six years bouncing around the medical system, confusing doctors. My complicated medical problems are not going to be resolved by an ignorant jerk with no medical background who is convinced I just need to cut out gluten.

MRW my ex shows empathy. - Imgur

This of course only applies when you aren’t asked for advice. If you have been asked, give your advice with as little judgment as possible.

9. Don’t pull away just because you don’t understand. Just because it is hard to be there and support someone through a hard time doesn’t mean you should give up. Even without similar experiences you can enrich their lives through supporting them through this hard time. Seek understanding even if it isn’t the easiest thing. They need your support especially now. Even if someone doesn’t ask explicitly for your help and support, they may really need it.

When it comes to depression and chronic illness - Imgur

It is possible to support someone through something you don’t understand. Ask questions and try to understand what they are going through the best way you can. Offer specific suggestions for how to help them, and don’t offer unwarranted advice. Just listen and love. Good luck!