Today, I experienced the medical field for what it truly is: a roller coaster.
I started work today as an undergraduate student in a summer surgical intern position. I ended work today as a better, more developed person… because I experienced the most sobering experience anyone could: breaking bad news.
The first patient to come into the practice today was a crazy woman. Stood and debated back and forth on whether or not to go through with filler injections to plump her lips that day. FOR AN HOUR. First she was, so we’d prep the room for her. Then she wasn’t, so we’d put everything away while she scheduled an appt. for next week. But then she was again- back and forth for an hour. She made me CRAZY. She made us all crazy. By the time she left, I was livid… at an energy high for when I called in the next patient.
This next patient I didn’t recognize. Slightly heavy and looked to be in her early 40’s; she looked as if she’s never had any work done, and she looked very nervous. She didn’t look like the patients I usually see in the cosmetic surgeon’s office. So I glance at her chart to see what she’s about, and it’s biopsy results. Oh. There’s a note that says that she’s a friend of a friend of a family friend’s of an aunt’s uncle’s cousin etc. etc. of the doctor I work for. He’s working her case as a favor, because she’s comfortable with him (from what I gathered).
And, at the hight of my energy high from dealing with this crazy woman less than 15 minutes before, I’m in the room as the doctor tells her that she does have breast cancer.
The look on her face wasn’t shock. I saw the life drain from her eyes, and retreat to the back of her head. I saw a bottomless pitt of fear… that we could’ve told her LITERALLY ANYTHING ELSE and it would’ve been better than this. She lost her color and her mouth hung open a little. Then her eyes welled up with tears and she just said quietly “I have three kids. What about my kids?”
My heart broke. It shattered. I hated myself a little bit for even being in the same building that this happened in, forget the same room on the same side as the person breaking this news. I watcher her hang her head, and I started to cry, too.
There was nothing else I could do. I held her hand and cried with her for as long as she needed to stop crying. I hugged her goodbye. I assured her that she caught it early enough and that she’ll be OK. She stopped crying eventually, thanked me, and left the practice.
The hardest part about it was that I was powerless. I could do nothing but give her hope and hugs. I know those things go a long way, but I hated that I could not do anything physical to help her.
In 15 minutes, I went from absolutely livid with people in general, to the world stopping for a split second while I helped give the worst diagnosis this woman could think of. And I had to stop with it and be with her. It still doesn’t feel like enough.
I guess the moral to this story, kiddos, is to be kind to everyone you meet, no matter how your day has been previously. And to do everything you can to give someone courage and hope, regardless of how miniscule and unimportant your gestures seem. I hope to god that if she stopped at a stop sign too long or something no one honked at her or flipped her off, because those are typical NYC reactions to everything. I hope I helped a little.
* Readers, please note this: This woman detected the cancer early because she preformed self examinations in the shower daily. I cannot begin to stress the importance of breast-self examinations. It may have saved this mother of three. If you are a woman, preform them. If you are a man, please urge women in your life to do these. I don’t know. Help out if it will make it better. But really, it’s SO important.
Here’s a link with how to: