Last week, I heard the most absurd, disturbing, and almost almost comical (if it were not so outrageously ridiculous) story. The day before my Girlfriend (GF) was going in for her big, ginormous surgery, she got a call from her insurance company’s “Cancer Counselor” (CC). Here’s how it went:
CC: Hi, I’m so-and-so. I’m your Cancer Counselor.
GF: My what?
CC: Your Cancer Counselor. You have surgery tomorrow, right?
CC: Well, let’s talk about chemo because as soon as you recover from surgery you’re gonna need it. And you’ll probably have lots of side effects from chemo. If you have this side effect or that side effect then you’ll have to go to the ER.
GF: The What?
CC: The EMERGENCY ROOM. Do you have any other questions?
And it went on and on and on like this…
Coincidentally (or not) about 5 minutes after my girlfriend hung up with the looney-tunes (Non)Counselor, I happened to call simply ask what peaceful pre-surgical activity she was doing. When she told me the story, you can only imagine how…ummm…ballistic I went…after dropping quite a few f-bombs. Geesh!
So, instead of providing peaceful support, this (Non)Counselor spun my poor friend into a tizzy. Rather than thinking about harnessing her strength for the upcoming surgery, thanks to the egregious and inappropriate comments from the (Non)Counselor, my girlfriend (before ever having spoken with her doctor, btw) imagined herself in the ER with non-existent side-effects from chemotherapy that had not yet been prescribed. WTF? I mean, really.
The unfortunate, sad and quite infuriating (from my perspective) reality is that some people who work in health care just don’t get it.
The Silver Lining is that you can be empowered to S.T.O.P. a nutty, out-of-line conversation. Just because someone calls you doesn’t mean that you have to talk to them. When the conversation is going down the path of absurd rottenness, you have the power to stop it. Even when you’re in a conversation with a fast-talking physician, you can ask him or her to slow down. YOU.ARE.IN.CHARGE.
Especially when you are a cancer patient, please remember that there is no “Shoulding.” When facing a catastrophic, life-rocking diagnosis, the most important thing to do is to surround yourself by people who lift you up, hold your hand, and fuel you.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you become an ostrich and stick your head in the sand or hold your hands over your ears and say “LA-LA-LA-LA-LA” when it’s time to have important conversations about treatment and side effect management, etc. Though it would be nice to Dorothy your way back to Kansas, that’s just not realistic.
However, all challenging conversations can be supportive, encouraging and hopeful. Please know that when you intuitively feel awkward, stop a conversation…assess where it’s going and why, then redirect it.
If you feel especially polite (which I wouldn’t!), you could take a number and tell the person that someone will call them back at a more, ahem, appropriate time.
The most important thing to know is that you need to do anything and everything to care for yourself. Learning self-care is quite a power Silver Lining of FC (f-bomb cancer).
Have you ever been in a situation like this? If so, I’d love to hear how you handled it! Any recommendations?