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HOW BEING THE ONE TO TELL YOUR MOM SHE HAS CANCER CHANGES THE WAY YOU SEE HEALTHCARE

Wait on this… wait on that… do this… wait for that…

We all know the pattern, it’s a classic healthcare tale. “The Waiting Game” as so many call it, is one of many aspects of healthcare that need to be improved. Now I know what you’re thinking, but we have access to a portal to access our records in real time. 

Yes, we do, and in so many ways, it has become a detriment to the human aspect of medicine. 

“The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions” and I think those who are the masterminds behind these portals had good intentions. The problem lies with the healthcare professionals who are using them in an unprofessional and insensitive way, allowing them to become a catalyst for panic, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, and loneliness.

For me, I’m afraid the damage is already done. I have endured one of the greatest inhumanities the healthcare world could deliver. Having to be the one to tell the woman who brought me into this world that she has cancer. It was two words that would forever change both of our worlds, “it’s cancer” 

It didn’t have to be this way, it shouldn’t have been this way. 

We called the doctor’s office; we asked to have the doctor call us. We did all the right things and yet we fell victim to the inhumanity of healthcare. We were told with snark that “the doctor doesn’t call patients, use the portal to see your results and if you have questions communicate through the portal” We were being told that, what we were going through didn’t matter, what those tests results could mean didn’t matter, WE DIDN’T MATTER! 

How could we not matter to the doctor, we as patients should be the only thing that matters. We were talking about biopsy results and the difference between having cancer and not having cancer. 

My mom, being of the not-so-technical generation, asked me to log into the portal and see her results. First and foremost, it’s not like the results come out and state “It’s cancer” so if you’re not in the healthcare profession you will most likely have no idea what you are reading. That being said, having medical knowledge, I was about to deduce that the biopsy was positive for cancerous cells. My heart sank and tears welled in my eyes. I turned around and caught my mom’s gaze, the gaze of my hero, the one person in my life that is my rock. I open my mouth to speak, but there are no words, there are only racing thoughts:

  • “My mom has cancer, and I have to be the one to tell her.”
  • “Why isn’t the doctor the one delivering this diagnosis?”
  • “I can’t do this.”
  • “What do we do now?”
  • “What happens next?”
  • “Who’s going to help us through this?”
  • “I can’t lose my mom, not now, not ever.”

Finally, after what felt like hours of ear-piercing silence, I opened my mouth and the words “It’s cancer, you have cancer I’m sorry Mommy” filled the room. I messaged the doctor on the portal as snarkily instructed. Hours turned into days, with no return on the message. Days were spent sitting with the anxiety of the unknown. My mom has cancer and answering a message on the portal or picking up the phone to call a patient seemed to be too much to ask of the doctor. Was this some kind of sick joke? 

I don’t think I can ever look at healthcare the way I once did; I was raised by a nurse and raised to respect everything about healthcare, but I just don’t know how I can respect a system that makes it acceptable for an online portal to take the place of that human aspect. Healthcare is far gone, ask anyone, but doctors please don’t let the convenience of technology take over your reason why. Remember why you wanted to be a doctor and remember that there is a real person in front of you, it is not just lab values, think about what you would want to be done if this was your family member. We can learn from our mistakes, we can do better, and we have to! 

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