I am used to being audited from coming up through the lab and then quality operations manager, audits are a way of life. I used to refer to the fall as audit season because we would be audited by companies we tolled for, ISO 9001, 14001 and TS 16949. It was really a way of life, being audited that much is really just another day–with a catered lunch.
After a cancer diagnosis you see medical professionals a lot. Sometimes it is the MD, sometimes the nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, sometimes the intake nurse, sometimes the phlebotomy crew, X-ray crew, physical therapist, occupational therapist, nutritionist… Much like an acceptance speech, I am sure there are folks out there I missed, my apologies for the oversight I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you, too.
There is something especially alarming about seeing the doctor. They are the ones with the news. They are the ones who define where you are in the process. They are the ones who talk you through the decision points of treatment. They are the visits that cause me stress, much stress and dread.
I like them all. I really think that we’d be friends under different circumstances, but right now I dread going to see them for days prior to the appointment. I dread it so much that people notice something is wrong. I try not to, I try to be ‘brave’, suck it up, be strong. But what I really do is cry on the way to the appointment and I even accidentally made myself sick the first time I had to see them all after I was ‘done.’
Going back to work meant that I was done. Cancer was over, my life was going to return to normal. Well, for me that wasn’t really the case, maybe it will return to normal eventually maybe someday. Normal is not going to see the doctor to get some news, make some decision, find out if I am still/again. I was back to work about two months when I had to make my first round of doctor visits. The breast specialist, the oncologist and the surgeon. I am always glad to get good news, but there is something about the lead up to it that causes my system to try to fight something. I ended up sick to my stomach for a few days afterward. Maybe the silver lining is that I got through it without canceling any of them.
Three months later, after seeing the whole host of medical professionals listed above, it was time to make the rounds of doctors again. This time I didn’t get sick to my stomach, it was later in the GI tract. Again, gold star for not canceling? Maybe for different symptoms?
This last time I told my surgeon about my physical response to the dread of seeing them. She suggested that we try spacing them out instead of all in the same week, divide up the appointments, divide up the stress. That is where we are now, I didn’t cancel any appointments, just postponed 2 of them at the advice of a physician, not canceling at all.
Apparently this is part of the process. Maybe not making yourself sick, but the dread. The dread is a normal part of the process. It would be nice to not feel the dread, maybe it is necessary to truly appreciate the non-dread times? I don’t know, but I don’t like it and I feel really stupid when it is over for feeling the dread so intensely. They are all good people, they are really just delivering the findings from my physical health audit. I seem to be fighting, on some level, that this is just the ‘season’ I am in at this time. My favorite part of audits at work was picking out some interesting catering option. Maybe next round of doctor visits I will include a trip to a new restaurant or some such reward to make the whole thing more palatable.