#622: Cancer Chronicles

For those who don’t know what’s going on, please read #619: State of the Rock – FYC! first.

Although this is a music site, because of our current battles I am going to be writing more personal stories within Getting More Tale.  I apologise for the lack of music today.  Music will always be the main focus but I also have to express myself.  Hence:  Cancer Chronicles.

 

GETTING MORE TALE #622: Cancer Chronicles

Health care in Canada is free, but it’s not an easy system to navigate. It can be confusing and scary; there is no instruction manual. You have to be hands-on with your own health care. You have to be on the phone every day asking questions and pushing for answers.

Here we are with the next chapter in Jen’s cancer battle. We needed an MRI (magnetic resonant imaging) done right away. The surgeon in London, who is an excellent doctor by the way, needed the MRI results so he could perform a biopsy. The MRI in Kitchener was booked for Tuesday December 12. We had a meeting at the hospital on the 14th, in preparation for the biopsy on the 18th. It was a tight schedule and we were glad so many things were moving very fast.

Jen showed up for her MRI on the 12th, right on time. She was extremely upset to find out there had been some kind of mistake. Instead of December 12, the MRI was apparently booked for mid-February. This threw everything out of whack. The surgeon couldn’t perform the biopsy without the MRI, and the biopsy was mere days away. A February MRI simply would not do. It would push back Jen’s cancer surgery by two months!

I got a text message and a phone call from Jen, extremely upset about this turn of events. Understandable. Finding out you have cancer is a kick in the shins enough. Having your appointment date screwed up so badly is a whole other punch in the face. We never got a straight answer on how it got messed up, but that wasn’t the issue. The issue was getting it fixed.

The hospital called the house, fortunately, because that’s where I was.

The person on the other end of the phone said “Please tell Jen I got her appointment moved to January.”

I realize that getting appointments pushed ahead is next to impossible. I know she probably moved mountains to get that date. But the fact is, it still wasn’t good enough. We needed the MRI done before the biopsy. Otherwise everything would be delayed.

I told her, “That is not good enough. We need the MRI done by Thursday when we go back to London.”

“I’m sorry sir but I’ve done everything I can. I was just calling to tell Jen that we got a better date, I thought she’d be happy about that,” she said.

“But we have a meeting at the hospital on Thursday! And a biopsy on Monday!”

“I’m sorry sir but this is the very best I can do. There was some kind of miscommunication over this, it’s not my fault. If anyone cancels I’ll call Jen immediately but we are booked solid,” I was told.

I wasn’t happy and it showed.

“Sir, please let me finish,” she said.

“No, you need to listen to what I’m telling you,” I interrupted. “The surgeon is waiting for that MRI, he needs it to do the biopsy. The biopsy is already scheduled. We need to get it done for him before then.”

“I understand what you’re saying,” she told me, “but please don’t be angry with me, it’s not my fault, I have done the best I can do.”

I calmed myself down.

“I’m not angry with you,” I attempted to say in a calmer voice, “and it doesn’t matter whose fault it is. That’s irrelevant. You have to understand that you are now delaying her cancer surgery.”

“That’s not what I’m saying,” she rebutted.

“Well it might not be what you’re saying, but that’s a fact. That’s a fact.” I paused to regain my thoughts. “If the doctor doesn’t get these results until January, he won’t be able to do the biopsy, and that’ll push everything back. That’s a fact.” I couldn’t imagine the surgeon being happy about this.

Finally she seemed to understand the problem. I think before this point, she just assumed I was an upset husband who wanted to get the dates expedited. But I still wasn’t getting any help.

“Then you need to take that up with your doctor,” she said. “I’ve done all I can do.”

I attempted to escalate.

“Then I need to talk to someone who can get us a better date.”

“I’m sorry sir, but that’s just not possible. This is the best date I was given.”

That gave me an opening. “Then I need to talk to the people who gave you that date.”

She paused. “Please hold,” she said with no patience left. I was on hold for two or three minutes.

Suddenly, I was connected with the imaging lab. The person on the other end of the phone was already aware of the situation. She asked me for the name of the surgeon. I asked, “So you are going to try and get her the MRI appointment before the biopsy?” She answered yes and assured us that she would call us back.

Jen arrived home shortly after I got off the phone. She was still incredibly upset. I told her, “It’s OK, don’t worry, I am taking care of it. They are going to call you back, they are going to try and get you a better date.” She started to calm down a little bit, but the truth is, neither of us really thought we’d be able to get a closer date. I know I did the very best, and pushed as hard as I possibly could. However I also know how booked up these places are. Usually for months and months in advance. I gave it my best shot.

An hour or two later the phone rang. To my absolute shock, they told Jen they moved her MRI to the very next day.

I still can’t believe it.

They must have called the surgeon, who assured us that he needed that MRI done right away. And so it was.

When Jen showed up for her MRI the next day, the staff told her “Your husband must love you very much. This never happens.” Well of course I do! But I didn’t do anything special. I did what any husband would have done. The fact that I got results is the only thing that made it special, and I think the surgeon had a lot to do with that.  The biopsy was performed on schedule.  Results should be in before Christmas.  We are still on track.  In the new year, she’ll be beating cancer.

I told my dad and co-workers what happened. Every single person said the same thing: “I’ve never heard of anybody being able to get an MRI scheduled for the next day, ever! How did you do it?” Another guy at work assured me, “I come from a family of doctors, so believe me, getting an MRI moved to the next day never happens!”

I felt good. I felt like a total hero. But as long as I’m just a hero to my wife, that is reward enough.

 

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43 comments

  1. I’ve had cancer three times: lymphoma 2004, it came back 2008, and prostate cancer since at least 2010. It didn’t need to be treated until about a year ago, and I opted for focal therapy with HIFU, an experimental technique definitely worth pursuing if you are the right type of patient for it, but unfortunately it didn’t work for me, so now I have surgery scheduled for 30 January. (The lymphoma seems cured, by the way.)

    I really am starting my blog soon, and this will be one of the first topics.

    If you think cancer can be confusing, wait until you get prostate cancer.

    Fortunately, I am in Germany, so no worries about appointments, quality of treatment, costs, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. WOW…Phillip…I am touched by your story. I am glad you have good health care in Germany. That must be comforting.

      I wish you all the best for your surgery. Looks like the timing of this means we’re fighting the battle simultaneously. Take care Phillip.

      Like

      1. Thanks!

        I plan to make the most of my time in hospital, which starts by buying some new headphones! While I am happy with my Sennheiser HD250 Linear, I’ve had it for thirty years. Replacements are difficult to come by, the plug is bent, and so on, so time for some new ones.

        What do people here recommend? One can buy headphones for 5 or 5000 (in whatever currency). I’m looking at something between 100 and 300, say.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. My mother in law won a pair of headphones and I couldn’t even tell you what brand they are without looking. She gave them to me as a gift and I love it, first decent set I ever had!

          Like

    2. Headphones: I plan to check out the Meze 99 Classics today. (Also on the list: Beyerdynamic TK770 and T5.)

      Prostate cancer: Although it is not clear whether that was the cause of death, Ray Thomas of the Moody Blues revealed his diagnosis in 2014. Now he is dead. The induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (a bit late, methinks, even apart from his death) is set for a few months from now.

      https://www.snopes.com/2018/01/07/ray-thomas-british-rockers-moody-blues-dies-76/

      I think that one could make a good case that The Moody Blues were the first progressive-rock band.

      Blog: Coming soon, really. One of my first posts will be about prostate cancer. In the meantime, every man above 40 should get his PSA measured. I was a bit unsure whether it would be worth the trouble to try HIFU again (an excellent and essentially side-effect–free treatment which can cure it completely if you catch it early enough and various other criteria are fulfilled which, sadly, wasn’t the case for me), so after reading through the results of the latest MRI and biopsy I sent an email to the surgeon about 12 hours ago (i.e. Sunday night my time), and already this morning there was an answer! It cleared up my remaining questions, but also means that I am going ahead with the surgery.

      Like

      1. I went with the Meze 99 Classics. Check out my comments at KamerTunesBlog to see why you need them.

        On the web pages of the company, there is a rogues’ gallery of the staff. Mousing over the images shows another image in non-work environments. At least one appears to be a metal musician!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s exactly how I felt. Like I have to fix this? The people who are dealing with it have to fix it?

      Worst case I was going to call the surgeon — he is very available. And then they’d have to answer to him.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. All very good news for you and Jen. I’m sure she appreciates what a hero you are. I’d just like to point out to any Conservative Americans reading this that Mike’s experience is NOT proof that socialized medicine doesn’t work. If anything, its the reverse. Living half my life in the US and the other half in the UK, I can I have learned the value of socialized medicine.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That is awesome.

    I know the frustration when you are faced with a broken health care system.

    I, as a non-health care person was tasked with looking after my wife alone at home, post surgery as she cried in pain all night, and I had no scrip to get her the pain killers she desperately needed.
    It was easily the worst night of my life.

    Good on you for not taking no for an answer. If you get to the point that the hospital tells you your wife will be going home right after surgery tell them NO.
    Stand your ground. Even of you have to pay.
    Hopefully you can learn from my awful experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Brian I feel that the surgeon we have will NOT release her if she is in that kind of pain. He kept her overnight in London because she was still bleeding. He then came back to the hospital that evening and re-did the gauze. I trust him.

      I will mind your words though, because I know I do not want to ever have to deal with that horrible experience.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My wife is fine, so that is the main thing.

        The thing about the pain is the patient still has no pain when they leave the hospital since they still have anesthesia in their body but it.wears off when they get.home, and the tylenol 3’s they send you with are no where strong enough.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice! Good for you! You sound a lot like myself when I start getting the runaround. Not nearly as serious but once Best Buy started giving me the business when I was returning some headphones I bought for Sarah. I made sure I could return them before I bought them because I wasn’t sure if they would fit her. (They didn’t) Now, they tell me it is a store policy to not take headphones back because it is unsanitary. My response was “I want to talk to the person who will give me my money back for these headphones.” I left with a full refund.

    Like

  5. Well-played Mike! You’re spot-on that you have to be hands-on with your health care. It’s so easy for someone uninvolved to mess up everything and then say “it’s not my fault.’ You gotta be your own biggest advocate and, in your case here, advocate for your partner even more so. Go team!

    I’ll admit I was just as shocked as everyone else when you got the appointment for the next day, but that’s just further proof that if you give up too early, they win. The only other thing I can think of would have been to hang up on that person and call the doctor and tell him about the mix-up. A call from the surgeon himself directly to the imaging lab, earlier in the process, would light that same fire quicker!

    Worst, it’s all just stress you don’t need in an already stressful situation. Keep fighting the good fight. You guys are rocking this.

    And fuck cancer.

    Like

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