One of the results of going through a serious illness is that my friends all see me as almost doctor-like now. They’ll point out a bump on their neck…
Friend: Cindy…look at this place on my neck…does this look like cancer to you?
Me: What place? I don’t see anything.
Friend: This lump, right here. Oh my God…didn’t your cancer start as a lump on your neck? I knew it. I’ve got cancer.
Me: Ummm, no…I think you’ve got a pimple. You can probably pop it tonight.
Obviously, I’m not a doctor. But I do try to help friends navigating our health care system. I have a friend who’s had lots of tests in the past few weeks. Problem is, she has no results. Dr. A won’t talk to Dr. B. Dr. C is on vacation for the next week. Nurse Ratchet doesn’t know a thing. And my friend is left in the middle. Holding the $900 bill–yeah–she got a bill before she got her results.
Here’s a story.
A cancer diagnosis is the result of several tests. In my case, one of those tests was a needle-guided biopsy on the fist-sized knot in my neck. The test was several hours later than scheduled–several hours where my imagination ran wild. At one point, I was so agitated that my new oncologist prescribed a dose of ativan. But even that didn’t help much. They finally came to get me for the test. For some reason, it had to be performed in the CT scan room.
I’m on the narrow bench-like bed of the scanner. The doctor comes toward me.
“It is crucial that you remain absolutely still while I do this. You can’t move at all or the test will not work.”
Next thing I see is a giant needle coming towards me–and then I feel it jamming into my neck. I jumped. Duh.
“I told you not to move” he yelled.
“Sorry,” I said.
He tries again. I jump again. He yells again.
“I can’t do this if you don’t cooperate,” he says.
I nod, as I’m crying and tell him I’ll try to do better.
He tries one last time. He jams the needle in, does his thing and leaves.
Two days later, I had a surgical biopsy because that one didn’t turn out right.
And two days after that, I got a bill. For a botched test. I wrote him a little note:
Dear Dr. _______,
All through my cancer diagnosis, everyone I’ve come in contact with has been compassionate and kind. Everyone but you, that is. I will pay this bill when you apologize for being so rude to me.
I never did get an apology. He never did get his money.