First, let me tell you that I am fine.

Second, once you have had cancer, you are never “cancer-free”.  You can be in remission, and it may never raise its ugly head again, but cancer is the gift that never stops giving (or at least trying really, really hard).

Today, I went for my first mammogram since I got back to Michigan.  That is a whole other story for another day.  Anyhow, my phone rings while I’m sitting in my slightly not-big-enough gown with my soon to be flattened, boobies half hanging out.  I don’t have my phone with me, but my hearing aids are within signal reach, so I can hear the ringing in my ear.  I’ll get it later.

After the appointment, I go out to my car to listen to the message.  I’m reading the transcript, and I get mixed up about the circumstances, but I believe a much loved relative is at the ER – just across the parking lot from where I’m sitting.  I start the car, and over to the ER I go.  I go in, and they tell me she has been admitted, and give me the room number and directions to the main hospital entrance.  Back to the car I go; and head to the main entrance where amazingly enough, I find a decent parking spot.

Go into the hospital stop at the welcome desk, confirm the room number and get directions to the elevators which are inexplicably tucked away in a labyrinth of hallways.  But I find them, and I find the room – peek into the room and there she is.  Whew.  She looks pretty good for someone recently admitted to the hospital. 

Turns out, she was admitted yesterday. Like me, she had had breast cancer.  She met with her new oncologist the day before and commented on sudden onset of shortness of breath, and the doctor sent her right to the ER. 

Apparently, one of the possible “side effects” of cancer is blood clots.  She has blood clots in her lungs. 

Did you know this was a possibility?  I didn’t know this was a possibility.  Wouldn’t you think this is the kind of thing they should tell you to look out for?

Luckily the clots are small and her body should absorb them; and she has been put on a blood thinner which she’ll be taking forever. 

And I immediately go into Patient Advocate mode.  I find out she hasn’t eaten all day!  She has only had a sip of water!  Oh hell no, not on my watch.  Off I go to the front desk to ask about any eating and drinking restrictions (there are none), and then back to the room to get the menu so she can order up some much needed food and drink.  I also ask for a chair, since her room has no chairs at all! 

The good news is they are getting ready to discharge her, and nosey-Parker me gets to ask all the questions I have bubbling away in my fat old lady brain.  The discharge is fairly painless and pretty quick for a hospital discharge.  Personally, I believe it’s because once I showed up the staff decided, “Oh, fuck no, we don’t want to have to deal with this one”, and got my girl out the door as quickly as possible.

Whatever, since I was there, I drove her home and delivered her safely into her spouse’s arms. 

And let me tell you, while I’m a little tired and a little upset, I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. 

If you are facing a medical issue, I’ll keep you laughing, I’ll remember the stuff you were told to ask about, I’ll go make sure whatever is supposed to get done gets done.  I feel useful, and I am so happy to be able to do this for someone I love.

If you are facing a medical issue, please don’t hesitate to ask people to help you.  You are giving them the gift of letting them feel useful and trusted and loved. 

Asking for help is a goodness.

And if you’ve had or have cancer, and you suddenly experience chest pains and/or shortness of breath, get your happy ass to the ER immediately.  This is nothing to dick around with even though nobody seems you should be warned ahead of time.


  1. Outcomes in hospitals are always likely to be better if the patient has an advocate (family member or friend) there most of the time. I have found it so, when I have been a patient, and I have also been an advocate many times.

  2. You are SO right! Trying to advocate for yourself is harder than it looks, because once you’re
    a patient (especially an OLD patient, i.e. over 50 in medi-speak years) you lose half of your IQ
    points. Would be terrific to have someone to channel what I have to say to the hospital staff
    the next time I find myself incarcerated….er…..hospitalized.
    Glad to kniow that your relative is on the mend & that you (& your boobs) are keeping abreast
    of it all.

  3. Gimme a break – I’m old & crabby – what ELSE did you expect? Something like “I’m glad
    you’re not going tits up”?

      • You’re welcome – have always said that my job in life is to give at least one laugh each day, so
        whenever I get that laugh or smile I know my work is done. And by the way, YOU say some
        pretty funny stuff, too – have had many a laugh from your reflections on life. If you’re ever in
        LA again, let me know – we can spend some time pitching laughs.

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