Monday, February 26, 2007

Perspective Smacks Us In the Head

Right now, most of us are getting over, coming down with, or fighting a cold.

Our system administrator had a small nervous breakdown - which put her out for a week. Don't blame her since she lost about 1 month's worth of work with the last build.

One of our other team members has been fighting high blood pressure related issues and returns from his appointments with horror stories about being poked and prodded with various needles. He HATES needles.

Another team member is fighting through tremendous pain from last month's car accident. She's been working through a fog of pain-killers.

But the event that made us take pause was the news that one of our trainers has breast cancer.

She found out during the course of her annual exam 2 weeks ago.

As part of that exam - she had a mammogram. The mammogram found a lump about 1 cm deep in the breast tissue. Nothing that could be felt by a standard breast exam. The radiologist, in his report, stated that there was a very high probability that it was malignant.

A day or so later, she went for a biopsy - which confirmed the cancer.

So...surgery is scheduled for next week. She knows that she has to have radiation treatments. She won't know about the need for chemotherapy until after the surgery - when they can get at her lymph nodes.

This is one of those times where I am very grateful that I work in health care. We KNOW who the best doctors are, know what resources we have at our disposal, and can pull favors in situations like this. We also can find out exactly what is happening without having to wait for the doctor to contact us. And since we work with these people every day - we're not afraid to ask questions or say "no" to treatments that don't make sense.

All that knowledge still can't temper the fear. Despite the resources at her disposal, her medical education, and the support of her co-workers, she was very shell-shocked for most of last week as she ventured through this very scary process.

For the rest of us - it made us seriously re-evaluate what we are doing and why we are doing it.

Losing one of our best trainers for the course of this project - though painful - is not the important part. Supporting one of my best work friends and # 1 confidant is.

The other stuff can wait......

1 comment:

Karyn Romeis said...

Sorry to hear about your colleague's news, Wendy. I live in dread of breast cancer. All three of my Dad's sisters had it - only one survived. Fortunately, working where she does, your colleague has access to the best care.

From a very early age, I had annual mammograms - not unusual in South Africa.

Then we moved to the UK where there is a National Health system and I came to realise how spoilt I had been in my third world home, with access to first world medicine of the highest order. I asked what the procedure was for booking an annual mammogram, and jaws hit floors all around me. Mammograms are only offered to women between the ages of 48 and 64, and only every three years.

I explained my family history, and was sent to a genetic counsellor. She told me that since the history was with aunts, I was at no higher risk than anyone else. If it had been my mother... she explained.

Now correct me if I'm wrong, but I have inherited just as many genes from my Dad as from my Mom. I am just as likely to have inherited the genes for even my most female attributes from my father's side of the family. The fact that my Dad was a man (well duh!) significantly reduced his risk of developing breast cancer, but all three of his sisters (from two different mothers) had it.

So why the requirement that the genetic tendency has to come from my mother's side? I was told that I should be happy to have been given such good news.

I am not happy. I feel unconvinced and fobbed off. Like your colleague, I find that self-examination is not 100% reliable (for reasons I won't divulge on a public space), and doctors and nurses no longer do manual checks.

I hate having no way of knowing whether something nefarious is growing inside my body!

I have often said that, the day I find a lump, then my lump and I will board a plane for South Africa where I will have more confidence in my chances of survival than here. Then, some time ago, I did find a lump and I wasn't in a position to go "home". It took me two months to get in to see my GP, who comforted me with the news that breast cancer was no longer the biggest killer of women in the UK - lung cancer had overtaken it. Thanks, mate, but I haven't come here with a lump in my lung! It turned out to be a cyst or something that disappeared of its own accord, but it undermined my confidence even further....