Saturday, February 24, 2007

Life Can Turn on a Dime

My sister, Jean was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and yesterday was her first appointment with her oncologist. Being the good (or curious, nagging, insistent - fill in your own adjective) sister that I am, I accompanied her.

It began as most appointments do - in the waiting room filling out paperwork. Then we progressed to the scale (I politely looked away), then to the exam room where we waited (a short time) for the doctor. Nothing unusual, so far.

Admittedly, throughout, it was always in the back of my mind that this was not a typical appointment - this was with an oncologist for treatment of cancer. But the mechanics of the experience were that of a typical appointment.

It wasn't until we checked out that feelings of being overwhelmed took hold of me. At checkout, they scheduled her for her first chemo treatment (March 16) and then scheduled her for all the other appointments that accompany this - the Neulasta shot that is administered 24 hours after the chemo treatment (to fight infection), the MUGA scan (to check her heart pre-treatment), her 2nd, 3rd and 4th chemo treatment and Neulasta shots, follow up exam with the doctor, etc, etc. She came away with a sheet full of appointments.

I've known people who've had and been treated for cancer, but never anyone this close. And if I, being one person removed from the disease, am feeling overwhelmed by all the details I can't imagine what the patient - MY SISTER - feels.

Since her diagnosis 3 weeks ago, I've not felt anxious about the disease. But after yesterday's appointment I'm becoming concerned with all the details about the treatment - the number of appointments, how to accompany her to them all, how sick will she become. Then of course, one of my prime concerns, will I say something stupid and/or insensitive that will upset her.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Responsible Thing To Do

I recently read where Scarlett Johansson, age 22, contributed the following health tip. She's said she's tested for HIV twice a year because "it's the responsible thing to do". Words fail me so I'll express myself with punctuation: