is there a reason ma'am

I called to schedule a mammogram today. Not the funnest thing I get to do. I have had two in my life already, and each time I am the youngest in the waiting room.

We don't know much about when my Mom got sick. The story I remember being told was pieced together from my Dad, since he really didn't know either. She hid it from EVERYBODY. As far as I can gather around my 5th birthday when Mom was 35 - something went down at her OB appointment. Since no one else was in that room but the Doc and my Mom, Dad didn't know what was discovered how.

But we do know that 4 years later the cancer had spread throughout her entire body and started eating away a disc in her back. I had my 10th birthday with church friends while my mom recovered from surgery and under went chemo and radiation in a hospital 2 towns away.

She got better and was in remission for a while... a year or so. But the cancer came back and she died when I was 12.

When I was in college and my OB heard the story he immediately sent me for a mammogram. Because we really have no real information to help us determine how at risk I am. I had another mammogram when I was 27 before I got pregnant with Braden.

With each move and each doctor I retell the story...and each time I get sad and emotional. It is a hard story to tell for many reasons. I get blank stares when I try to explain the whole story and that she had refused medical treatment for so long choosing instead to rely on prayer. Everyone thinks Christian Science is Scientology....

So today (with doctors order in hand) I called the radiology department to schedule an appointment - I knew what was coming. When they finally got around to asking my birth date I took a deep breath. "what is the reason for this mammogram?" were the next words I heard. I played dumb " I don't know what you mean?" 'Is there a diagnosis?" "No, just screening." I said. "Well, I don't understand, there needs to be a reason, I mean you are so young. There has to be a reason."

I felt like screaming. Yes, there is is huge reason - duh! Obviously! Who gets a mammogram this young without a reason? But I explained "I really don't want to go into my whole medical history with someone who is not my doctor." Then the person on the phone gets snippy "Well, I will schedule you, but I will just warn you the techs may send you away because you are too young. I mean without an official reason besides 'screening' they may just send you home." We finished our business and I hung up.

This is where my sadness turns to anger, frustration and impatience. Don't most people like to keep their medical issues private and to themselves? I know I am not the only one who doesn't want EVERYONE knowing what is going on with their boobs. I know that it really isn't the fault of the medical staff. It is all the rules and regulation that come with health care now that forces nurses and techs etc to distance themselves from the patient. They are forced to ignore what they feel is right in order to fulfill protocol. And even though I know this I still have no patience. I demand better.


Brenda-Ann said...

Doctor's have to order a mammogram, so why was the person on the phone questioning your doctor's order and in turn your doctor? And just because the tech doesn't like the reason, they are able to turn people away!! This is why health care around here, Abilene, scares me. In any case, all of my mammograms have been done because of family history and that is what I state.

Robyn said...

Where did you call? I just called and scheduled mine today as well (have had three the past three years...long story). I go to Hendrick (Vera West Center) and they have NEVER asked me for a reason why I needed one. Always very sweet and considerate. They should just do it b/c the doc ordered it!! You don't have to explain why to the person who schedules your procedure!! (sorry for the rant, this kind of stuff really irritates me.)

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm missing somthing here; informing your healthcare "team" of your medical geneology triggers anxiety but not blogging about it. Is this correct?

I continue in my amazment of persons believing that it is possible to sanitize processes of humanity. There really is no "sanctity of professional competence". That is just marketing to fear. Airline pilots show up drunk for work, doctors order protocols while legally intoxicated by fatigue and Google really thinks that its new medical records program won't be hacked.

We're all just people metaphorically groping about in the dark telling ourselves we see a light in the distance.

Deep breaths. That's pretty much all any of of has.

Leah said...

I don't understand this anonymous posting...Are you saying Julia should be more willing to inform a faceless woman who is NOT a part of her health care team rather than blog? That makes NO since. Maybe I misunderstood you. But why the anonymous post as well?

Julia Stewart said...

Robyn, Leah thanks for your support. I am getting it done here at Abilene Regional.....I will certainly let you all know how it goes.

I too would like a bit more clarification/explanation from my mystery poster....care to elaborate?

Anonymous said...


I submit that people seem to feel more comfortable discussing "personal" information in the impersonal sphere of e-mail, blogs and chat-boards than they are face-to-face or over the phone. Why is that? A preceding blog contributor provides a singularly prescient sequey: Persons irrationally presuppose a level of anonymity while operating in the e-medium that simply cannot and does not exist. For example, if anyone is truley interested in discovering my identity they might, with the greatest of ease, avail themselves of such information with a few clicks of the mouse as it were...

What should Julia do? Well, we should all attempt to acknowledge the frailty and fickelness of being human. Why do we feel entitled to forgiveness for our own transgressions but hold the trasngressions of others (the apparent nosieness of the healthcare receptionist) against them? Is this not simply another example of inconsistentcy that belies the nature of the human animal?

Might Julia have disspationately informed the receptionist that she has a family history of IDC/ILC breast cancer it would have 1) answered the question de facto and 2) likely have drawn out some, albeit small, amount of sympathy. Perhaps the receptionist has a personal experience of a similar nature that might superficially bond her and Julia. This bond, however slightly held, might have resulted in a more thoughtfull fulfillment of duties on the part of the receptionist (a definite boon for all of us, no?).

Let us not build walls where none need be.

Julia Stewart said...

Yeah, maybe I could have given her the benefit of the doubt and told her and garnered some sort of sympathy... but I wanted something different from the lady on the phone. I wanted her to figure it out for herself.... "wow she is young - wow she has already had two mammograms - wow there must really be a good reason for this"
I was demanding a higher standard of care....
I am not saying it was the right thing to do... I was saying it was what happened and that it made me feel angry and let down.