I started writing this post before the holidays, but then it got delayed...
I meant to post it right after radiation relationships
Now that I have praised the radiation department in several posts, I feel obligated to share one story that was particularly traumatic. This was a one-time incident, probably because I made sure it was not repeated. Leaving it out, would be white-washing the whole radiation experience.
In order to appreciate the magnitude of this incident, it is important to understand some of my limitations. I have very weak stomach muscles -- I have had 6 major abdominal surgeries (3 C/sections, 1 failed hernia repair, 2 abdominal surgeries for reconstruction including additional failed hernia repairs). My stomach muscles were not particularly strong before the surgeries, kal vahomer (even more so) after them!
So, sitting up from a prone (lying down on my back) position is difficult, even in the best of circumstances. I either have to hold on to my legs and rock or turn over on my stomach and rise from that position. Neither is particularly graceful, and I need room to maneuver, to make sure I don't fall.
I share these private details, so you will understand what happened and how humiliating it was for me and how important it is for a patient to stand up for his/her dignity.
During radiation, the patient lies down on a narrow platform.
The technicians help you lie down in the correct position, and do their best to make you comfortable. They lay a clean sheet for you (re-using "your" sheet, every time); they will place a cushion under your knees, to relieve stress on your back; and, of course, they make sure to line you up so that the radiation is aimed correctly.
As patients, we are primarily passive -- adjusting the way we lay down, according to how the technicians direct us; then holding still, while the machine does its work; then we get up and go.
It is really very simple.
Except, for me, I need a little help getting back up. Most days, this was not a problem. I asked the technician to give me a hand -- I just needed a little steady leverage to help me sit up.
Now, so we are clear, I did not need someone to pull me up. My stomach muscles work, they are just weak. I just needed someone to hold my hand and "spot" me as I pulled myself up. I did most of the work, they just supported me, helping me stay steady, so I did not lose my balance.
After the first few times I asked, the technicians knew to come right away to help. The whole thing took all of 15 seconds.
Then, sometime in the middle of my treatment, one of the technicians refused to help me up.
At first, I could not understand why he was not coming to help me. So, I asked again for his help.
“Get up yourself,” he told me.
I was a bit taken aback, but I explained again that I need a little help getting up.
“Get up, the way you get out of bed,” he instructed me again.
Now, just to remind you, this conversation is going on while I lie on my back, powerless to get up, feeling helpless and humiliated.
I did not feel like elaborating to this technician, who is insulting me, why I cannot get up the way I get up in my WIDE bed, with my American Twin Size Mattress, that has plenty of room for me to maneuver without any risk of falling off. (Have I mentioned recently that I am terrified of falling because of all the cancer in my bones and the high risk of breaking something?)
I repeat that I just need a hand to brace against while I pull myself up.
“If I help everyone, it will damage my back,” he said.
“So, please get someone else to help me,” I plead, wondering how long I will be stuck lying there, while this technician not only refuses to help me, but also refuses to ask someone else to come in and help me. I feel completely powerless.
Finally, one of the other technicians enters the room. She has no idea how long I have been lying there, but comes right away to help me sit up.
I go to the small dressing room to put on a scarf, over my already bald head. I gather my things and walk out. For the first time, I do not say "thank you" as I leave.
I am humiliated and want to cry.
On my way out, I see one of the other technicians, who has always been very friendly and helpful. I take a few deep breaths, then describe to her what happened and ask that I be helped by other technicians in the future. She understands and promises to take care of it.
For several days following this incident, I worried about a repeat scenario. I made sure to request that certain technicians come in afterwards to help me.
Thankfully, the situation did not repeat itself.
I was very shaken by the experience.
I had to remind myself that there is no reason to be embarrassed about needing help.
The shame is on the technician who made a patient (me) literally beg for assistance.
It was not easy for me to share the experience with the other technician, which meant revealing how dependent, and helpless, I found myself.
I am proud that I had the nerve to say something and make sure that I would not find myself again in such a helpless position.
I did what was necessary to protect myself in the future.
Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.
With love and optimism,