I’m currently in the radiation phase of my treatment for stage 3 breast cancer. The technician, "let’s call him Rick because that’s his name," was not friendly and curt in his manner. I was 4 weeks in, with 2 weeks to go, and had been having a hard time. My type of radiation requires me to hold my breath while treatment is being administered. I’m not very good at this as a rule and especially under pressure.
The other day, Rick decides he is going to give me a lecture on holding my breath and how that is making it hard for him to do what “he” needs to do. He went on and on while I stood there with no shirt on (I still have one breast) and feeling quite uncomfortable. I was shocked and didn’t react. I left there with tears forcing their way out and tried to make it to the hospital parking lot before I broke down.
This was hard enough and him being impatient with me on a regular basis was making it even more difficult.
My first thought was, I’ll tell the Doctor I’ve had enough of him. Then, I decided to calm down and think on it. So I did.
I’ve changed through this cancer journey and have become more patient and understanding. I promised myself this journey would make me better, not bitter. I talked with a dear friend and she suggested I talk to Rick about it. That is not what I originally had in mind. I was thinking I would just say nothing and after two more weeks, never see him again. The last thing I wanted right now was to confront someone who I would have to see 10 more mornings.
Then, I gave it more thought and decided to have a heartfelt conversation with him. When I went in the next day, I asked Rick, “Can we talk a minute please?” He looked hesitant as he had no idea where I was going with this. I said I’m sorry that I can’t hold my breath properly. It’s hard enough to come in here as I don’t feel well, plus it gives me anxiety and makes it hard for me to hold my breath. I’m not trying to make your job harder, and I’m doing my best. Then the tears came.
He looked me in the eyes, and said Traci I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to make you feel that way. I was just trying to explain how things worked. I responded, “I need you to be gentler and more patient with me. I’ve been in treatment for a year now, and it’s hard." I could tell he felt badly.
Surprisingly, the session went smoothly and he was quite pleasant, unlike the technician I was used to dealing with. The next day, I went back in and he was kind and gentle, patiently walking me through the treatment. Better still, I also noticed that he was warmer to the patients in front and behind me.
In retrospect, I think Rick had just lost his way at work and wasn’t seeing us as people anymore. This “new” technician I’m finishing up my radiation with is a completely different one. I’m so glad I had the courage to talk to him and be my own advocate. I’ve learned it’s terribly important to speak up for yourself as the staff administering my care sometimes forgets we are a person and not a number.
Thank you for sharing your story, Traci. SBC loves you!
SurvivingBreastCancer.org Resources & Support: