Jerry had been feeling bloated and very full in her stomach area for quite awhile. Her stomach was distended and her feet and lower legs were increasingly edematous (filled with fluid). She was finding it increasingly difficult to marshal strength for basic daily activities and to walk, especially up or down stairs. Everyone noticed the shortness of breath when she spoke. So she made an appointment with a gastroenterologist to find out what was going on.
A MRI was given and the results so disturbed her GI doctor that he immediately scheduled her to meet with his associate, a surgeon, who he felt could better predict therapeutic options for the enormous growth enveloping her stomach and nearby internal organs.
As it happens, we are blessed to be in Cleveland, Ohio near to the world renowned Cleveland Clinic where Jerry was already ‘in the system’ for treatment of a seeming genetic predisposition for glaucoma. As it also happens, Jerry did not have a primary care physician (as a family we are each tremendously blessed with overall very good health and a deep-seated aversion to frequenting doctors’ offices). So, she thought it might be time to get a primary care physician- so as to be better administered by ‘the system’ and have access to other specialists which might become necessary over time.
She scheduled appointments through the Clinic with both doctors offices for the same day, but several hours apart, for reasons of expediency and convenience. She then made arrangements with me to pick her up, wheel her to and fro, and spend time with her while she waited for her appointments.
I was glad that she had chosen me to help her. I felt needed and trusted by my elusive semi-sibling and that made me feel great. I made a concerted effort to be ready to leave home and pick her up in plenty of time to get her, without having to rush, to her first appointment. I wanted her to feel less stressed during this tough challenge to her usual ease of functioning. It was important to me that she would feel that she could depend on me to be a help and not just another irritant in her life, so I did not want to be late for her pick up, or embarrass us both be making her late for her appointments.
I needed to feel that she would be comfortable about relying on me.
Plus, the Cleveland Clinic is a huge medical campus, one that I am not familiar with, and I hate to be rushed.
I am still trying to figure out what all that need on my part is about- but I share it with you in hopes that, if you feel the same way, at least you will know you are not the only one.
I arrived at her home at the agreed upon time to the minute. I knocked on her door and got back inside the car to wait for her to appear. I waited…and waited…and waited. I looked at the dashboard clock and saw that almost three minutes had passed. I began to get irritated so I turned on the radio to take my mind off the irritation of having to wait, after I had been so diligent about being on time, …and waited some more.
I started tapping my fingers and feet- always a sign that my patience is running low.
Finally, Jerry emerged from her home and slowly transferred herself into the passenger seat.
She remarked that, ‘it was very difficult for her to put her shoes on because of the mass in her abdomen that made bending over so uncomfortable’. While I sympathized with her plight, I secretly seethed with rage because she already knew that would be the case and I felt that she should have allowed extra time for that activity and do her part to not cause us to have to rush or be late. But, I said nothing, other than ‘Good morning, we have to get going or we’ll be late’.
You see, I do not like confrontation.
I especially do not like to have to fuss at my elders- and Jerry is 20 years older than I and to my way of thinking, an elder- even if she is on the same level sibling line of the family tree.
So, though I was pissed… I didn’t let on.
We managed to arrive a few minutes early for the first appointment, checked in and took seats beside the floor to ceiling windows that lined the outside wall of the BIG reception/waiting area. There were about 30 people waiting for I do not know how many physicians scattered about the room.
We settled in and started to make small talk about the enormity of the Clinic, how much it had grown over our life times and the extent of change and development it brought to the neighborhood where it is situated along Euclid Avenue.
The walk while pushing the wheel chair from the parking garage across the street and through the Crile building had helped to dissipate the mornings stress buildup caused by the earlier irritation and repression of same.
While we waited we discussed books we were reading and tips on how to pass the time while waiting. Several times I saw her rapidly blink her eyes the same way our father had done when he was taken aback by errant conversational remarks. I realized that she not only shared some of his mannerisms but also his hyper-sensitivity. I made a note of that in my family mental archives that exists in my head.
We waited and talked about how her gastroenterologist had said that the surgeon would be very interested in her case since her form of cancer was so rare. I said something about hoping any suggestion regarding her having surgery would be based upon her health and wellness needs and not his research needs. That made her rapidly blink again.
We waited and watched while, ever so slowly, folks who had arrived before us were called by name to enter the inner sanctum where the busy nurses could be seen scurrying about and physicians strolled into and out of examination rooms.
We waited and talked about how we were glad to have been able to schedule both appointments on the same day only a few hours apart since getting up and out was becoming such a chore for her. We discussed how it is probably smart to get a referral to another specialist from the primary care physician we were scheduled to see soon after the appointment we were presently waiting for.
We waited and discussed where and what we might be able to enjoy for lunch since her appetite and tastes had begun to change, and her ability to walk was increasingly compromised. I shared some fig newtons with her that I learned from ‘mommy days’ to keep on hand when waiting is part of the days planned activities.
We waited and talked about whether or not she might be seeing a surgeon too soon, since she perhaps might want to get a second opinion about what the mass might be, and since she did not yet have an official primary care physician she probably would not be able to get a second opinion from a Clinic affiliated physician.
We shared sentiments about what a complicated mess the health care system in the USA had become and how glad we were to not have to be caught up in it often.
We waited some more and began to wonder if we would be able to even keep the second appointment since we had by then been waiting over an hour and a half!
We eventually agreed that we might as well keep the second appointment and call at a later time to reschedule the appointment that clearly was not going to be kept without costing us the second. She said she would call later to reschedule with the surgeon, who upon second thought might be better left avoided for the time being, anyway.