For five fury filled months I dreamt about what I’d say to this woman when I saw her again.
I’d lay in bed in the cold, quiet part of the night and compose the complaint I was going to lodge with the Health Professions Council. I held her image close the better to know my enemy. She was my Wicked Witch of the West, my Nurse Ratched, my Cersei Lanaster. I seethed and ranted and held my sparkling, diamond-hard outrage close.
Her behaviour in those early days of Joshua’s diagnosis became cannon – she was the villain of the story. She was the one who sent us home with no treatment plan and no hope. When she heard we were pursuing treatment with another oncologist she let it be known that we were making a bad decision, a decision that wasn’t in Joshua’s best interest, a decision that bordered on abuse.
Over the months we’ve come to realise that she simply didn’t know how to treat a kid fighting a geriatric cancer. Her crime wasn’t that she didn’t know. Her crime was that she didn’t bother to find out. She made finding out a crime.
So I planned and I obsessed. Not today, I fantasized, but one day. One day she’d experience the full fury of my wrath. She’d crumble and snivel and prostrate herself before my towering rage. I, in turn, would rise up merciless and cruel and hard and unyielding. I’d destroy her and her sense of hope in the future in exactly the same way she destroyed mine. No other kid would go home hopeless and afraid.
Yesterday I got my chance.
Without a knock, the door to Joshua’s room opened. I had a smile at the ready for who I was expecting: Dean, the anaesthetist. Dean generally arrived, rushing, with the sense of being slightly late and clad in motor-cycle leathers. He brought with with him a haze of pure, reassuring energy. He teased Josh with the gentle, sparkle-in-the-eyes fun of man who gets long with kids. The personification of safety.
But it wasn’t Dean.
“I saw Joshua was here and I thought I’d pop in an see how he’s doing.”
My smiled faded. Here she was. She reminded me of a sparrow, all jerky movements and dowdy plumage. For a second I was silent. Gobsmacked.
“How are you doing Joshua?” She asked.
“Fine.” Josh answered.
“Um, yes, we are here for Yttrium 90 treatment.” I added.
“That’ll be some special treatment, yes?” It was obvious she didn’t remember that she’d told us this treatment didn’t exist in the country, let alone in the hospital she worked from.
Without waiting for an answer she turned to the door. She left with the half smile of someone who had done her duty. Been polite. On with her day. Bustle, bustle. Bustle.
Oblivious to the battle between anger and good manners that raged behind her.
“Dreadful woman.” Shannon said.
And, in the blink of an eye my fury melted and along with it the power she held. This was no worthy adversary. Just a doctor, unaware of the damage she had caused.
Penny. I can’t believe this that I am in tears reading your story.
I had the same experience & was told to not waste my money go to hospice. This broke me down so badly that it still hurts & I have wanted to take a copy of doctors oath for him to read what he signed. He even told my doctor to not waste his time with him but my doctor said my oath stands & only give up when he is gone & so he did. We went to another oncologist in Rosebank & staff who were so kind & patient with us. They treated him so well but we knew there was no cure as it had spread to liver, lymph, lung & rectum but they gave him 6 months more which was hard but so cherished.
I have forgiven but cannot forget & still don’t know how I will ever close that day even though it’s been 10 years now.
Another one that i have bad memories where it all started:
First he went to Linksfield where they did byopsy & put a stent as primary was rectum cancer that just made it worse & he kept getting weaker & they discharged him so weak & sick that I took him straight to 4 ways to my specialist physician who admitted him again & started to help him. That Friday hubby & family thought he would not make the night but he did & got to see our 2 sons from UK came over. As sick as I was with my kidneys which was put aside to help hubby.
I don’t regret everything I did & tried to make him better & comfortable & stayed by his side till we parted.
It is a very hard & difficult journey you are going through but you are strong , brave & an amazing mother/woman.
Sending u lots of hugs & God’s blessing to the family and healing to Josh.
I am so sorry that you had such a traumatic. We have also ended up with an oncologist in Rosebank (Dr Van Eeden and Dr Rapaport) who gave us a 1%chance of success but took on Joshuas case anyway. They have been kind and encouraging and helped us so much.
Penny, every single word you share in this blog so resonates with me. The specialist who barked out to her assistant “Another Parkinsons, get the forms ready” while my father was sitting there with my mom, with no.knowledge yet of the diagnosis that would eventually, slowly kill him. The head nurse in ICU who got.my mother zipped into a body bag before we could say goodbye. It is simply not right. I also plotted my revenge, never carried out. Your writing is so powerful. Thank you.
Oh Bea – I am so horrified that you had to go through this. I have found such extremes of care in the journey some brilliant and some … Never, in all my years of working with ‘badly behaved’ managers did I experience anything close to the awfulness that exists in the medical profession.
My son has the same cancer as Josh. He was we when diagnosed. We had a similar situation with the first oncologist and hospital. When we questioned her she became defensive and had joined interest in collaborating. Very frustrating and scary. Hard to believe that some doctors are that way. So glad that Josh and my son have now found good, compassionate doctors to g I de them on this dreadful journey.
How old is you son, Kim and how is he doing? So hard to see your kid face this beast.