I’ve done a lot of scary things in my life.
I’ve fought cancer.
I’ve fought covid-19.
I’ve walked on stage in front of thousands of people. I’ve starred in plays and musicals. I’ve spoken to audiences from as small as 15 to upwards of 3000 people. I’ve done local and national interviews. I have even sung at two weddings.
All in all I have done some scary things. I have worked on my craft in classes that brought me to my knees, to tears, to rage and to laughter.
Today I got scared.
It steamrolled over me and I couldn’t handle it. Admitting that and accepting help was important. Also Lina, my phlebotomist, was a dream and kind to me about it. Totally patient and relaxed and helpful. Here is what happened…
I sat down for one more blood test. Ok to be perfectly honest, 5 blood tests for my internist and 21 for my complimentary medicine doctor.
26 vials of blood to be taken and I managed five. I will divide the next group into sections most likely because I can’t do it all at once. And that’s OK. I get to treat myself kindly and I don’t need to be macho about it. But back when I was a new cancer survivor(I now have over 11 years of that title) I was macho. That would have been a walk in the park. However it might have been partially due to what I was doing to distract myself.
I was reading the description of the big project for the science class I’m taking and I got scared.
My negative interject was yowling, “What if I can’t handle the science part of it? I know how to talk to people and that’s part of this class but what if I can’t do the rest of the project? What about an annotated bibliography? A WHAT???? or the powerpoint that ends the project…OMG I have only done one and my oldest helped me figure out how to do that.
Quite honestly taking a science class geared to teaching doctors and nurses how to talk to patients seemed like a good fit for me.
But here’s the thing….
after watching Marie Forleo’s video about fear… I don’t think I am scared. I just needed to reframe the class for myself. It is a credit I need but that was overwhelming me so I changed my trajectory…
What if the whole reason… what if the entire reason I am in this class is so that one of these people who is a medical professional talks to one person differently because of what I present.
I am not a scientist.
I am a survivor and I come from that perspective. I know what it’s like to sit in that chair and hear those words you never want to hear.
That is the perspective I bring to this class and it is not going to be a scientist’s perspective.
I’m going to try and learn the science. But I am not that person. I am not going to be a nurse or a doctor. But I am always going to be a survivor and I am always going to be capable of telling my story and helping someone because of it.
So then I go back and I think about The Big C -a tv show, now on prime starring Laura Linney. Her character was asked by her oncologist to speak to a class and they started asking her technical questions and she couldn’t answer them. Finally she walked up to a person in the front row and shut his computer and she said (I am paraphrasing) “look at me. I am the patient and you do not get to look at me like you’re scared. Look at me like you can help because I’m asking you to. I don’t need someone to explain to me why my blood or something is not working the right way. I just wanna know how to fix it. I want to know if I’m gonna die or I’m going to live. “
The full transcript is below and I have no idea who wrote it. I hope the writer doesn’t ming if I borrow it because it is so good and should be in every class in med school.
I am no longer scared about this class because if I help one person talk to one person and I pass it, everything gets better.
I can’t make this point more strongly but it is so important:
if you’re in med school or you’re a nurse or you’re a doctor for one second let go of the thing that makes you feel safe– let go of the science when you’re talking to a newly diagnosed person and deal with the person in front of you.
How would you like to be spoken to? How safe do you need to feel? You need a doctor who is Superman and says I have a plan and I can fix this with you.
I am taking this class for the credit but maybe, just maybe, I get to help someone too.
Because I’ve been the person diagnosed and I’ve spoken to people newly diagnosed and I have touched so many.
My friend Christie called me “the godmother of calm and reason” Such a high complement I want it on a sign in front of me.
Please let me be that in this class. Please let me be a light to change the way some doctors and nurses talk to patients.
I transcribed this and if the writer contacts me through my email or insta or facebook I will gladly give him credit…
Doctor: As a cancer patient what advice would you give young doctors?
All students begin to type.
Cathy: Stop typing and look at me. Look at me. You need to look at your patients. Speak a language they understand not medical school textbook. And ask us how we really feel; not how our cancer feels. How we feel. Because we’re scared shitless. And when we tell you that don’t you dare look as scared as half of you do right now. You’re our saviors like it or not. Act like it. You hold our lives in your tippy typpy little hands. Spend time with us. More than just two minutes. Remember our names. Lee Fallon is a person not just a casualty of your trial. Oh and when things go wrong; when they go really wrong, hold our hand do not let go. There’s a chance you might be the last person we see on this earth. If that scares you then maybe you shouldn’t be cancer doctors.
Doctor: Let’s be a little more optimistic Mrs. Chambers.
Cathy: Don’t do that. Do not tell us how we should feel. We’re dying that’s how we feel.
Thank you for having me.
from The Big C : S 2 Ep 12 The Darkest Day Creator: Darlene Hunt Writing credits: Jenny Bicks, Darlene Hunt and Hilly Hicks Jr. (according to the DVD and thank you Scott Varengo)