So three years after my Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer, my Mom gets the same diagnosis. The benefit for her is overall she is in better health. If you didn’t know she had cancer, you would never guess she was sick.
As you might imagine, being on the patient side of healthcare makes this an interesting experience for me. Not only am I a concerned daughter who is serving as an advocate and translator to her mother and family members, I am a healthcare marketing professional who is interested in how the patient and family experience – the system in general – works. Because of this unique perspective, I’ve decided to write about our journey through her cancer treatments.
My accounts will not be about her care or perceived quality of care. I am biased and I know it. Instead, it will be my observations of what the system looks like when a marketing professional is put into the situation as a patient. I will share observations about our experiences in the clinic(s), communication, parking, the environment, wait times, etc. – the Patient Experience.
The following will be the only personal background I will share. I do this because I feel it necessary to understand the context, the chain of events that led us to this spot.
Her diagnosis was a shock to all of us. It was also unsettling since you often think of lung cancer being for smokers. She was not one (at least not in the last 50 years). We will likely never know the cause of her cancer.
So how does a healthy individual find out she has lung cancer? In this case, it was a chest x-ray that was read by a cardiologist. The chest x-ray was ordered due to a concern about shortness of breath combined with difficulty stabilizing her blood pressure. The natural assumption is something is amiss with the heart. Not in this case.
The mass in the lung was large enough to warrant an immediate referral to a pulmonologist for a CT-scan, followed by a biopsy. Based on the size of the mass, the pulmonologist was confident it was cancer. The question then became is there more? So a PET scan and MRI were ordered.
Results of the PET scan were not what we wanted to hear… the mass is protruding into the mediastinum. The MRI result was not much better. There is a very small spot in the brain – which may or may not be cancer.
Up to this point, I had not participated in the appointments with Mom. When the first appointments with the oncologists were scheduled, I made arrangements to be with her. I was concerned about more than just the fact that Mom had cancer. I was concerned we would have a repeat of what we all went through with my father’s cancer diagnosis. (Reading “My Why and How” will fill in the blanks and likely provide more clarity as to why I feel compelled to write about this journey.)
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