async="src="/ Taking the Long Way Home: One tough week...

Saturday, February 15, 2014

One tough week...


Last week I found out one of my youngest patients, a 3 month old, was diagnosed with a malignant liver tumor. As a pediatric nurse practitioner, I work in a primary care clinic. Which means I see mostly healthy, normal, thriving children. This is only the second time in my career that I've had a patient diagnosed with cancer. What I know about this particular tumor is that it is fast growing. I saw her a month before the tumor was found. That visit was her 2 month well child checkup and there was no evidence of any tumor. She was gaining weight, growing, smiling...she looked absolutely sparkling.

Fast forward to last week and the discovery of the tumor. That news was bad enough, but when I went to the PICU to visit her parents, I was completely unprepared for the anger directed at me by the patient's mother. Her question to me, "are you sure you didn't feel anything?" was expected. I reassured her that I didn't, that her exam at her last visit with me was 100% normal; I also reminded her that these tumors can grow really fast. In fact, these particular tumors can double in size in 12 hours. She replied that someone told her the baby was most likely born with the tumor. I shook my head. The remainder of my visit with them was extremely uncomfortable. While the dad was very pleasant, the mom just kept staring at me. I felt like she was boring holes through me. I wrapped up the visit and went back to my office, where I started to cry.

Now, I'm not a crier. As a matter of fact, once I start, I can't stop. So crying isn't something I like to do. Fortunately for me, one of my partners, who has been practicing for years, took me in his arms and said all the right things. And I know in my heart of hearts that there was nothing I did wrong. I understand that this mom needs to be angry at someone. I know if I were in her shoes, I would too. It just doesn't feel great to be that person. Not great at all.

In addition to that, my father, who had minor surgery last week, had a major complication. My parents live in a small town and I continue to argue with them about where they receive their medical care. Let's face it, because I work in the medical profession, I don't have a great deal of faith in small town community hospitals. I can't help it. Last fall, my dad had quintuple bypass surgery. My mom wanted him to have the surgery at their local hospital and it was a tough conversation I had with them, to convince them to go to a major medical center in Chicago, to have the procedure done. He breezed through that major surgery with no complications. I hate to say I told you so, well, this time...I told you so. Yesterday my dad had to go back to the OR to have the complication taken care of. This did not make me happy. As a medical professional and a daughter, it is so hard to sit back and watch my dad go through this, when it most likely could have been avoided had the surgery been done elsewhere. Instead, I was subjected to my mom trying to sell me on this surgeon and defending him. It was so hard for me to sit back and watch this unfold, sit back and hold my tongue. 

credit: facebook.com/iruntodrink

So long story short, I have been hanging by a thread this week. I continued to run as always, but I didn't find that running was giving me a sense of peace like it usually does. While I ran, I did a lot of thinking. Sometimes that happens, but most runs, I just lose myself in the music. This week, even though I felt better shortly after my runs, the anxiety reappeared fairly quickly. I felt fatigued and sad most of the week.

On my day off, I went to my weekly crossfit session with my trainer and told her that I just wasn't feeling it this week. She told me that was too bad because she had some heavy lifting planned for me. I helped her load the plates on the bar and began deadlifts. In between sets, we talked about my week. Interestingly, I began to feel better. I thought I was done until she had me load a little more weight on the bar. "Just one rep", she told me.

I pulled that weight up to my hips and let it fall to the floor. You get to do that in crossfit. 150#!  It might sound corny but I felt so much better. The anxiety was gone. We moved onto the rest of the workout, and I came home, feeling like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. Literally! Who knew that weight lifting could do that for me?!

Or deadlifts!

I went to work yesterday with a new attitude. Still no anxiety. My medical assistant and I went up to see the baby. The mom was much less hostile towards me. The baby has received her chemo and so far looks good. She smiled at me, too! My dad had his surgery and is recovering. He says he feels much better. 

Tomorrow is a 12 miler. I plan on taking it long and slow. I'm hoping to just lose myself in my music. No thinking. I'm grateful the week ended on a positive note. I'm grateful the week's anxiety didn't pull me down. I know there's more to come in life...but for now, I'll take this moment of calm. We runners pride ourselves on mental toughness. What doesn't kill me makes me stronger, right? 


8 comments :

  1. Wow. Tough week for sure. That has to be so hard to have a mother's wrath directed at you that way. Very, very sad, I can't even imagine. Continued speedy recovery thoughts for your dad. Looks like we'll have a little snow to contend with tomorrow!

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    1. Thanks Marcia...glad the week is over, glad it ended on a relatively positive note, glad that anxiety went away! Moving on (both literally and figuratively!). I'd sure like to see winter come to an end, tho...

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  2. Ah, Wendy--tough week indeed! I'm so sorry that you had all that weight on your shoulders. But so glad that you are feeling better--talking, working out, writing--all cathartic. I hope both your dad and the little patient continue to improve.

    And I could totally relate to everything you were saying about your parents and their healthcare. My frustration with my parents is their seeming inability to question anything handed them by their doctors. They never advocate for themselves and I think sometimes you have to. But I also know this is a generational thing. I don't ever want to go back to live where they are, but I do wish I could help them with their healthcare.

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    1. Thanks! I just had a great 12 miler this morning, and yes, I got lost in my music. Felt good to sing along and not think too much!

      I agree with you about parents, it is definitely a generational thing. I just think it is a shame they don't take advantage of my expertise. It's like they can't let go of the fact that I'm their daughter--what do I know? Sigh.

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  3. Wow. That is one brutal week. I'm glad you got some heavy lifting done to lessen the load on your shoulders. And a run can always cure the worst heartache and worry. At least temporary to put things into perspective. I hear ya on parents and medical care. I'm in the medical field and question everything. My parents are of the mindset "well, the doctor said." Research, question and be your own advocate.

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    1. Thanks Angela! I just need to learn to let it go...but so hard when it is your mom and dad!

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  4. Oh, Wendy! I feel horrible that I didn't see this until now. What a tough week. I am so glad to hear your dad is doing better and your little patient seems to be doing well. I would have felt the same as you. You are one tough cookie and you always have your sh*t together. It's ok to cry and let it go. Keep your head up and keep being the amazing person you are. If you need a friend...I'm always around. I'll come up and run with you anytime.:)
    ...and I keep meaning to ask you. Are you training for something and I missed the announcement? You seem to be on a "plan". Just asking.

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    1. Aww, Karen...thanks for your kind words! I debated whether to even write about this, but it was such a hard week for me, it felt good to "talk" about it and my relationship with running. Once it thaws, let's plan a run together. I have Thursdays off, I can come by you and we can run along that beautiful river trail!

      I am planning on a half marathon in Florida in March! I am so excited about it. So, yes, I'm kind of training...you know me, I just throw a few long runs into the mix and wing it! I'm counting on my crossfit to carry me through...

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