I travel for work. A lot. I meet many people and as those that know me will tell you, I talk to as many as I possibly can. I love hearing stranger’s stories, and am always hoping to learn new things and make new friends. Last week, I struck up a conversation with a woman at an airport who was looking like she could use an open ear. We were both waiting for the same flight, and worrying about a missed connection in the next city. It turns out she was travelling to tell her daughter that she has been battling breast cancer for over a year, and her outcome was not looking good.
Her reason for not telling her daughter sooner, or over the phone, was that her only daughter is in her last year of college, and she was afraid that the news would cause her daughter to quit school to care for her. As a mother, her need for her daughter to be successful was more important to her than anything going on in her life at that moment.
We talked about how the diagnosis was missed for well over a year. Her original complaint was pain from her breast radiating to under her arm. First it was thought that she had pulled a muscle, but when rest and physical therapy did not resolve the pain, she was sent for imaging. Despite a mass being visible on mammography and ultrasound, her physician said ‘it wasn’t solid and didn’t look cancerous’. Over a year of increasing pain and fatigue and numerous visits to different doctors, she had a breast MR. With this study, cancer was found in both breasts and had invaded her lymph nodes. Further studies showed metastasis outside of her breasts. She was thankful for the imaging studies that found her cancer. She was thankful for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and her ability to maintain insurance throughout the first round of treatments, but frustrated at her perception that NO ONE would listen to her when she was telling them something was wrong.
We talked about the lengths mothers go to protect their children. We talked about how proud we were of our daughters. We hugged and cried together, and exchanged email addresses. I told her my work brings me into contact with some resources that may be of assistance to her in the near future.
Our healthcare system is broken. A daughter will lose her mother, she will never see her daughter be married, or her grandchildren be born. The world is losing a kind, compassionate woman who put herself into the hands of medical professionals who failed her at every turn.
I have no closing statement, just a heavy heart and a new friend who I hope will be around to share her story with others. Peace.