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The Nurse Card

The Blame Game: No One Wins This Fight

Published September 23, 2016 2:45 PM by Diane Goodman
Sheri* had awakened late; she knew it was going to be one of those Monday mornings even before the phone alarm failed to wake her. Her hair needed more than the toss of dry shampoo she gave it as she started a quick shower, and she fumbled with liquid soap as she temporarily froze. What was that, she thought? For a moment, blind panic raced through her mind like lightning as her fingers touched and grasped a hard pebble near her right axilla. Damn, damn, damn... this couldn't be what she thought it was. No way!

Sheri knew she was way overdue for her baseline mammogram. At 48, and childless, she was considered to be higher risk. Her aunt and one older sibling had already been diagnosed with breast cancer. As a nurse, she thought she understood the risk. Approximately 1 in 8 US women (12%), she knew, would develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. But this was her husband's fault, not hers!

They had experienced a difficult year as a couple. He had lost his job, so she had been working extra shifts and overtime, trying to keep them afloat during the recession. His insurance had been the better deal, but they let it lapse when he had been let go. COBRA was not in their budget if they were to keep the house. But hey, they were both healthy, right? It was temporary, they told themselves. They worked out, they tried to watch the carbs and cholesterol, and up until the last six months, things had been OK. Well, maybe not so OK. The fights over money had been bad, and the stress was through the roof. Now THIS!

Sheri decided not to tell him. She simmered and stewed inside, finally making it to work that Monday, but was late and her anger showed. By the end of the week, still angry but a bit calmer, she began to realize she was hurting no one but herself. What would one of her patients think if they were in this fix? This was her body and her responsibility! Assigning blame to someone else was another way of staying in denial. The lump was not going to disappear because she had experienced a difficult year; cancer does not pick and choose victims according to who is "good" and "bad." Cancer does not work on a scoreboard system, she thought. This isn't a game, and it definitely isn't half-time.    

Sheri told her husband that same day. Working together, they were able to COBRA his insurance and get diagnostic testing scheduled with a payment plan they could manage. The best news for Sheri was that the lump was benign. However, knowing her familial history, she scheduled further testing to determine BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation potential. She also understood that risk for breast cancer increases with age, so she would have to stay diligent.       

Sheri learned that the blame game helps no one in the long run. She wasted valuable time. In her case, that time was spent in useless anger, fear and frustration. But it could just as easily cost someone a life. No one wins a fight when casting blame or assigning fault.    

Breast cancer is a fight that shouldn't be fought alone. It is everyone's fight.

*name changed for anonymity

1 comments

I was one of those nurses who knew she was at higher risk because of mom with breast cancer, no children, etc... Went for regular mammograms since 36.  6 months after clear mammogram - Boom! Life comes to screeching halt- Stage 2 breast cancer- after chemo, surgery and radiation therapy-life starts up again. Lost my hair, lost my livelihood, lost my boyfriend and people who I thought were my friends. It can happen to you. Life is a struggle now. Take care of yourself. Insist on MRI and/or ultrasound if you have dense breasts.

Marie, Researxch October 5, 2016 1:40 PM

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About this Blog


    Diane M. Goodman, APRN, BC, CCRN, CNRN
    Occupation: Clinical Educator
    Setting: Advocate Condell Medical Center, Libertyville, Ill

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