22 Nov Patient Experience: The Story Of Club Membership
As most of you are well aware, my father passed away just close to 10 days ago from a quick 6 week battle with pancreatic cancer.
Since that time I have been in overdrive mode to make sure my mother is okay, I maintain my level of work and expertise, and to continue to impact as many patients as possible. At least that was my excuse to stay busy and not have to sit down, take it all, and to face the fact that my father is no longer walking this earth.
Yesterday, I worked a full day and then had a business dinner with a few of the medical directors and administrative executives with a major cancer center in the US. Their plane happened to be delayed so our dinner was moved from 8pm to almost 9pm.
When they arrived, I put on a smile, shook hands, introduced myself, and we conversed back and forth for the next two hours. I asked a lot of questions to help put me in their shoes. To understand their challenges, their pain points, and to begin to paint a picture of what their story is on a day to day basis, and how I may be able to impact it in a small way to add some more happiness and satisfaction to their story of taking care of patients.
At the end of dinner, we shook hands once again, said our good byes, and went to our respective rooms to get some rest before the next day of non-stop power points and discussions.
On my way back to my hotel, I was in the car driving, and a holiday song came on the radio. I was all alone, in a nice warm vehicle, wrapped in the blanket of the evening, and for some reason I went to call my father. As I began to dial the number, I realized that I can’t call him, he has left, and there is no one on the other end to pick up. I hung up.
I went to my voice mail and I played the last message that my father left for me on my own voicemail. He called me late on the evening of October 5th, to wish me a happy birthday and to tell me that he was feeling a bit better, was getting out of the house for a bit, and that he loved me. I replayed the message 3x.
I then began to sob uncontrollably. I cried and fired to the point where it was almost impossible for me to see clearly. I pulled off the interstate, dried my eyes, placed my glasses back onto my face, and began the trek back to my hotel.
I arrived to my room. I got ready for bed. I then revised my talk for the next day, and didn’t go to bed until about 1:30-2am in the morning. Set my clock for 5am.
To my surprise, the phone goes off, I jump up, look at it, and it is the phone ringing. It is 7:38am. I am supposed to be talking. I answer the phone, they ask where I am, and I say I will be there shortly. A ride that usually takes me 20 minutes only takes me 20 minutes to get dressed, ready, and to arrive.
The team was gracious enough to rearrange the day a bit and allow me to fit in my portion of the discussion. It went over without any issued, and was actually viewed as a large success.
At one of the breaks I apologized to the head physician that I was late, overslept, and that I was sorry. I told him that I think it had to do with the fact that I have been doing everything I can to block out the passing of my father. He shared with me his own loss a few months prior with his mother from lung cancer. He were able to connect on a level that spoke the same language.
As I was about to leave for the day, I had to fess up to the internal team as well. I apologized, said I owned my mistake, and that there is no excuse for being late in this type of situation. They told me not to worry, we accomplished what was needed, and my discussion helped to tell a story about cancer in a way that not many others have the ability to do.
Most of all they told me to go home, to rest, and to grieve.
I walked out the front doors, began to sob, and arrived at my car. I sat in the front seat and continued to cry. I think I sat there and cried for about 30 minutes. I cried to the point of my eyes hurting.
During my 2 hour drive home I called my best friend and told him the story. He told me not to worry. He told me that I did what I do best. I tell stories. I connect with people. I discuss cancer in a way that impacts and makes people want to know more, to do more, and to think about problems and challenges in new ways.
I hung up and cried once more.
I then thought to myself that my father is looking down smiling at me. He is proud of his legacy of being a story teller living on inside of me. He is happy that I am fortunate to have a profession that allows me to tell stories, to get paid for my passion, and to use my wisdom to impact the lives of so many other people.
I felt my father hugging me. I felt warmth that I could share something so personal and deep and that I could connect with another individual in a different manner.
I cried a lot today. I am beginning to accept that I am now an official card carrying member to the “My Father Died Club.” I may not want to carry the card, but it is mine to carry.
Today I told a story that allowed me to connect; connect with a person, and to connect with my own grief.
What will your story be?