Sometimes something seems like a good idea, and then it seems like the worst idea ever.
I’ve been going to Moffitt in Tampa for all my cancer fun. It takes some time to get there and back. Every time I have an appointment I plan for a three hour minimum trip. I call it the three hour tour (if only it would end with me stranded on an island). I’ve been happy with my care there, minus a couple of hiccups and the very long time that it takes to get certain appointments.
That being said, when my oncologist at Moffitt suggested that I didn’t really have to drive there for chemo if I wanted to get the infusions somewhere in St. Pete, that sounded great. I could get my heart checked at Moffitt and get my port put in, then go to the oncologist in St. Pete who had previously been at Moffitt and now had her own practice. This all seemed like winning to me. Cutting my commute by two thirds sounded like a no-brainer.
As soon as I had the port placement scheduled I called the St. Pete office to schedule chemo. It doesn’t work like that, of course. First you have to get a consultation, and I couldn’t get that until a week after my port was put in. The first warning bell went off when the appointment setter said that it might be a week “or so” after the consultation before I could start chemo. This was due to checking with insurance, time it takes for meds to arrive once ordered, and available openings. I should have told her to forget it and I should have just called Moffitt. I want to get this over and done and move on. I did not call Moffitt. I just said: “Ok.” Sigh.
I waited for the consult, which was today. As I pulled up to the “cancer center” I began to feel like this was not the place for me. It’s in a sort of strip mall. When I walked in, every ounce of my intuition screamed “NO!” There were dirty (yes dirty, like scuff marks and smudges) walls. The chairs were older than the office chairs at my kids’ underfunded public school. The carpet was dingy, the “art” was mismatched and faded. Maybe that doesn’t sound so bad. Maybe I sound like I’ve got a case of the first word problems. Maybe I do. In my experience, though, environment is always a reflection of something, and that something is usually not good. I looked at that uncared for space and connected it to the care that would be given to me. Beyond that, as a chemo patient your immune system is a mess. You can get infections or illnesses so easily. It really should be the cleanest joint in town. There was a giant TV, though, constantly playing local news (cheerful as ever), so there’s that.
Being the nice midwestern girl that I am, I waited to see the doctor anyway. I thought that it was possible that she would be wonderful and thorough, and that the back of the office would be tidier. My blood was drawn and the girl did a great job, it was painless. Then I was led into an exam room. It looked the same as the waiting area, though cleaner. The doctor was lovely. Young, great hair, very professional attire that she probably got at Banana Republic or Ann Taylor. She mostly said the right things. She joined the practice 9 months ago. The doctor she joined has been there 25 years. I mentioned the environment of the office in what I think was a light hearted way, and she said that sometimes the crooked pictures on the walls distracted her while she talked with patients. “But,” she reflected, “the important thing is that our infusion area is comfortable, nice recliners.”
It didn’t look comfortable to me. It looked dark. It looked scary.
She introduced me to the nurse in charge of the scary room. The nurse didn’t even look at me. She just took that moment to tell the doctor that she wasn’t feeling well and list her symptoms.
At the desk as I was leaving the receptionist said that they would call me after my drugs had been approved, ordered and delivered. “If you don’t hear from us in a week or maybe a week and a half, give us a call.”
Say what? If I don’t hear from you? Should I be expecting you to just forget about me?
I replied that if I didn’t hear from them in a few days I would be calling, because I just wanted to get past this. I said it with my nice girl smile, and everyone smiled back.
I was already thinking that they wouldn’t need to order anything for me at all, I just had to settle it in my mind. I called someone who works in the oncology field and has been through this herself. We were 100% in sync. No chemo at this place, not for me.
I called Moffitt as soon as I got home. Hopefully I’ll get a call back tomorrow to schedule my chemo there. More three hour tours to come, but at least I know the care is good, the physicians have high standards, and someone does a good job tidying up at night.