The Today Show has one of my favorite weatherman Al Roker who was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. As a familiar face on television, he has actively decided to educate the public and bring awareness. Mr. Roker’s doctor opted to do a biopsy. The pathology report showed an aggressive prostate cancer and he will need surgery.
Last November in 2019, I reported to my family physician with the VA a worrisome spot on my face under my eye. Being suspicious, I looked up the best surgical dermatologist in Seattle. In documented emails discussing back and forth almost begging my doctor , I requested this specialist. The only thing she offered was a picture taken of my face. In December of 2019 that photo of my skin lesion was read to be benign.
Again, I asked to have it taken off and I was made to feel like I wanted a face lift. This was very disturbing to me so I made a decision to go to a civilian surgeon. Unfortunately because of COVID, my surgery was not until July, 2020 and by this time the suspicious mole had grown four times its size since December of 2019. The good news was the specimen was taken to pathology to be read and I went home to heal.
For two months into the second week of September, I slowly mended. Never hearing from my doctor, I thought I dodged a bullet. Starting to receive my bills for this surgery I called the billing offices. I mentioned to the billing personnel never being notified of my pathology report. She stated staff would call. Soon my phone rang and the nurse gives me the shocking news. “I am sorry to say your path report was scanned into your chart and it was missed. You have cancer.”
Shockingly I responded, “You are kidding me, right. How could you guys do this?”
As I hung up my phone, the anger was setting in as I had to go back to square one with the VA and get the doctor I originally requested. It has taken the VA system another two months to get me into this specialist and finally on Monday I will have an extensive surgical procedure to clean out the cancer and work on getting clear margins with plastic surgery if needed.
As a highly energized advocate for myself, but falling through the cracks at every turn has become like PTSD. Their were a number of doctors involved in my cluster of poor care and a VA system that is slow and not conducive to timeliness. I am not writing this to blame anyone as that is apparent there is enough blame to go around. Rather this should be looked at as a system’s failure along with physician’s fatigue syndrome ( lack of a better term).
I do not know if this is a volume and processing issue in the VA system keeping up with the soldiers’ care, but this was important for me to share with you as it is something that we can and should do better.
Think of me next Monday as I have more surgery and thanks to Al Roker for being public. It has given me some courage to do the same about my cancer. The wounds I have carried throughout my life are deep, but it does not mean I should not share with my readers. I need you guys ever more praying and sending healing thoughts.