Cancer Providers Can Be Bad Eggs Too

August 24, 2020
Laura Yeager
Laura Yeager

As well as being a cancer blogger, Laura Yeager is a religious essayist and a mental health blogger. A graduate of The Writers’ Workshop at The University of Iowa, she teaches writing at Kent State University and Gotham Writers’ Workshop. Laura survived cancer twice.

If you encounter mistreatment by any of your cancer providers, do not be afraid to expose them. If they are hurting you, they could be hurting others.

Bad eggs come in all professions, even in the cancer world.

We are all conscious of the good work some cancer doctors, nurses and practitioners do. In fact, most of those in the fight against cancer are on that level of extraordinary. That is why I was taken aback when I encountered one who was not.

It was 2012. I was being treated for my first breast cancer. In total, my treatment plan included chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and radiation. I would also have to take tamoxifen for years after the fact. At the time when I encountered this awful man, I was doing several rounds of radiation.

The person in question was a radiation tech. He was a 40-ish male who would bother me only once, but that was enough.

Radiation was hard on me as it is, I imagine, on most. The skin of my right breast became a brilliant red color and was flaking off, as if I had the worst sunburn imaginable.

One day, as I was getting off the radiation table, the tech smirked while looking at my breast, “Now, you’re nice and crispy,” he said. Then, he chuckled.

The comment stabbed me like a butter knife. What had he just said? Wanting to get away from him, I quickly left the procedure room. While I was getting dressed in my street clothes in the changing room, I contemplated how sadistic he was. He seemed to enjoy causing people pain.

I tried to rationalize for him. Sure, his life was tedious, day after day, working with the public, getting people up on the table, adjusting the radiation equipment and then, pushing the appropriate buttons.What was a little joke?

But it was much more than a joke. It was a comment meant to hurt me.

I just wish I would have had the strength and the wisdom at the time to report the offender.

Unfortunately, cancer strips you of your power. Sometimes all you can do is get from appointment to appointment, from doctor to doctor. You do regain your strength, but it can take years.

Readers, if you encounter mistreatment by your cancer practitioners, do not be afraid to expose them. If they are hurting you, they are probably hurting others.

It is rare that we hear of this kind of harassment from cancer workers. They are mostly a wonderful, caring and selfless group. I celebrate this. For that one bad dude, I had a dozen other impeccable souls who nursed me along and helped me survive the disease. I owe them my life.

It is now 2020. Sometimes, it takes years to unpack the truth. That guy was a tormentor and I was his victim.

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