Updated: Mar 24, 2020
One of my favorite routines each morning was to nestle in my favorite sunroom chair, a cat on each armrest and a small dog snoring under my feet. I would read from the stack of spiritual books by my table side, all the while munching on cookies and drinking chocolate expresso coffee.
But this morning was different. I would soon be having my CT scans at St. John Westshore Hospital. And I was terrified.The full body scans would determine whether the cancer had spread beyond the breast and lymph nodes. If Stage 4, the battle would be tough. Secondly, I had a serious allergy to all forms of contrast dye and in a matter of a few hours, I would be injected. To add to my stress, the day before, the surgeon’s office had forgotten to call in the allergy medications to counter act any effects from the dye.
When I did receive the medications, the directions on the bottle were incorrect-they didn’t match what I was told during my appointment. Luckily, I had been paying attention. Had I followed them, my reaction would have been far worse-possibly deadly.
The surgeon immediately returned my call and had everything corrected and in place. She apologized and lamented not being able to write out her own prescriptions by hand, as everything was computerized and done by someone else. I knew it wasn’t her fault. As I was soon to find, a doctor is only as good as the people that surround them.
As I would learn during this journey, I was never alone. As I sat in my sunroom that morning, I felt guided to open to a “random” page in the book, The Life Letters, Courage to Rise, by Emma Grace. The first thing I saw were the words:
I remember texting that passage to friends and family. My sense of relief is hard to put in words. And so I marched forward into a day that would later spiral into chaos, only to ultimately land me onto the right path.
I did have an allergy to the contrast dye while at the hospital. In a panicked state, I ended up in their emergency room. Granted, it was a mild allergy and they didn’t seem to take me too seriously. I would later find that they labeled me with anxiety. Although the ER doctor gave me medication to calm down the allergy, the resident who discharged me didn’t tell me to take anything more. I was sent home with allergy meds I could take if I wanted to. No urgency. And with everything I had been though that day, I needed clear direction-not vagueness.
8 hours later the allergy medicine wore off and I suddenly I felt a sudden tightness in my throat, making it difficult to swallow. My body was still having reactions to the contrast dye. I remember the ER nurse from earlier that day telling me to go to the hospital if this happened again. I was scared that my throat was closing and Bill called the ambulance. So for the second time that day, I was whisked into the ER-this time, a Cleveland Clinic facility.
Truthfully, I had been questioning the care at St. John Westhore I had been receiving up to that point. The mistakes made by the surgeon’s office and now their emergency room, rang warning bells in my head. I hadn’t even started my cancer treatments. My family was worried and wanted me to get a second opinion. The signs were obvious, but I liked the surgeon and felt too overwhelmed to start over.
So that night, God stepped in.
That night, I met Dr. Judith Toski Welsh, the Medical Director at the Lakewood branch of the Cleveland Clinic Emergency Department. I was moved by her warmth and compassion. Dr. Welsh shared my concerns about the care I had been receiving and strongly suggested that I change to the Cleveland Clinic. She went out of her way to spend over 30 minutes on the phone working to book an appointment with a Cleveland Clinic breast surgeon. Dr. Welsh discharged me with medications to counteract the effects of the allergy, with no question whether or not they should be taken.
Small moments can change lives.
Most importantly, Dr. Welsh sent me home with a new direction. Because of her, everything changed in the way it was meant to. I switched my care to the Cleveland Clinic and would soon be meeting those pivotal to my healing journey.
But first things first- waiting for the results of my CT scans.