Sunset after a summer storm over the Gulf of Mexico, taken last week off the coast of Florida. The scene appeared as a painting, fiery brush strokes of orange against the fading blue sky. The clouds shone with angelic light, reflecting on the silent depths of the ocean below.
Have you ever had what seemed like a great opportunity on it’s face, but something in your gut was gnawing at you and twisting you up inside? I’ve been contemplating just such a move for a couple weeks now, and the truth of the situation finally became apparent yesterday.
As you know if you’ve been following my blog, I am a chiropractor stuck in a job not at all related to chiropractic. I work in a hospital lab, which was what I did before my graduate degree. I took the job in 2007 while I was waiting to take my national boards in 2008. I needed the money, so I decided that it made sense to do the lab thing for 2 years, save money, and then open my own practice.
Well, that was obviously 7 years ago, and so much bad shit has happened in that interval that I’m beginning to wonder if I was someone truly offensive in a previous life, like Hitler, or Justin Bieber. Is this the payback? Hmmm.
Also, I have what I like to call the “zero boundaries personality”. Once I get stuck doing something for a period of time, it becomes a habit. Even if it’s miserable, like, I don’t know, sliding down a razor blade into a pool of alcohol, I continue to do it, year in and year out. Familiar misery is always better than the cold, dark alley at the corner of Risk and Change, right?
Now, what I just said kind of even blows my mind. If I get into a really horrible, life-threatening new situation, like cancer, I’m a trooper. I will step out into the unknown, guns blazing, and win a medal for bravery every time. But give me something terrifying like changing jobs, I’m a bowl of gutless jello. Can’t do it; wouldn’t be prudent. I want to kick myself in the ass sometimes.
So, I’ve been talking to a very successful established chiropractor about the possibility of joining his practice as an associate. It was kind of amusing, actually, because I turned him down initially and he pursued me. It felt almost scandalous, like being wooed by a potential lover.
He took me to lunch twice, he brought me to his office and let me use his shiny machines. He said he was so excited about us working together and potentially selling his practice to me when he retires in 10 years. I admit it. I was basking in the attention.
However, I was also curious as to why he was so enthused about little old me. After all, I have next to zero real-world business experience, and my tiny home office wouldn’t really even be called a “practice” in most circles. The IRS laughs every year when I send in my business tax forms.
But, I am smart and I have a pretty good personality, so I thought maybe I had charmed him into thinking we would be great together. Also, his wife just finished treatment for stage 4 ovarian cancer, so I think he could relate to me.
It was all moving like a train on rails until we started talking money. I made the mistake of telling him what I earn part time at the lab, and he quickly jumped all over that as a full time base salary for our arrangement. He said I had the potential to earn a bonus as well, but when I pressed him on the amount, it was still going to be about $15,000 less than what I could make now.
I really agonized over this decision for days and days, to the point where I couldn’t eat and felt knots in my stomach much of the time. I had to weigh the vast amount of knowledge I could get from him against a substantial pay cut, at least the first year.
Meanwhile, once the salary figure was on the table, the chiropractor went from a “no hurry” attitude to a bum’s rush. He was e-mailing daily about taking new photos for the office to include me, doing training courses, etc. It’s as if he thought he had already hired me.
I couldn’t decide, so I found an associate who had worked for him previously and called him. He was very gracious in telling me that his experience with this man wasn’t “super positive”. He said that the chiropractor was extremely “profit-driven” and that I would be a source of income for him. He felt that he had gone into the arrangement expecting one thing and that it had turned out to be something very different. He couldn’t make the money he felt he deserved there.
Not being one to judge immediately, I decided to write a long e-mail to the chiropractor outlining some of my concerns. It was honest but respectful. I told him that I would love to find a long-term opportunity and that I felt he had a lot to teach me, but that I couldn’t justify the move at that salary without more opportunity for bonuses. I also wanted to get some basic answers, like how many patients I would be expected to see, what my marketing obligations would be, what kind of hours would be required, etc. I hit send and waited.
I didn’t hear anything until the next night at almost 10 pm. I then got an e-mail with the subject line “Thanks for your interest!”. Not a good start. He told me that he had enjoyed getting to know me and that I was a delightful person, but he felt that it wasn’t the right time to work together. He signed, “Dr. R*****”, when all the previous correspondence had ended with just his first name.
I was really surprised. I expected a counter-offer, a sit-down meeting, something, since he had already offered me the job. But the curtain was removed, and the great and powerful Oz was revealed. He had only been interested in me because he thought I would work for nothing, apparently. That kind of stings. I hate to think about it, but I really hope he didn’t see the cancer thing as a vulnerability, thinking that it would make me more likely to accept his offer.
So, I’m back to the drawing board, looking for the next big opportunity. I did find something positive in this whole experience, though. There was a time not too long ago that I would have caved and just said “Ok, sure, I’ll be glad to work for that. And, please, let me wash your car and take your kids to school.” I valued myself enough to question what didn’t seem right, even if it meant not getting the job. And that is a very good sign.
So I had a rather unconventional 4th of July weekend. It started out in the usual way with a spectacular fireworks show Friday night over the lake. Saturday, we were invited to a friend’s lawn party. And that’s when things started to go downhill, literally.
All of the party guests were supposed to bring a dish, so I decided to try out a brand new vegan blackberry cobbler recipe. We have a huge wild blackberry bush behind the fence in the backyard, and it has been bursting with fruit this past week.
The recipe called for 3 cups of berries, and as I measured out the batch my husband had picked earlier, I was a cup short. I went outside to see if I could round up some more ripe berries, but all of those at eye level had already been taken. I asked my husband to bring me the ladder from the garage so I could reach the top of the bush where many more fine specimens were sitting. (Insert dramatic music here)
If you’ve ever picked blackberries, you know what a chore it is. Those little boogers are protected by thorns about half an inch long all over the branches. It is a labor of love. Well, I decided it would be easier just to lean the ladder against the fence than to open it. After all, it’s a fence; it wasn’t going to fall over.
Just as I climbed to the top rung of the six foot ladder, I had a fleeting thought. “This is probably not a good idea; it feels a little…” Game over. Evidently, I forgot those two semesters of college physics, where I learned about the fulcrum. When I put all my weight on the top of the ladder, the bottom flew out from beneath me. I was catapulted like a circus act head first over the fence.
It happened so fast that I didn’t even have a chance to brace the fall with my hands. I landed on my forehead, twisted grotesquely on my neck, and landed on my back. My first thought was that I might be paralyzed. I wiggled my fingers and toes. Good sign. My next thought was that it hurt like hell, my arms and legs pinned in place by the thorns sticking through my skin.
My husband sprinted into the garage to get the clippers and then fought the thick brush to get to me. I couldn’t move for the brambles, and he literally had to cut me out of the bush. I was finally able to stand and survey the damage. My arms, legs, and hands were scraped up and my face was bruised and bleeding, but I thanked God in that moment for letting me walk away. My husband told me later that I landed a foot away from a large rock.
I think there was a lesson in that fall, besides the obvious ladder safety review. We get so caught up as cancer survivors in doing all the right things to prevent a recurrence. If we can only eat the right foods, take the right supplements, do the right amount of exercise, everything will be ok. I realized Saturday that my life, anyone’s life, can be over in an instant, cancer or no cancer. Maybe we should spend less time worrying and more time savoring each day, doing things we love with people who matter.
As for me, I’m pretty stiff, but I saw the chiropractor today, so hopefully my neck will be on straight again soon. I’m covering my face pretty well with makeup so I don’t look like I’m a battered woman.
By the way, I laid down after the great blackberry caper for about 20 minutes with ice on my head and neck. And then I made that damned cobbler! And it rocked.
I’ve been a very bad blogger lately. It seems like the warm summer days are flying by in a blur of activity, one melting into the next. I’m surprised each night to find that I’ve barely had time to sit down before bedtime rolls around. And I’ve been working more, somehow, instead of less. Things on that front are very stressful and insanely busy due to staff shortages.
On a happier note, I have managed to squeeze in some scenic and interesting family day trips. The photos you see were taken at Linville Caverns, which is inside a mountain about 2 hours northeast of Asheville, NC. These are a few of the formations that have been created by water pressure over eons. The colors are the product of various minerals and semi-precious gems.
The caverns actually have 3 levels, but the public is only allowed to tour a small portion that has been stabilized. There is a “bottomless pool” that runs beneath the structure. Apparently, scientists have tried to measure it’s depth on several occasions using various tools, but they have yet to find the bottom. A nifty part of the tour involves having visitors wiggle their fingers in front of their eyes and then turning off all the lights. This is said to be one of only two places where one can experience the complete absence of light, the other being the bottom of the ocean.
I think they were mistaken, however. The third place would be a hospital lab:)
As you recall, I told you about my witty repartee with the plastic surgeon in yesterday’s boob update. At today’s post-op appointment he was in rare form.
First, I have to say that I feel so much better than when I had the tissue expanders inserted in March. I’m almost scared that I’m headed for some colossal steroid crash and burn, and this is the calm before the storm. I’m just much sleepier today, so let’s hope that this is the extent of it.
There is, however, one very odd remnant of the surgical experience. I have a fat lip. Just on the right side. Now, I work beneath the OR floor, and let me tell you, it sometimes sounds like they’re tossing midgets up there for amusement. Bam! Crash! I’d love to be a fly on the wall some days.
So, when I graced Dr. Boob’s office this morning, neatly coiffed of course, I wanted to ask him what in the world had gone on the day before.
Me: So, take a look at this lip. Do you know what happened while I was under?
Dr. Boob: You probably bit your lip next to the trach tube, that’s all. (Really! that’s all you’ve got? Quid pro quo, Dr., quid pro quo)
Me: (sure that he was off his game and it would be an easy victory today) I’m thinking that the anesthesia dude, Dr. Hopper, Harry Potter, whatever his name was, got miffed when I told him they screwed up last time. He probably smacked me around a little.
Dr. Boob: Nope. He only hit you lightly, not enough to leave a mark. I saw it.
Me: (he’s back) You mean, you saw me being physically abused and you just stood by and let it happen?
Dr. Boob: Well, I was kind of tied up doing surgery.
Me: I understand, but the least you can do is show me some sympathy now. (I put on my best puppy dog face)
Dr. Boob: (with a totally straight face) Do you know where you find sympathy in the dictionary?
Me: (feeling victory slipping away) No, where?
Dr. Boob: Somewhere between “shit” and “syphillis”.
Dammit! Quid pro quo. It puts the lotion on it’s fat lip, or it gets the hose again.
If it looks like I’m slightly off-kilter in this picture, it’s merely a temporary unevenness caused by the drugs, making it somewhat difficult to stand in place without listing to one side (and to make sense, according to the number of times I’ve had to re- type words).
This morning I had surgery to exchange my breast tissue expanders for the permanent implants which will call my chest home. This will be almost the last step in a breast cancer treatment odyssey that began last March. The surgery itself lasted only an hour and a half, but I had to be there as the roosters were standing in line at Starbucks, getting coffee before crowing.
Nothing to eat or drink after midnight, blah, blah, blah. I didn’t eat, but I did have a few slugs of java and a little water. I know, I know. Poor listening skills. I was simply trying to avoid the all-out tactical assault that was involved in starting my I.V. last time due to dehydration. I have to say that went stunningly better this go round.
I had to bring my new front-zip sports bra into the OR with me so they could
bend my arms backwards and jam me into it lovingly slip me into it to hold the new cleavage down and reduce swelling. My post-op appointment is tomorrow morning, and you better believe I’ll fix my hair before I see the doctor this time.
When I came in after my last surgery, he asked “Did you even comb your hair today?” Now, mind you that I had been throwing up for the previous 24 hours due to anesthesia, and he was really lucky I made it at all. But Dr. Boob is a character, and I really love his smart-ass dry sense of humor (perhaps because I share it), so I had to take it in stride.
Here’s an example of an exchange we had yesterday:
Me: I think your medical assistant screwed up. She said something about a bilateral testicular implant.
Dr. Boob: Yes. We’re throwing that in as a promotion.
Me: (reflecting for a moment) Well, I have always felt like a man trapped in a woman’s body.
Dr. Boob: And now we’ll be making that a reality for you.
And this is how we roll on any given day. It’s a game to see who has to think longer before replying.
Right now, I’m feeling about a thousand percent better than after my last surgery, but it realize that part of that is the rather large dose of steroids they gave me through my I.V. I brought my anesthesia records with me so we could go over them and come up with a better game plan for nausea. I got Emend, like they give before chemo, and a Scopolamine patch behind the ear. So far, so good. Always be your own best advocate!
Apparently, from what I’ve read about implant reconstruction, there is a “drop and fluff” period of a few weeks, which sounds like you brought some dirty towels to the dry cleaners. What this means is that your implants will settle and look fuller as they begin to heal.
It’s truly anyone’s guess as to what size you will end up when all is said and done, as there are so many variables of chest width, body type, height, etc. Dr. Boob told me to go by the tissue expander on the non-radiated side, so I hope that’s what I get in this odd box of Cracker Jack boobs. All I can say is that I was fitting into a 34D before surgery, and that’s the size of the sports bra you see.
I’ll post some pics as the “drop and fluff” progresses. As for now, I have to go was my hair and style my hair so I’ll be ready for tomorrow!
I was privileged to witness an unexpected and very touching seen at work today. It was one of those moments that catches you off guard and makes you reflect deeply on your own life. It probably lasted no more than ten minutes, but I’ve thought about it all day.
As I was finishing up some last minute paperwork at my desk before heading home, the pathologist came into the office to talk to my co-worker, who is the pathology department supervisor. He is a lovely man with a thick Charleston drawl and a great sense of humor. I’ve always admired the fact that he is humble and easygoing. Many doctors forget that they are human after a few years in practice.
The two talked shop for a few minutes and then the conversation turned to family. Dr. P told her that his son, who is the youngest of 4 children, will soon be moving to Austin, Texas with his girlfriend. He said it would be the first time that his children were so far away from him; he’s always had at least one at home. My co-worker suggested that it might be a nice break for him and his wife to be carefree. What he said next shocked and saddened me.
“No, I think it’ll be sad and I’ll miss them” he began. “I realize now that I didn’t spend enough time with the kids. I’ve always been so busy. Between work and doing the things I wanted to do alone, I really screwed up…bad.”
I was purposely eavesdropping now, riveted by his poignant honesty.
He put his head in his hands for a moment, then continued. “You think that you’re kids are going to be there forever because that’s your life. There’s plenty of time later. Then, one morning you wake up, and they’re grown. And they’re busy doing their own thing that no longer includes you.”
He hesitated, perhaps realizing how much of himself he had revealed, and tried to lighten the mood. “Oh well, I guess all parents wish that they had done something differently at times.”
And then it was over. My co-worker excused herself and Dr. P followed on her heels. I was left sitting in my chair, alone in the office, to ponder the weight of his words. I feel like I spend a good amount of time with my kids, but there is room for improvement. Sometimes we’re physically in the same house, but we’re definitely not together. Instead, we’re all engrossed in our individual electronic devices, our solitary pursuits. I need to make a conscious effort to get everybody “unplugged” more often and to find things we can do to make happy memories.
The universe has a funny way of getting just the right message to us when we need it, if we’re willing to listen. We only get one shot to be parents. With all of the frustrations, expenses, and heartaches that our kids bring, there is no greater love in life. And there is no greater loss than knowing that you have squandered an opportunity that will never come again.