Medical Standard Time part II

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waitingroomatMDA.JPGBy Mike Snyder

Mike Snyder's cancer journey began with a sore left knee in the mid-1990s while living in Denver. After a variety of tests and minor surgery to correct the problem, he was diagnosed with a specific type of bone cancer called chondrosarcoma. Last spring, his doctor recommended that he switch to a hospice-type care because his tumors were growing too fast. It was an answer he couldn't accept.

After months of research, Snyder became a patient at MD Anderson and has been for more than a year now. Learn more about his experience on his blog

This is part II of yesterday's post, Medical Standard Time.

You can always tell when the phenomena I call Medical Standard Time has kicked in. It's 45 minutes past your scheduled time and you haven't been called yet. Everyone seems to be having a bad day, and the room is full of grumbles and sour expressions.

So what can you do about it without making yourself and the staff crazy?

First off, recognize and accept the idea that despite everyone's best efforts, delays and schedule mishaps do happen. Those delays are as frustrating to the folks who work at MD Anderson as they are to those of us being treated here. If you ask about the delay, remember the Golden Rule: A polite inquiry will get you a lot further than a belligerent, demanding diatribe.

I've found it's better to plan on tests taking a long time rather than hoping I'll be done quickly. For example, with CT scans you know you're going to spend a couple of hours drinking the barium mix and trying to keep it down. So why not bring a favorite book, magazine or e-book reader? Or follow your kids' lead and bring an MP3 player loaded with your favorite music.

Most of the time, I have my iPad with me. Besides being able to use the free Internet access that MD Anderson provides, I've loaded several e-books and my writing projects on it. With everything available, if I get tired of one activity, I can easily switch to something else.

Most waiting rooms have a variety of magazines and books available. Many of the clinics have pagers, similar to the ones restaurants use that will signal you when it's your turn. That way, you're not tied to a waiting room, and you're free to get a bite to eat or go for a walk to pass the time.

If you have family or friends waiting with you, encourage them to follow some of the same ideas. If your appointment is going to be especially long, MD Anderson has a great concierge service that can suggest some fun diversions for your family while you're having your scan. They're a fantastic resource, and it's free for patients and their families.

Finding support
Are you and your family having a tough time emotionally dealing with being at MD Anderson? That can make the waiting time for appointments and treatment even more difficult.

There's a wide variety of personal counseling services available including support groups, social workers and spiritual counselors from a variety of faiths and denominations.  

Talking to someone about your feelings can make a huge difference in how you handle your treatment, not to mention your family's feelings about your cancer. My family and I can tell you firsthand that it makes all the difference.  

Don't hesitate to ask for this kind of help when you need it. It's there to help us get through cancer treatment without feeling so alone and overwhelmed.

Adjusting expectations
Nobody -- patients, families or providers -- is happy when appointment delays happen. Delays mess up everyone's day. Rather than make a bad day worse, try to take it in stride and adjust your expectations accordingly. You'll make it easier on yourself and those around you.  

And while you're waiting, remember to thank the staff for the work they do. The ones I've met take it as personally as we do when a day goes good or bad. While many of them don't have cancer, they're dedicating themselves to helping us beat ours. The fact that we're usually working with the best in the business is worth the wait and a thank you.

I've often said it takes patience to be a patient. Nowhere is that more evident than when waiting for an appointment.

Try to think of it this way: We're here because we need the best treatment in the world to fight our cancer. When you consider our goal, the wait is definitely worth the time.

Read more posts by Mike Snyder

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