Overcast skies and a light drizzle of rain followed Charlotte as she returned to the doctor’s office to find out the results of the needle biopsy of her left breast. So confident that the “white spot” on the mammogram film reflected a small deposit of benign (noncancerous) calcium deposits, she didn’t even consider asking any of her friends to come with her to this follow-up visit with the doctor. After having her weight and blood pressure recorded by one of the nurses, Dr. Hernandez joined Charlotte in the exam room. She sat on the stool across from Charlotte, opened her medical record, and not looking up from the page, said, “it looks like you have a cancer.” She went on to describe treatment options, and next steps, but all Charlotte could remember was “it looks like you have a cancer.”
She left the office in a daze, and as she walked through the parking lot to her car, she could feel a wave of hysteria working its way from her feet to her head. Charlotte tried to calm herself, and decided the best way to regroup was to go back to work and busy herself with the demands of her job as a dishwasher in a nearby restaurant. Now more than ever, she realized how much she relied on every dime she earned at the restaurant. If she has to undergo surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments, she was going to end up unemployed. Working as a dishwasher simply did not provide the kind of sick leave – paid or unpaid, needed to maintain employment while undergoing cancer treatments.