My parents have always told me, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” I have always hated this saying.
I am not naturally inclined toward “squeakiness.” I prefer to stay quiet and have faith that people and things will pull through given a little time and patience. So most times they tell me that I need to be “squeaky” in order to make things happen, I secretly hate the saying to myself, say “that’s not really true in this situation,” and stay quiet.
I’m not sure why I decided to go into journalism with this philosophy… but I did, and I worked at my high school and college newspapers as well as several professional reporting jobs without having to ever get too squeaky. By squeaky, I think what I mean is calling or emailing repeatedly, leaving a ton of messages, yelling, getting emotional, or just being generally annoying.
I have noticed, though, the further I move into this cancer diagnosis and into adulthood, that my parents might be right. Cancer isn’t for the quiet.
Today is a perfect example.
I still have a pleural effusion. This accumulation of fluid around my right lung started when I had my surgery last February and has continued and continued and continued to now, despite near-daily draining through my chest catheter, a surgery in October that didn’t work, overall improved health, and steroids. Well, maybe the steroids will start working. The jury is still out. It causes me constant pain and discomfort and the longer I have it, the more I hate it. But this post is not about how much I hate my pleural effusion and wish it would go away so I can live a normal life.
Managing my pleural effusion and chest catheter and draining make me dependent on vacuum bottles (that cost an arm and a leg) that I have to get from a medical supply company. I have been doing this for 10 months, so I have a pretty good idea by now of how long I have to spend on hold to order the bottles and how long it takes to get them once I do this. Long story short, this time, the company failed and by this morning, the supplies still hadn’t shipped and I was out of bottles. Not wanting to go another day or night with pain, shortness of breath, and general discomfort, I decided to be a little squeaky.
I asked to speak to the supervisor. The supervisor said the bottles would ship today and that she would arrange a second shipment so I wouldn’t have to call back. This meant I would still have to go at least another day without draining. She was also just a little too unsympathetic, acting like she was shipping out an impulse purchase from Amazon instead of my medically and quality-of-life necessary drainage bottles. She even asked how much volume I drain every night, and when I told her, she didn’t stop to think how uncomfortable it might be to have that much extra fluid around one’s lungs.
So, goaded by my mother, I got still squeakier. I showed up at the place where I got the drain placed and asked the front desk if they could help me. Much to my surprise, the nurse and the scheduler remembered me from last year and were very sympathetic. I didn’t even have to cry or yell or threaten to call my oncologist. They “found” a few bottles laying around. Made my day. Then they called the company and complained, again, for me and I got the direct number of another supervisor and the assurance that I would be helped immediately if I ever had this problem again.
I think the moral of the story is, I have to speak up. I don’t have to necessarily be super annoying or angry if I want to see results, but I have to say something. Even though I feel most of the time that the medical system is too unwieldy and disorganized for any staff member to have any incentive for being extra helpful, it happens sometimes. In fact, this week I have experienced extraordinary care from two different nurses in two different departments. My faith has been a little restored. Also, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.