Introduction to the Stortellers
Dawn's Story about Communication

Dawn is talking with Margaret, another Councilwoman before the Council meeting begins.

Dawn: I need to call my girls and have them come out and help me with my mother.

Margaret: Oh, that's right; you're going to be gone for a while.

Dawn: Yes, I start my treatment soon. Boy did I have a hard time with the doctor.

Margaret: Oh no. I didn't hear anything about that. What happened?

Dawn: Well, I had heard about this new way to do treatment for my type of breast cancer. I asked him about it and he just pretended he didn't even hear me.

Margaret: [giggling] Oh, I can see where this is going already.

Dawn: Oh yeah. He looks at me and just sees some Indian woman. He must think we're all stupid. Well, he won't make that mistake again.

Margaret: [laughing] What happened?

Dawn: Well, after he pretended to know hear me, I stepped out in the hall and asked the nurse to come in. She asked if there was some problem. I said very quietly to her, well, I think Dr. Clark forgot his hearing aid. So maybe you can go down to his office and bring it back to him.

Margaret: [laughing harder] What did he do? Did he hear you?

Dawn: [smiling] Of course he heard me. He was rather annoyed but he finally looked up from his precious paperwork and looked me in the eye. I looked right back at him. I said, "I feel very insulted when you pretend to not hear me and ignore my questions. I want you to start answering me, and honestly because I have read a lot about my type of cancer and know I can be cured".

Margaret: Oh, that was good. What did he do?

Dawn: He said he had to go check on something and left me alone in the office. So I looked at my watch and timed him. He didn't come back for 15 minutes.

Margaret: uh oh.

Dawn: So, I asked him what he had found out. He looked at me dumbly and asked me what I was talking about. I said, well since you said you had to go check on something and that was in the middle of my appointment with him, I figured it must have had something to do with my or my treatment. He says, "no" he had to take care of something personal. I said, "what? Are you well? Is your family okay? If you're worried about you or your family maybe you shouldn't be at work today?" He says, "No, nothing like that. Let's get back to you." And I say, "but if you're distracted and not able to answer my questions maybe I should see another provider who sees more cancer patients?" He gets all uncomfortable then and says I have private insurance and I change doctors any time I want. I said, "Fine. I'll go to the front desk and share with them my need to have a doctor who respects me enough to look at me and answer my questions." And I got up...didn't even pick up my clothes...I walk down the hallway out into reception wearing that stupid gown that opens up in the back over my jeans (well, I was holding it closed so no one would see my bare back). I tell the receptionist that I'm in room 4 and need a provider who is better qualified to work with a cancer patient. She gets all uncomfortable and asks what happened. I told her and also asked for a complaint form. I tell her that I'm not angry with her. But that I will remain in room 4 until another doctor comes in to help me. I am not going to take this type of incompetence any longer. I have private insurance now. I deserve better care than that.

Margaret: Yeah. I agree. I'm tired of not getting the same care as the other patients. I have private insurance now too. So what happened next?

Dawn: Well, I ended up talking with several others who tried to excuse his behavior and one of them had the nerve to say, "He's not used to working with Indians". I said, well, since you are the closest clinic to our tribe and we now have private health insurance, he'd better learn and learn quickly. so, are you saying he is prejudiced about us?" They jumped all over that - probably thinking I'd file a lawsuit. Man. How stupid. Anyway, they finally got one of the providers who said she'd be happy to help me. And she did.

Margaret: Really. That's good. What did she do?

Dawn: Well, I told her about the website with referral information and the Walking Forward Program up at Rapid City Regional Hospital. She didn't know anything about it. So while I was with her, we got online and I showed her the information. She called up the Hospital and got some information from them. In no less than 1 hour I had an appointment for my surgery and the type of radiation they do up there.

Margaret: When does all of this happen?

Dawn: Well, I already had the lumpectomy ... where they take out the tumor and some tissue around it. I go to Rapid City in 10 more days to start the new way they are doing radiation. It is called "brachytherapy".

Margaret: How long will you be gone? Who is going with you?

Dawn: I'll only be there for 8 days. They helped me get into an inexpensive hotel and my oldest daughter, Susan, is going to drive up with me and stay in the hotel with me.

Margaret: You won't be in the hospital?

Dawn: No. It is a clinical trial study and I go in to the hospital each morning and evening and in the middle of the day Susan and I can go to a show or shop or anything.

Margaret: How did you find out about this?

Dawn: Well, when I found out I had cancer, I went on the web. I found the "Native American Cancer Education for Survivors" (NACES) website. There was information about how to ask questions and information about clinical trials. I heard that one of the reasons former Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller was doing so well was because she had done a couple of different clinical trials. So I read more about the treatment and decided that was what I wanted to try.

Margaret: So the insurance is paying for it?

Dawn: Yes. But first I had to ask a lot of questions. But this new woman provider, Dr. Smith, is real nice and listened to me. She wasn't afraid to say she didn't know much about the clinical trial and she also read up on it. But I had to ask her some questions before I chose that trial to go on.

Margaret: What types of questions?

Dawn: Well, that NACES website has a section on how to ask questions. The questions are called "I-Messages" and aren't at all the way we talk. But they are phrased in ways that non-Native providers seem to understand. So I practiced with the website on how to make these types of questions. I have it written down in my purse. [she opens her purse and then she pulls out a piece of paper. She reads from the paper]

I want to know what types of clinical trials are available here for my type of cancer because I want to get the best care to cure this disease.

I want to receive the best care available when I go in to have my cancer treatment and I need care that won't keep me away from my family for a long time because they will worry too much about me.

Anyway, I have a whole list of questions from the website - some are just good questions and some using that "I-message" phrasing. But it worked.

Margaret: This sounds really good. Do you need me to do anything to help you while you are gone?

Dawn: Thank you for the offer. Right now I think I am doing pretty well. My girls are all helping too. It would be helpful if you'd take an extra copy of all of the Council meeting materials for me to read when I get back though.

Margaret: Sure. I'd be happy to do that. I can bring them to your home once you're back. Let me know how you're doing while you're up there too, okay?

Dawn: Yes, I'll call you and tell you how it is going. I guess the first day is the longest and the one that has some discomfort. So I probably won't call you then.

To read more stories about Dawn, click on her leaf above or click Here

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