In this Mighty Fighter Series, we feature amazing warriors from around the world who have experienced health setbacks. They share with us their challenges and triumphs to inspire fellow Mighty Fighters. This month we are featuring Betti Grab, a 25-year Vascular Access Specialist.
Please tell us a bit about yourself:
I am a respiratory therapist and vascular access specialist caring for people for over 25 years. I am a huge patient advocate and believe in compassionate, empathetic, safe, and quality care.
I am originally from Michigan, but now I live in Arizona, where you don't have to shovel sunshine! In my spare time, I run, hike, and just started paddle boarding. I love to travel and explore new places. I am a nerd and a fan. I am an avid reader and prone to occasional Netflix binge-watching (especially Stranger Things). I am Mother of Cats to my rescue kids, Gordie and Gracie.
WHAT IS YOUR ILLNESS? WHEN DID YOU FIND OUT?
I have had a few. I have asthma, I had endometriosis, tumors, and cysts that caused me to have a total hysterectomy and oophorectomy at the age of 37. Last month, I found out that I had a rectal tumor and atypical anemia... because the first round of fun wasn't enough excitement!
WHAT WAS THE FIRST THING YOU DID AFTER YOU WERE DIAGNOSED?
When I found out about the endometriosis and ovarian tumors, I cried. I wanted to have children. After thinking about it, I then realized I wanted anything cancer related to be removed. I didn't care. My family has been decimated by this disease, and I didn't want it to claim someone else. I turned into a fighter.
When I found out I had rectal tumors, I went to the gym. I know...weird. Many of my friends were there waiting to find out my news. We cried, and then ran our hearts out. I call it getting my anger out. I take it out on the treadmill, weights, or trails instead of people around me. The next morning, my partner in crime and I went hiking and just sat looking over a beautiful view.
WHAT WERE YOUR BIGGEST FEARS? WHAT CHALLENGES DID YOU EXPERIENCE?
My biggest fears were the unknown. What was going to happen? What next? Why? Then my next fear was....OMG! IVs!!! I am a hard person to access and as soon as I heard about multiple IVs over a few days, I freaked a little (okay, a lot...but only on the inside).
The challenges were dealing with all of the prepping I had to do for procedures, surgeries, and testing, still trying to work, and juggle my infusions. I didn't want my patients or even some of my coworkers to know that something was up. I had to do three colon preps in one week. I got pretty dehydrated, even drinking tons of clear liquids.
HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THESE CHALLENGES?
Talk about a humbling experience. I learned really quickly not to gamble and always be prepared for emergencies. Instead of a pity party, I learned to laugh and make fun of my situation. There were plenty of poop jokes. I did learn that I really love Otter Pops, though.
I also learned to listen to my body. Listening to my body is what helped me find the tumors before they turned big and bad. If my body said sleep, I slept. If my body said it was okay to try to exercise (with the doctor's permission), I did. If I decided that my big plan of the day during recovery was to finish the book I was reading while curled up on the couch with the cats, I did.
If I wanted to be angry, I was. I let everyone know that I was allowed one day to be angry, and just let me be.
As far as the IV thing went, I made more of a big deal than it was. For difficult IV starts, we use ultrasound; I put my faith in my team and allowed myself to be the patient and let them be the respiratory therapists and vascular access specialists. I was not their boss. I was a patient. I helped train them, so I knew that they were as good as, if not better than, I was in inserting IVs.
I worked with them so that I did not have to have a new line placed the next day and kept the IV I had working even underneath my sleeve and scrubs. It even survived the treadmill.
HOW DID YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY HELP YOU?
I relied on my friends to make me laugh. I let my parents care for me, had them go with me to infusions, and be there for procedures. My sister was there to complain and laugh with. I have significant people in my life that are my partners in crime. They listen to me vent, do random things to let me know that they're thinking about me, do things to make me laugh, and I know they are always in my corner.
WHAT'S YOUR BEST ADVICE FOR FELLOW MIGHTY FIGHTERS?
Laugh. If you don't laugh, you cry; I don't know about you, but I have an ugly cry face, so laughing is so much better than crying.
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