Marissa is a 40-something "flattie" in sunny SoCal living with metastatic breast cancer, her boyfriend (and high school sweetheart) and the memory of her not-so-mini schnauzer, Heidi, who was taken too soon by canine lymphoma. She enjoys reading, stress baking and roller skating. She hopes to inspire others with her stories about life with cancer.
Getting a second opinion is vital in handling metastatic breast cancer, after all, four eyes are better than two.
I belong to an online support group for women like myself living with metastatic breast cancer.
Often the question posed to the group relates to running out of treatment options and what line of treatment was next for others in similar situations. No two breast cancer diagnoses are exactly identical. What works well for one patient may work so-so for another and not work at all for someone else. I’ve run through approximately nine or ten treatments since my de novo diagnosis six and a half years ago.
It’s downright scary when you are quickly depleting your options for treatments. You begin to feel desperate and are grasping at straws. A second opinion is sometimes warranted. Oftentimes, another specialist with no knowledge of your case can see something that was overlooked or may even have a different approach in finding the right new treatment.
A few years back I had a nodule in my chest wall appear out of nowhere located somewhat close to my mastectomy scar. It was removed and biopsied. It was unlike any of my other tumors. It was still breast cancer, but it was no longer hormone receptor-positive—this one rogue nodule was triple negative. My oncologist at the time, who has since retired, thought I might qualify for a trial at City of Hope in Duarte, California. This was my first experience with a second opinion.
Meeting with someone new there are always so many questions, even when they have humongous stacks of records about you. After my appointment with the City of Hope oncologist, who was the head of the trial, it was determined that I did not qualify for the trial. The fortunate outcome of not being a candidate for the trial was having another set of fresh eyes on my case. The City of Hope doctor had a different opinion regarding my treatment plan, one that gave me two and a half more years with a relatively small amount of progression during that time.
Most recently this past February I had progression in my lungs. My regular oncologist, who came highly recommended by my retired oncologist, is more than capable when it comes to deciding what to try next when it comes to treatment. However, for my own peace of mind, I decided to return to the same oncologist at City of Hope to see if she had any other ideas before moving forward. This time though her opinion was the same as that of my regular oncologist. I wasn’t upset or discouraged by this. In all honesty, it made me feel reassured that we were on the right path. Also, the fact that my regular oncologist was supportive of my seeking another opinion reaffirmed what a good doctor he is and how grateful I am to have him on my team.
We as patients put so much faith and trust in the hands of our oncologists, surgeons, specialists, and the rest of the team entrusted with our care. For this reason, it is so important for me to feel confident in their approach. I’ve had a few doctors over the years who either made me feel uncomfortable or hopeless.
The one thing I am not is powerless. I can choose what feels right to me and opt for that second opinion when necessary, even if it just reinforces or validates the next course of treatment. The more eyes, the more knowledge, the more confident I am, considering four eyes are almost always better than two.