Getting other medical opinions for my cancer diagnosis not only saved my life but also taught me self-care.
It's hard to ignore signs. We see them in everyday life: stop signs, stomach groans reminding us to eat, eyelids closing shut to tell us to sleep and so on.
Do we ever stop and let ourselves focus on when we might need to have a second person look at the signs around us? This is difficult to do, and I found that the same goes for second opinions with cancer because as humans, we think of change as scary and may find comfort with our current medical teams.
When we reach a point in the road with cancer that requires a second thought or makes us pause, that could be a great time for a second opinion. It could be life changing. It could be lifesaving. The universe is not short on wake-up calls.
My life wouldn't exist if it wasn't for me getting a second, third and fourth opinion. When my breast cancer became advanced stage, my first round of doctors argued over treatment because they couldn’t agree on what to do. My life was on the line and the surgeon was bullying the oncologist.
I decided that as scary as it may be, I had to fight for my life and get a second opinion. The second care team saved my life when they caught the disease in my lymph nodes. However, I was still misdiagnosed for over a year, and it wasn’t until my cancer progressed that I became very aware I had to change oncologists yet again.
The progression may have happened because I allowed myself to stop questioning things and accepted only one answer rather than running my diagnosis by a second doctor. Maybe it happened because my oncologist refused to see and treat the disease in my sternum.
When my cancer progressed, I took back my voice. I knew for the sake of myself and my health that I needed more opinions. While undergoing radiation under my second care team, I sought out a third and fourth opinion. In that process, I found a bigger gift: gaining back my own love of myself and confidence.
My support group is my tribe of love and care, that allowed me to manage all of this while still undergoing treatment. Through this crazy misdiagnosis, fighting yet again for my life, I learned to ask for help. My body became a top priority, and I knew I couldn’t handle all the workload at home, while also still working full-time.
Fast forward to now. I’ve been stable for 26 months, and my current care team is so amazing and exactly what I needed. I also finally feel that I am worthy of loving this new me. A voice in my head brought me self-love, and gained confidence to stand up for my body.
Second opinions can be scary, but I look at it this way: you have nothing to lose but yourself (and we already have cancer anyway). Remember you are always worth a second or third chance.
Self-advocacy is a form of courage and love. To all my fellow cancer warriors, you are full of courage and worth.
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