Undertaking the cancer journey is a daunting task with its own challenges and tough questions to face, but that doesn't mean you have to do it alone.
One of the best suggestions I can give anyone undertaking a journey like this is to surround yourself with excellent people: Excellence in knowledge, excellence in encouragement, excellence in collecting facts. I did this as a student in school where my peers were smarter than I, dressed better, carried themselves better or conveyed their ideas better. It caused me to bring my own game up.
Find a Sharp Provider - Months before my diagnosis I realized that my primary care doctor wasn’t cutting it. I knew in my gut that he wasn’t who I wanted to care for me should I need urgent or hospital care. I had inherited him from the primary care center I went to when the physician I had chosen passed away. It was time to do a little investigating and find a better fit. It’s amazing that I found my new primary care provider so quickly and immediately felt he was knowledgeable and respected my inquisitive nature. And soon thereafter, followed my breast cancer diagnosis.
Trusted Caregivers - Nurse navigators are a blessing to patients. They provide incredible information for patients that may not fully understand the diagnosis and treatment process. Most centers have nurse navigators. Take advantage of all the information and services they have to offer. The one I met was an incredibly caring and knowledgeable person.
Doogie Howser— My genetic counselor showed up in my telehealth appointment looking like she was interviewing for her first job. She was so young and a little nervous, but I could tell she really knew her stuff. She said I had “red flags and green flags” in my family history. We decided to do a test to determine my genetic makeup. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, it would be by saliva which I had no idea they could gather information on 47 genes through a spit test, but how convenient?!?
Friends — They walk the path before you and share their story. Friends can be a source of comfort or anxiety. I was doing pretty well until a friend of me called to say she had all the same things initially then found she needed more surgery, more aggressive chemo and radiation than originally thought. After she shared stories of hospital admissions and being on disability, I did lose some sleep. Ultimately, I found reassurance in knowing she has come out on the other side tougher than before.
Opinions — I know a physician that has a sign on his desk that says, “if you consulted Dr. Google and came here for a second opinion, please go see Dr. Yahoo”. How true when we decide what we think we know then want others to justify it. I knew during COVID starting with oral hormone therapy prior to surgery was what they did in Europe. But I sure did get a sense of relief when one day later the American College of Surgeons put out their COVID based recommendations and that was what was exactly on there.
My surgeon teases me that because I know so much in this area, I am my own best second opinion. If you do not have strong knowledge in this setting do get a second opinion. Most physicians encourage it and it will do wonders to help you feel you are moving in the right direction on your cancer journey.