After two benign biopsies and a preventative lumpectomy, lab tests revealed I had cancer cells in the removed tissue.
The next stop on my journey was meeting with the team of doctors and nurses who were overseeing my diagnosis and specifics. We would discuss the strategy they planned for the best potential results of removing cancer from my present and future.
After the surgeon called with the results, my assigned breast cancer nurse called. She explained to me the process ahead, answered questions and helped me prepare for the several-hour-meeting in my near future. She also gave me her number and explained they assigned her as MY nurse. If I had questions, concerns or whatever… she was my first phone call, available to me whenever I needed her. She would also meet me at the “Team” appointment and walk me through the meetings with each team member.
I have never needed to call her, but it was nice knowing she was there and familiar with my case.
One thing I took seriously in preparing for the meeting was writing questions for each team member: my surgeon, radiologist, and oncologist. I saw them all one after the other during the “Breast Team Meeting.” They had met together prior to discuss my case and agreed on the best course of treatment.
My nurse recommended that someone come with me to listen and take notes. My husband did that, but because different ears hear things differently, I took notes too! I wasn’t sure I’d have time, but I did.
From My Experience:
Write your questions down.
I used my phone for questions when I met with just my surgeon, but meeting with three people was different.
I questioned my ability to type fast enough on my phone, so I got a notebook and wrote questions for each specific doctor, leaving space between to write the answers. Of course, other questions arose while they talked. I wrote those answers too. By the end of the several hour meeting revolving around the word “Cancer”, I knew my recall could be sketchy. Plus, at the moment, sometimes when I experience information overload, my brain goes numb or blank. I can’t think of anything. I wanted to prepare as best I could if that happened.
THIS IS WHAT I DIDN’T DO…
I DID NOT do endless research on the computer before the meeting.
After looking up my diagnosis, I realized there were so many specifics involved in each person’s case that I could read volumes of information and very little of it would apply to me! It also would increase my anxiety with lots of “ifs”. I did not need that! I needed to understand my specific realities.
After the meeting and understanding more about my particular specifics, I did some more reading. I was selective and stopped when it didn’t apply to me. A cyclone of information is capable of spinning me/us into a frenzy … aka… irrational fear. I had a lot of peace not indulging every nook and cranny of breast cancer. I kept to my specific details.
From My Experience:
I DID confer with two trusted people and ask what they thought I should ask my team. One was my sister, 17 years breast cancer free. She did not have my type, but has spent years walking other women through breast cancer. The second was a dear friend who had the same kind of breast cancer thirteen years ago. These two precious angels gave great insight and helped prepare me for the meeting.
Warning: be careful who you ask. Again, some information is vital, but equating your type of breast cancer with all others is overwhelming and can be too much to bear. Every person is unique, with a unique subset of cancer traits.
Choose Wisely who and how many people you involve in your thought processes… more is not always better.
YOU DO YOU!!
WHO TO TELL:
Cancer Diagnosis brought questions I hadn’t had to think about before: Who to tell when was a big one!!
I told family and very close friends about my surgery because it was elective and preventative. Breast cancer with more treatment meant a different circumstance to consider.
I decided not to share the diagnosis til after our “Team Meeting”. I didn’t know for sure what my plan would be and I didn’t want to answer questions when I didn’t have answers or give misinformation. After our meeting with specific actions in place, we began making the information public with our extended family/friends, church family and others.
ENCOURAGEMENT From My Experience:
TELL OTHERS AT YOUR OWN PACE!
It is your health and welfare that needs to considered in this decision. Your body and your health should be preeminent. You guide this ship according to your perimeters. If it feels like too much… don’t! If you want more support or welcome interaction… then do!
I think you will know what is best for you and when. Don’t feel bad about the “when”… that’s your decision ALONE!
Also, keep your family informed of your wishes after you tell them. The loved ones I informed early-on knew this would not be public for a while and I would let them know when it would be public knowledge, then they were free to share.
THIS WAS IMPORTANT FOR ME:
I communicated mostly through text!
Of course, my children and immediate family I called, and they were free to call me anytime! But, texts informed, most often, my dear friends and framily! Talking on the phone requires emotional energy, at least for me. Texting was so much easier and conserved my emotional strength. People will understand. Since it is your health, you set up the best outcome for yourself.
This is not the time to worry over “M’s response” to your chosen method. When it’s “M’s” health issue, she gets to choose how it’s handled and you abide by it. But, when it’s your health issue, it’s your decision.
SURGERY: A lumpectomy was performed prior to diagnosis.
TARGETED RADIATION: Done over two weeks. Because of early detection and recent surgery, I was a candidate for targeted radiation. Because they could locate the surgical cavity, only the surgical area was radiated, not the whole breast. It’s a shorter process, but still delivers a powerful punch to the area the cancer cells existed in. Studies have shown it to be just as effective as whole breast radiation in patients with DCIS.
5 YEARS OF PREVENTATIVE MEDICATION: My cancer cells feed on estrogen. That’s good news… we knew what made them grow. If they weren’t estrogen fed, we would not know what made them grow, thus preventing my body from producing them again wouldn’t be possible. So, the medication inhibits my body’s production of estrogen, so these pesky cells won’t be able to grow IF my body forms them again. (Simple layperson terms😉)
This increases my odds significantly to not have a reoccurrence!
Let me clarify… my type of cancer, DCIS, is NON-INVASIVE. THIS MEANS IT DOESN’T TRAVEL IN YOUR BODY. It will not show up somewhere else, which is glorious! However, since my body produced these cancer cells once, the odds of it happening again go up by about 20% higher than women who’ve never had it. If I have a new diagnosis of cancer, they will consider it a completely new and separate case. The radiation and medication significantly reduce those odds!! Thank. You. Modern. Medicine. and GOD!
Share something remarkable about modern medicine?
Give a shout out to medical personnel?
I am over-the-moon thankful and grateful for these remarkable preventative treatments and the people who served me through this diagnosis! 🙌🙌🙌🙌👏👏👏🎉🎉🎉
Next week I’ll introduce you to more of my healthcare heros!!
These are some SPECIAL pumpkins … I’ll explain next week😉
My Journey Continues …
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