Tuesday, October 23, 2012

First Things First

I must say - I feel as though I have failed my readers who may be experiencing cancer themselves by one important issue.  That is to say I have shared my experiences with you very randomly, 
but if you are starting out on your own journey with cancer
you need to know what is most important and how to put...


I am approaching my third year since all of this cancer stuff began and I must say parts of it have been a serious learning curve - while other aspects where simply by the grace of God I was placed in the right place at the right time AND with the right doctors. 
I was given books, bought books, and read, read, read...

In all of those books the most important thing it discusses is setting up your medical team.

It is the FIRST thing you need to do!

After all, these are the people who you are going to get to know really well.
AND better yet should know you really well.

A lot of books and websites give you wonderful information about cancer, pathology reports, various treatments available, but they don't always tell you who to be talking to about the information.
It is important to know that if you have just found out you have cancer you most likely figured it out through your general physician or gynecologist.  They will help get you set up with the right people to run the various test you may need.  A biopsy being one of them - so a surgeon will most likely be one of the first people you are sent to.  
However I have found it rather surprising that that is as far as some people get.  

Your team of doctors will most likely consist of:

Medical Oncologist
Plastic Surgeon
Radiation Oncologist

Your list may also include a nutritionist, various support groups, and possibly a psyhcologist.

Personally I feel like at the time you select your surgeon you should also select an oncologist - whether this is the oncologist you stay with or not. An oncologist is a cancer doctor.  They will be the person who will best interpret your pathology report for you (which is key in determining what your medical treatment should be), they are the doctor who will create a treatment plan for you and make sure it is administered correctly.  They will become your best friend for a minimum of five years.  

You need to choose doctors who you like, trust, and are comfortable with.
Ask yourself:

Are they considerate of me?
Are they up to date on medical treatment options?
Do they view me as an individual with cancer and look for what is best for my type of cancer?
Are they informative and talk to me so that I understand?

I think it is also very important to point out that, although your general physician, family, and friends (as well as yourself) will want things to move as quickly as possible. Once you have a pathology report - You NEED to take the time to prepare your team of doctors and not just jump into a lumpectomy, mastectomy or any other surgery.  Once something has been done; often times too quickly and before you have fully prepared yourself with the right doctors, you loose options that may have been available to you but no longer are.

I also want to remind you that you have most likely had cancer longer than you think.  Waiting that extra week or two to have interviews with your doctors, ask them questions, get the answers you feel most comfortable with, and set up a team for you to spend the next several months, possibly years - is well worth the wait.  Never hesitate to ask for second opinions - your doctor should welcome that.  This is your body and most importantly your life.  After your surgery your doctor will return to his normal everyday routine.  You on the other hand will be living with it daily.

Do not allow someone who is only a small part of your cancer journey tell you what is best for you!

I was very blessed in this area - my doctors suggested an oncologist right from the start and together my oncologist and surgeon both agreed I needed treatment options that were not available to me with them.  BUT I was a very advanced stage III invasive cancer. 
 A lot of women who have stage I cancer are not sent onto an oncologist and therefore many of them don't really understand their pathology report.  They are scared of what the future may hold because they don't know enough about their cancer. Become your best advocate - read, learn!

Here are a couple of books I have found helpful information on forming a medical team:

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