Recently, I have speaking a lot about my journey with breast cancer. I was interviewed on a live show last week and I have been writing for some other breast cancer sites. But I realized after being interviewed, that I haven’t really blogged about when I was first diagnosed and how it affected me. I have touched upon the day I “found out” but thought I should revisit it as the memories have been weighing on me a lot lately.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer I felt like the rug of life had been pulled out from under me.
The surgeon who delivered the news read my diagnosis from a folder on her desk. She never made eye contact with me. She never gave me a word of encouragement or compassion. She delivered the news like she was reading the weather for the day. All she said was “Patti, the biopsy shows that you have breast cancer. You have a very large tumor and will have to undergo a mastectomy. I will have my nurse call you with an appointment to see a plastic surgeon. We will then discuss your options. We will be in touch.”
Be in touch!?!?! How about being in touch with my feelings after receiving this devastating news!? How about being in touch with a woman who has just been told she has cancer! How about being in touch with the extreme fear and anxiety I immediately felt with that news?!
Needless to say, I did not continue my journey with that surgeon. Thanks to my family doctor,I was referred to one who took the time to look at me…to talk to me…to reassure me that she had my back ( or in my case, my front!)
The relationships we have with family, friends and colleagues are important. We work at them, we nurture them and we rely on them. But what of the relationships we have with our family doctors, oncologists, radiologists, surgeons, etc. Should we not be able to rely on them? When you are dealing with cancer, a life threatening and life changing disease, should we not expect some empathy and words of encouragement? We put all of our trust into the doctors who treat us. They are well educated, skilled, respected and very much needed. But they are human and must also show some humility when dealing with their patients.
I am fortunate to have found a team of of doctor’s that are not only extremely skilled but are very much “in touch” with their patients. As cancer patients we must have good relationship’s with our doctor’s . We must be able to talk with them, be honest with them, be encouraged by them and trust them!
This week, I saw my reconstructive surgeon. It was even more stressful than usual as with Covid protocols getting into the hospital was like getting into Fort Knox. My anxiety levels are always high when I have to go into any medical facility. The sights, sounds and smells bring back too many images and memories of all my surgeries and this never ending journey with cancer. Seeing hundreds of masked people made my heart race and my palms sweat.
Before seeing my surgeon, I was greeted and examined by an intern. This is usually the drill and I am used to being asked dozens of questions about my cancer and subsequent surgeries. I told him that I was there to discuss all the pain I am experiencing on the left side of my “mound”. He examined me, pushing and prodding my chest like it was pizza dough.
“To be honest, I don’t think there is anything we can do for you. The pain and tightness you are feeling may be permanent or it may lessen with time. The nerve pain you feel in your chest and arm is not something that we deal with so you will have to seek council with another doctor. Your chest is uneven but I doubt Dr. A will want to put you through another surgery just for that. I’ll go get him now. Just wait here.”
Of course I was going to “wait here.” I was topless after all. It’s not like I was going to zip down to the cafeteria to grab a coffee! As I waited I got more and more anxious. I am so tired of being in pain. It’s exhausting. I just want this to be over.
Dr. A, burst through the door a few minutes later. He is always revved up. “Hey Patti, let’s see what we’ve got.” And with that he started kneading the pizza dough too.
“What happened here?” he asked, pointing to the scar that sits a few inches below the middle of my breasts.
“That’s the scar from my gall bladder surgery last December. I had reconstructive surgery with you on December 20th then emergency surgery on December 30 and another December 31st. I really wanted all this over in 2019…but alas, 2020 has also been a sh#t show!”
“Well, I think you need another surgery Patti. We will open up your mounds again and try to release any scar tissue that may have formed. That hopefully will alleviate some of your pain. I can lower your left mound to match the position of your right. I wish I could lift your right up instead, but implants just don’t work that way. While I have you open, I will try to round out some of the incisions so that you look less square.”
Yes folks, you read that right…square!
We talked more about the procedure and of course the risks. There are always risks. I signed a consent form and was told his nurse would schedule me as soon as possible.
“I will do everything I can to try to give you some relief Patti, I promise.”
The team of doctor’s I have had since choosing to leave my first surgeon, have been amazing. They are always willing to listen, advise and explain what options I have. They are always positive and encouraging. We must be advocates for ourselves. I’ve learned that the hard way. If you are not comfortable, make a change. If you are uncertain about something, ask the question. We owe it to ourselves to make sure that everyone around us is in our court and puts our best interests first.
Cancer, hell life, is a tough fight; physically, emotionally and spiritually. So make sure that you surround yourself with people that will look out for you; will listen to you and will show you compassion and empathy when you need it. Even the strongest of us need to feel that.
I know I do.
#breastcancer #mastectomy #anxiety #healthadvocate #survivor #Covid #motivationalspeaker #positivity @learnlooklocate
President of As You Like It Marketing & Communications Inc. Award winning speaker and author. Breast cancer fighter and blogger. I’m sharing my journey…the good, the bad and the ugly. Hoping to help anyone else that has been touched by breast cancer be it you or someone you know or love.