With all the hype this month about breast cancer awareness, I hope that it is also serving as a reminder to all you ladies to get your mammograms. Sadly, that means that some will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Today's blog won't apply to everyone, but I'm trying to write a variety, and this will apply to those who are newly diagnosed.
Sadly, in the past couple of weeks I've had two more friends who were diagnosed with breast cancer—a sisterhood I would rather not see growing. Wow, sometimes you wonder if there is there something in the drinking water! One friend is a former co-worker and we reminisced about how many of our former co-workers have since been diagnosed with some sort of cancer, most often breast cancer. Although, I guess if you looked at it statistically, we're about right since one in eight women today get breast cancer in their lifetime and breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women. Did you know that this statistic is up from one in 22 in the 1940s?
After hearing of their new diagnoses, I had to think about how I would advise them to face this new challenge.
Get all the information you can. Some women just know that their doctor said they have cancer and now they have to take a blue pill. Get specifics. Get copies of all your scans and tests. Jot down your questions and bring them with you to your doctor's appointments. If you don't understand, ask again.
Take a spouse or friend along with you to be your second set of ears—they may pick up information that you miss. Get a second opinion. Investigate the reputation of the doctors you are sent to and ask around if there are specific oncologists, surgeons, etc., that friends and family would personally recommend. If you have friends who are nurses, they can be a great source of information like this.
You may also want to do some online research and educate yourself so that you will better understand what the doctors tell you and also so you can ask informed questions. However, this isn't for everyone but I like to do this so that I am well-informed. As awesome as my doctors are, there are times when I feel they are not telling me everything, just to protect me, which isn't entirely a bad thing, but personally I want to know.
I do have to caution you, however—the internet can be a scary place. Not all of the information out there is accurate and not all of it will pertain to your specific case. There have been several times when I have scared the heck out of myself and my family with information I have found online. Make sure you only research on reliable websites, then ask your doctor about what you've read. A patient advocate once told me to only seek medical info on websites that end in ".edu," ".org" or ".gov."
You will need to be your own best advocate on this journey. There will be times when you will have to make choices about your treatment and when you may have to do battle with your insurance about what is best for you. Educate yourself, surround yourself with the best experts, as well as friends and family who can assist you with these matters. Then, you can head into battle well-equipped with knowledge! Fight on, sisters!