With your appointments, I always tell the patients to come prepared. Write down your questions ahead of time and prioritize them, take notes during your meeting with the doctor or have a family member take notes and keep copies of test results. It is important to have another set of ears with you while you are getting your information. I recall that even though I am a nurse, when they were talking to me about my diagnosis and treatment, I walked out after the appointment and was at a loss with what all had been said and what the next step was. Don't be afraid to ask questions and clarify the answer until you are comfortable with it and understand it thoroughly. I also suggest that you keep all your papers together and suggest some type of bag or tote to go with you for all your appointments as everything will be available to you and you don't have to run around the morning of the appointment trying to remember where you put things. It is also important to ask who you should contact and when it is appropriate. What constitutes and emergency and what do I do if faced with one? I kept a small notebook by my bed so that at 2 in the morning when I couldn't sleep, I could turn over and write down my concern and then get back to sleep.
It is also very important to understand your options and if need be, get a second opinion. You should never be afraid of asking for a second opinion or concerned that it will offend your doctor. Most doctors welcome and encourage you to get that second opinion so that you are comfortable in the plan that lies ahead. It is also important to talk about outcomes and side effects and expectations. It sounds like a huge laundry list but if you do your homework, you won't walk out of your appointment more confused than when you went in. I will reinforce that once you have a game plan it is so much easier, it is the not knowing that is difficult. Once you know what is happening and what will be going on, you can gear yourself to better handle and cope with what lies ahead and if you need support during this process, don't be afraid to ask. There are professionals that can help you process this information and move through the plan.
Remember your caregiver in all of this too. All their energies are going to help you through this plan and they may in turn need some support as well as you and for that there are also support groups to help. We all have similar cares and concerns when it comes to going through cancer and to share these concerns will help to clarify your own thoughts and may possible give you strength to realize you are not alone. When in doubt ask, we are here to help you and your family and to listen and suppport. You are not alone!