As I have thought about this many times, I have often counseled patients to bring another set of ears, bring someone with and someone to take notes so you can refer back to them and also so you can write the questions out that wake you at 2 am and keep rattling through your brain. So having said all that, I came up with some questions for those of you that have been told you have breast cancer or are waiting to hear what is happening or about to due to recent testing.
1. What kind of cancer do I have?
This is important to know and also to learn about the size of the tumor, what stage and if there are any nodes involved or metastasis/ You will also want to know if it is estrogen and or progesterone positive or negative as well as the HER2 status and if you need to have BRCA testing to determine if genetics play a role in this. Once these are answered, you may even need to ask if they will be doing Oncotype testing as part of determining what treatment lies ahead. Once these are answered, there will be a better understanding of what direction the next step will be.
2. What kind of treatment will it require?
Now we are into what kind of surgery and at what point will surgery be done and by whom and will it involve a lumpectomy or mastectomy and if mastectomy, will I need to consider reconstruction and by whom? Will I be doing chemotherapy and will I lose my hair and what are the side effects and how many treatments for how long? Will I also need radiation and how many treatments and how long? Will there also be side effects to that and what can I expect? When does surgery fit into all of this?
3. Should I get a second opinion?
This is a personal decision but highly recommended as it will clarify what your options are and if there is a difference in opinion, there is nothing wrong with getting a third opinion. In the long run, you have to be comfortable with the plan that is ahead and have confidence and trust in the providers that will be on your team. We explore all options when buying a car, why would we do less when it comes to our bodies!
4. Should I consider a clinical trial?
This is a question to discuss with your clinical provider as most trials are evaluating new drugs and treatments but there are criteria and indications who should or should not be involved and what your level of commitment is and if you would be a candidate for any of these things. Again, talk to your provider and get your answers.
5. What are my long term outcomes?
Once you have a plan of what you are doing, you also want to know what the possible outcomes are for you. Maybe this should be your number one question in the scheme of things but I have found for myself and others they want to take care of what is going on and then find out the outcome will be. You have been bombarded with information and this overload is sometimes suffocating but you will slowly dig your way out along with the information as it slowly starts to fall in place and make sense and you are back in charge of your ship just by the fact you have some understanding of what is happening. I do know and realize that in the back of your mind from day one, is - am I going to live? and am I going to live fully and for how long? This is a tough question to ask and sometimes we don't want to know the answer directly but I have found with knowledge comes better adjustment to what needs to be done and what lies ahead and how to deal with things. It is the elephant in the room and it does need to be discussed but just like the elephant in the room- no one can eat a whole elephant, you have to take one bite at a time and it is the same when you here those words, You have cancer! This is a tough rode no matter what is in your plan but once you get the plan and have the directions on how to get there, you are then back in control for what lies ahead. You are in thoughts and prayers no matter what corner of this earth you are on and the best tool I can recommend is your faith. There will be trials and tribulations but your strength will be through your faith, so hold on to it and know that you are loved, you can see that from the reflection of the faces that are looking at you right now. Making it a great day!