This is an excerpt from my journal from nine years ago. Breast Cancer does not discriminate as women the world over have discovered. I include this excerpt in the hope that somebody may find some help and hope in reading of my experience. If you, or somebody you know needs to talk or share, send me a private message at Simply Spirited on Facebook. Or, of course, leave a message in the comment section.
Day 4 (after diagnosis)
I have two surgeons to see today. They say having a second opinion is a good idea and I've decided to follow this advice. The first appointment is in the morning. I am anxious to hear what the surgeon has to say. My husband is with me; another good idea because there is so much information to hear. And, my brain is overwhelmed so I need a second, fully operational brain with me!
This appointment is short and to the point. I leave feeling desperately upset. I feel no compassion from this surgeon. Silent tears slide down my face as I'm told that the tumour is worrying and quickly a box of tissues is pushed towards me as the surgeon continues to speak. A date is set for a core biopsy and surgery after Easter and I'm told I need to return for a further appointment next week.
Outside, I switch on my phone. There’s a message from the other surgeon’s office. I return the call. I'm told to come straight up to the surgeon's rooms for a core biopsy before a follow up appointment later in the evening. The receptionist tells me I can have an operation tomorrow tomorrow. I call Mum to organise a dressing gown and slippers.
I call in to tell Kate of my mortifying experience from this morning and she says this is good. How can this be? She says that I now have no decision to make between surgeons. She reassures me that the next surgeon will be the one for me. I hope so. In the car, I pray that the next surgeon has a heart.
We head straight to the Women's Centre. I feel I am in good hands here. The core biopsy is relatively straight forward and we then leave to fill in time until the evening appointment. My husband and I head out for a walk and we sit in the beautiful gardens enjoying the warmth of the sun. There's quite a bit of time to fill and I don't really want to eat. As I sit on the bench seat I wonder how many other women have sat here filling in time before a hospital appointment.
We finally see the surgeon. He introduces himself and asks us a few questions, trying to get to know something about us before he gets into the medical side of things. He takes his time explaining all the details of surgery and possible follow-up and answers my questions thoroughly. He’s human! I feel good. He is the surgeon for me and I hand him my complete trust.
Tips for finding the 'Breast' Surgeon
- Ask a trusted doctor, friends and family for suggestions of the best surgeons to see. Select two from the recommendations.
- Take a partner or a friend to your medical appointments. Your mind is full and it's difficult to hear all the information clearly. It helps to have somebody else to hear the details.
- Before the appointment write a list of questions you need answered. Discuss these with the person accompanying you so that they can ask questions on your behalf or at least remind you of your question list.
- It's a good idea to ask if the hospital offers a 'breast care' group or service to support you.
- Trust your judgement. You need a surgeon who is not only skilled in surgery but one who you feel comfortable talking to. You have a long time to see this person over the coming years and you will want to discuss your health with someone who has a heart and who really knows you.
- Your surgeon will also be a great source of advice for recommendations of other practitioners down the track. If you have a positive relationship you will completely trust his/her judgement.
A reflection nine years on.....
When I asked around I was given the name of a few surgeons. I chose the one with whom I felt most comfortable. I pass many other hospitals and surgeons on the drive to see him but he is worth every single kilometre and every traffic jam. In fact, I have already decided that if I ever move interstate I will continue to see him because of the faith and trust I have in him. From the first visit this surgeon made me feel comfortable and he continues to do so. He shows care and interest in me and my family. I trust his judgement completely. When the breast cancer journey begins you don't realise what a long relationship you will have with your surgeon so it is important to get it right and I certainly did. My surgeon has been an amazing blessing on the road to health.