The most important thing I’ve learned thus far in Breast Cancer treatment is you must have the right Oncologist for you. Sometimes the choice is made for you, and other times you do the choosing. But whatever way you and your Oncologist end up being a cancer-curing team, make sure it is a good match for you.
How do you find the right Oncologist when you are so overwhelmed with all of the intricacies of a cancer diagnosis?
1) Start asking other people especially any nurse or doctor friends you may have. If this isn’t possible, assign someone you know who may be connected in this area to get information on area Oncologists.
2) When you have your list narrowed down, research the Oncologist. See where they went to undergraduate school, medical school, where they did their residency, and fellowship. This is extremely important.
3) If you live in a small town and your medical resources are limited, consider making an hour or more drive to find someone better qualified. Even though this is very inconvenient, in the long run, it will definitely have its payoffs.
4) On your first meeting with your Oncologist, have a list of questions ready for him/her. If you are not comfortable with him/her for any reason, seek out the advice of another Oncologist.
5) Make sure they have a positive attitude about the treatment of your cancer. I have an acquaintance who was diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer. Oncologist #1 told her “Go home, get your things and children in order, and be prepared to go to Hospice”. She and her mom weren’t buying that answer. Oncologist #2 said, “Don’t worry, we will aggressively treat your Breast Cancer”. She began dense dose chemo and within 2 months the metastases in her lung and liver were gone! She is now 3 years No Evidence of Disease (NED). What a difference an Oncologist makes!
6) Along those same lines, if you have a Stage III or Stage IV diagnosis, you visit an Oncologist and are given a bleak outlook for your future, consider making a trip by plane or automobile to a major cancer center like MD Anderson in Houston which is the #1 Cancer Center in the USA. Here is a list of the top cancer hospitals in the United States by US News & World Report: http://health.usnews.com/best-hospitals/rankings/cancer If you cannot continue treatment there, at least you will have a valued second opinion. These centers will also recommend places for treatment closer to your home. This visit can mean your life. Personally, I know numerous people who are alive today because they made the trip to a major cancer center.
7) To me, the staff at my Oncologist’s office is extremely important. The Nurse Practitioners, the nurses, and office staff are also keys to your healing. A well-trained office staff speaks highly about the care you will receive from your Oncologist.
8) If you start with your Oncologist, don’t trust him/her, have bad feelings about them, look for another Oncologist. THIS IS YOUR LIFE! If your intuition is speaking to you that this Oncologist is not a good match for you, keep looking!
I am extremely fortunate to be treated by Dr. Daniel F. Hayes, Director of the Breast Oncology Program at University of Michigan Breast Cancer Care Center one of the top breast cancer centers in the country. My confidence in him is 100%. It makes a huge difference in how I feel about my cure rate. He is extremely credentialed. Plus, an expert in the field of Her2Neu which is a marker in my breast cancer. He has written countless published research about it. What pride I have to call him my Oncologist.
Not only do I trust him, but he knows how to handle me emotionally. When I told him I felt like giving up he said: “Oh no you’re not. I will not let you.”
When I told him I have no control over my life, he said with a laugh: “That’s because I am controlling your life now.”
And when I asked him for an extra week off between chemo drugs he said: “No negotiations. But I can’t fault you for trying.”
Then he sat down, held my hand in a doctorly fashion, and told me I was doing far better than I realized, my blood counts were up, I have been strong and courageous, and that he was proud of me and my progress. Then he made me laugh with a joke! Here is an Oncologist who knew the right things to say, who cares about my whole person, and not just the cancer.
His responses were right for me. They gave me more strength and courage to continue on this rugged road. He instills confidence in my ability to heal and not have a recurrence. That is priceless. I want you to have that relationship and feeling of confidence in your Oncologist. It is imperative!