Living with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
(#14 in a series)
When you receive a diagnosis of any type of cancer, there are three important things you must do to be a successful partner in your own health care.
- Seek out health care professionals who have empathy and whom you can trust.
- Ask questions, research, learn, and ask more questions.
- Make carefully-weighed decisions. Lots of them.
Decisions, Decisions, and more Decisions. Reward and Risk. Decisions regarding breast cancer treatment can be confusing and intimidating. It is wise to seek out the opinions of doctors. It is fair to request and welcome input of trusted family members and friends. But ultimately, these decisions belong to the patients, for we must be able to live with them.
How many decisions have I made since finding that breast lump last October? I’ve lost count. From deciding not to hesitate, but to see a doctor immediately, to following a fast track course to diagnosis, to consciously accepting the medical team that seemed to form itself around me, the decisions came quickly, but not without careful consideration.
Lumpectomy or mastectomy? Reconstructive surgery or prosthetic breast? Chemotherapy? Chemo port? Radiation? Drugs to combat individual symptoms or side effects? Complementary or alternative treatment? Diet, rest, exercise, general lifestyle, patient support groups, clinical trials… not to mention matters regarding employment, health insurance, and family and social obligations… it’s enough to make your head spin.
Even after all treatment appears to be over and done with, I’ll have to decide what kind of life I want to live. Do I want a lot of follow-up testing to reassure myself, or will I take a more relaxed approach and keep things simple, as my doctors seem to suggest? I believe I’ll choose the latter, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that all plans are subject to change.
Next: Decisions come with consequences and sometimes uncomfortable reactions