“I needed to be sure my treatment was right.”
When Sarita Joy Jordan, a 41-year-old mother of four from Philadelphia, was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago, she decided to seek a second opinion right away. “I didn’t want to simply go along with what my doctor said.” After doing a lot of research on the Internet, she traveled to a large cancer center for a consultation. “The place had none of the intimacy of the hospital where I first went, plus the doctors were accompanied by medical students, all of whom wanted a chance to examine my breast. I wasn’t comfortable with that.” The second opinion she received confirmed everything her first doctor had recommended (lumpectomy followed by eight weeks of chemo, 30 rounds of radiation, and five years of hormone therapy), so she decided to return to her original doctor’s care.
“I don’t think getting the second opinion was a mistake, even though it was time-consuming and not the best experience,” says Sarita. “It helped me accept that I really had cancer—I secretly believed it might be a mistake—and even more important, it gave me confidence in the treatment I chose.”
“I kept notes on everything.”
Two years ago 44-year-old Debbie Blevins, a mother of two teenagers from Louisville, Kentucky, had a breast-sparing lumpectomy, then chemo and radiation. From start to finish her treatment took eight months—and throughout the entire time she carried a big notebook with her everywhere. In it she wrote lists of questions to ask doctors, took notes on her appointments, and jotted down the names of all the drugs she was on. “I also wrote down every gift and meal I received,” says Debbie. “I wanted to remember how wonderful and supportive everyone was.”
Debbie says she wasn’t good at record-keeping before being diagnosed with breast cancer. But the notebook helped her stay sane. “I was so stressed, and it was a huge help to have everything in one place,” she says. In addition, Debbie had a plastic bin at home filled with medical information she received from doctors, a folder for receipts and bills, and a photo album that chronicled her treatment, including the day her husband shaved her head. “I often look back and see what a difference a year has made!”
Originally published in the October 1, 2010, issue of Family Circle magazine.
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