The second addition to ” My Oncology Team”…

Today I was scheduled to meet with the radiation oncologist. This time, since it was so close to work, I booked the appointment late in the afternoon. When I walked in, the office was very quiet and there were two very cheerful young ladies sitting behind the front desk. After signing in, I was given a stack of forms to complete. “There goes another tree with my name on it”, I thought to myself. I quickly filled them out and returned them to one of the girls behind the desk.

I don’t recall waiting very long before the nurse called my name and lead me into an exam room. This office was very different from the last. There were no windows in the exam room I was in and it was lightly decorated. It didn’t feel as cozy or welcoming but, I later found out that it was due to them relocating to a much nicer facility. In any event, I wasn’t aware of that at the time so I became a little nervous, not knowing what to expect. Was the lack of decor suppose to resemble my new doctors personality? I knew she was a female based on the name but I hadn’t heard anything more about her. Was she going to be cold and dry? Well, I was about to find out.

As my brain was trying to connect the pieces of the puzzle, I heard a gentle knock on the door and in came the doctor with a huge smile on her face. She instantly lit up the room and gave it the makeover it needed. She introduced herself and with just a few words I felt an instant connection. I could sense that she was a very kind and compassionate person.

After a little game of “let’s get to know each other” she asked me to change into a gown so that she could take a look at my incision. I was still healing well which was great news because I was ready to start treatment as soon as I was cleared to do so. I wanted to make sure that there wasn’t even one cell that could do me harm left behind.

She explained I needed to give my wound a little more time to heal and since I was also going to Moffitt for a second opinion, she recommended I wait to see what form of treatment they suggested before going any further. If chemotherapy was needed, I would have to wait till I finished the chemo before I could move forward with radiation.

She also wanted me to schedule an appointment to see a genetics counselor so that they could test me for the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 gene. The fact that I was so young and with no known family history of breast cancer was starting to raise suspicion. If indeed I was positive for either gene, I wanted to do anything I could to prevent someone else in my family from going through the same thing I was. I had a younger sister and two nieces to think about. With a positive gene, the recommendation is to have a double mastectomy and hysterectomy as your risk of breast and cervical cancer are much higher. This was important information to pass on and it would be selfish of me to keep it to myself.

My doctor asked me how I felt about the possibility of not having my own children, should that be the case in the future, and I remember thinking, “with all of the kids in the world that need a good home, why on earth would I want to risk passing on a faulty gene to my offspring”? I had always been happy with the idea of adoption. In fact on a more recent note, prior to my diagnoses, I had decided that it was the best option because I didn’t want to be pressed for time by my “biological clock”. It was hard enough with society wondering why at 31 I wasn’t already married with children.

The truth is, I wanted to experience life more without the responsibility of having a child. I didn’t want to conform to societies belief that at my age I should already have children when I knew I wasn’t ready to give up certain freedoms that came with not having them. Who made up that silly rule anyway and when did it become so taboo to decide not to have children? I don’t think my doctor was to convinced but, she listen to my reasoning, gave me a smile and reassured me I was going to get through this. I was very happy to have her on my team.

Once I left the office I immediately called the genetics counselor to schedule my appointment. I would soon be on my way to Moffitt and I wanted to get as much as I could done before arriving. Little by little I was checking off items on my to do list and slowly I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

My oncology team…

I was excited to finally be meeting the team of oncologists that would be overseeing my health. To me, it was a symbol of moving forward. Now, more questions would be answered and with that came a better idea of what my future would be like. My first appointment was with the oncologist. I remember walking into the office that morning and feeling overwhelmed with emotions.

Even though I had already completed my surgery, it wasn’t till I was in a room full a patients all being treated for cancer related issues, that it really hit me. We were all cancer patients. I recall being handed the stack of paperwork to fill out regarding my demographics, insurance, personal and family history. Somewhere in the world there must be one less tree that would have had my name on it as I’m convinced it must have taken the whole tree to make my packet alone.

I began filling out the paperwork and within minutes was called back into a small office. “Already?”, I thought to myself. The young lady asked me to sit in a chair located next to her desk and she began to verify my insurance and demographic information. She also asked me what pharmacy I preferred and made sure to save it in my file. Once we finished the verification process, I was asked to pay my portion of the consultation with the physician. I felt a little strange already paying for a service I hadn’t received but, I did so anyway and after receiving my receipt, I was directed back into the waiting room.

It didn’t take to long before a young man called me into the back room. At this point, the entire waiting room was full and the phones were ringing nonstop. I followed the young man down the hall where we made our way into a room with several recliner like chairs lined up next to each other. I was asked to sit in the very first chair. This room was designated as their laboratory/draw station.

The phlebotomist drew some blood which thankfully was painless. I watched as he processed my lab order and placed a label with my name on each tube. He worked so quickly and gracefully. Once he finished, he turned to me, smiled, and asked me to follow him again. Still with the stack of paperwork in my hands, I followed him into an exam room just down the hall. Here, he asked me to wait patiently for the doctor.

As I waited I finished filling out my paper work. The office was cold but well lit and surprisingly felt full of life. A gentleman knocked on the door, came in, and introduced himself as the physician assistant. He reviewed the records that had been sent to the office as well as provided me with his thoughts on my recovery and treatment plan. He explained himself very well and asked if I had any questions for him at that time. My mind was still processing some thoughts in that moment so I said no. After acknowledging my response he excused himself and returned with my physician.

My new oncologist was a complete joy. I was impressed with his attention to detail, patience while explaining my condition to me, and his ability to talk to me as a real person. When he spoke to me, he genuinely took the time to get to know Elizabeth, the athlete, and not just Elizabeth, the cancer patient. In our conversation I learned that he too was a triathlete and instantly we had formed a bond. He understood my need to get back into my athletic routine which for so long had been very important to me.

This was already an amazing start to our doctor/patient relationship. I remember him taking off the wristband he was wearing and handing it to me. He joked, expressing the wristband hadn’t helped him win any races and that maybe it would bring me better luck. I was touched by the gesture and accepted the gift. The wristband read, ” The power of positive thinking”. It couldn’t have been a more appropriate reminder.

After a small physical examination of the surgical site, he reviewed my records. In summary, his recommendation was for me to establish with the radiation oncologist to discuss radiation treatments, schedule an appointment with my gynecologist to further evaluate the area of concern in my pelvis, and to schedule an appointment with Moffitt for a second opinion on the 1 lymph node positive for a single cluster of individual tumor cells.

I immediately asked if he thought this meant I would need chemotherapy but, he assured me that his recommendation for me to go to Moffitt for a second opinion was not because he thought my condition was worse than I had imagined. Instead, it was him wanting to cross all his “t’s” and dot all of his “i’s” before starting any form of treatment I may or may not have needed.

This was comforting and once again I was filled with peace. All in all, this appointment was full of good news and I was extremely pleased with the doctor and other healthcare professionals that were now involved with my care. I felt safe and understood, two of the most important things a cancer patient could ever feel…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

*** Note to reader ***

You can view the wristband given to me during the appointment in my photos tab. 🙂