June 23, 2011
After discovering I had “suspicious” mammograms and ultrasounds, I was referred by my primary doctor to a breast specialist. I was decidedly ambivalent about him. He was certainly charming enough. I liked him, was even a bit attracted to him, but I found myself frustrated with his communication skills. For instance, two different times I went to his office assuming I would be getting my biopsies done. Apparently, this was not on the agenda either time. It kind of felt like he was just getting as many billable hours as possible before I was referred to a surgeon
In retrospect, I guess I was terribly naïve. But I’m a hospital novice! (I am one of those blessed few who has never been admitted to a hospital.) And I’m certainly a novice when it comes to breast concerns. This was all new to me. I wish someone somewhere along the line had explained the timetable a bit better. All I knew was the mammograms and ultrasound showed two different concerning situations and I assumed biopsies would be the next course of action. So why was I having repeated consultations with this supposed specialist? Twice! It felt wholly unnecessary. I wasn’t really sure why I was seeing him. What was he supposed to be doing? It was all rather strange and confusing.
When I returned for my second appointment – having once again psyched myself up for at least one biopsy – I found out that we were again in consultation mode only. Frustrating to say the least! But what was worse was that he told me what he planned to do. His plan of action was: 1) Do what is called a stereotactic biopsy* on the right breast, where “a cluster of micro-calcifications” had been found. And 2) schedule me for the OR so that they can remove the nodule found in my left breast and then do a cannulization of the involved milk duct(s).*
It took me a few days to realize that I was pissed at him. And even more time to figure out why I was angry and what I was going to do about it.
March 10, 2016
Now, almost five years later, I realize that these were reasonable courses of action that he proposed. In fact this was the course of action I eventually took. But I hated the way he presented this to me as if it was a done deal. If he had said, “I propose we do” thus and so, I might have been more receptive. But when he said, “This is what we’re going to do,” I got offended. I’m an intelligent woman and I wanted to be more involved in the whole decision-making process. And I wanted to understand more fully what was going on and whether or not there were other options.
I don’t think he fully understood that THIS WAS MY BODY we were talking about. This was all an extremely BIG DEAL! I just wanted to feel more involved and respected.
June 23, 2011
It took me several days, plus breakfast with a friend, plus a therapy session with another friend, plus a day away “on retreat” before I got clear that I wasn’t ready to rush into these procedures and I certainly wasn’t ready to rush into them with him.
Okay, let me back up a bit to that first week of discovering that something was amiss.
I had been remarkably calm during the first visit with my primary doctor and for a large part of the following week. But when I went for the first consultation with the breast doctor (what I foolishly thought would be a biopsy), I was suddenly freaked out. I realized I had put all my emotions aside and focused on everything BUT the fact that I could have breast disease, could lose a breast, could need chemotherapy, etc., etc. And all the sudden I realized, YIKES! Perhaps I should have sat with this a bit longer.
I called a girlfriend who is a breast cancer survivor. It was only 7:15 or so in the morning, but as she is a mother with a school-age child, I took the chance of calling. She was perfect. She said basically, “Most cancers are quite slow-growing, therefore there is no rush to decide anything. It is appropriate to sit with your options and consider what is best for you. A few days are not going to hurt you.”
This was extremely reassuring to me. Everything had happened so fast. After my first call to my doctor, I’d had an appointment with my primary, mammograms, an ultrasound, and two brief meetings with radiologist in five days. And my guess is it would have been even faster except that the Memorial Day weekend fell between those appointments.
Fortunately, I had just begun (finally) to share my experience, my concerns and fears with a few friends. On Monday, a friend highly recommended this woman who specialized in breast care. She was noted for her willingness and ability to talk out all the options and concerns of women facing breast disease. A couple friends recommended her very highly. She was rather well-known. (Dr. Beth B. Dupree, Southampton, PA)
It wasn’t until I got clear that I wanted to, at the very least, get a second opinion, that I looked her up online. To my surprise and delight, she was a doctor! In fact, she was a surgeon with an excellent reputation. And here I had thought she was a counselor! Not only that, but she was open to women pursuing any avenues which might lead to greater healing. And she was a master Reiki practitioner as well as a doctor! This was my kind of doctor!
The more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted to work with Dr. DuPree and her colleagues. This is the way healthcare should be provided. It should be caring. It should be clear. It should be professional. It should feel like a team.
I want these people on my team!!!