Communicating With Your Health Care Team

Abigail Letts O’Brien | Oct 10, 2019 | Care, Community, Stories

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On my journey with breast cancer, I have had numerous friends, colleagues and family members diagnosed with breast cancer and have acquired “sisters AND brothers” through our deep networks of charities, support groups, online forums.  Yet, one thing seems to ring true through all of us – how we communicate with our care team.

YOU are your health care team.

During an exam when I was 32 years old, a nurse found a lump that warranted further testing.  After the tests, the follow-up required a meeting with an oncologist to review the results.  This physician dismissed me.  He scoffed at my young age. When I referenced my family history with the disease, he condescendingly pointed out that the history came from my father’s side, not my mother’s.  I left the office feeling stupid, as though I had behaved like a hypochondriac.

Let me be clear.  It wasn’t cancer, and this wasn’t a misstep by the physician.  What it was, was a wake-up call for me when cancer did come knocking.

Your greatest asset in your battle against breast cancer is you, your knowledge and your curiosity.  And by you, I also mean your personal support team of spouse, partner, kids, closest friends, parents, siblings…

Ask questions.  Who else does the physician consult with when developing a treatment plan?  No one person knows it all, so your physician should consult other physicians, pathologists, nurses, colleagues at other institutions.

Comfort is NON-negotiable.  Finding your oncologist is like finding your spouse – you just know.  You should feel like you can ask s/he anything without being mocked.  You should feel confident in their care and that you also have a voice in the treatment plan.  And when you feel like you’re headed off the deep end, out of control and overwhelmed, your care team should talk you off that ledge.  I have been talked off many a time.  There’s no shame in having deep end moments.

Never feel guilty to fight for your life. Do your research. Ask questions. ADVOCATE for yourself.

This is your battle.  You are the warrior.  And you are armed with pink.

(And, psst, turnaround, you’ll see an army of us veteran warriors standing with you.)

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