Thursday, October 7, 2010

Great Marketing Gimics

Since I know that it really raises breast cancer awareness I won't complain too much, but you can find just about anything from a appliances to tampons with that pink ribbon on display this month.  If you are making an effort to purchase these things thinking you are giving back to the cause, make sure that they are actually donating a fair amount back to some reputable organization. mmm-k?!

Speaking of marketing....wouldn't it be great if the medical community worked the same way?  If you were handed your cancer diagnosis along with a consumer reports magazine of all the local doctors in the area, their brag sheet and then patient reviews?  I think I may have found my billion dollar idea!
I have always said that I felt very blessed to have had the medical team that I did.  I was fortunate enough to have friends of friends that connected me with my oncologist Dr. Medgyesy here in Fort Collins.  When I was first handed my diagnosis from my GP (general practitioner) it became a whirlwind of decisions that needed to be made yesterday and referrals to whom ever could fit me in first.  Now, I am not saying that my GP didn't have my best interests at heart but I had no personal experience with cancer so was just doing as I was told.  My first appointment was set up with the brand new doctor at the local surgeons office because he had the openings and could get me in the fastest.  He was to prepare me for surgery ASAP to get my tumor removed.  Of course the first thing I did was google the doctor and found out that he had no real specialty or prolonged experience with the needs that I had and was, as I said, fresh out of med school.   
I was lucky enough to have a dear friend, Courtnee, who was friends with a NP (nurse practioner) at Front Range Cancer Center.  After expressing my concerns with being overwhelmed and not knowing what to do with Courtnee she immediately called her friend the NP, Lisa, who recommended that I come and speak with an oncologist before making any big decisions.  Dr. Medgyesy offered to stay after her normal schedule the following day to see me.  After looking at my scans and charts she recommended that instead of doing surgery right away that we do Neo Adjuvent chemotherapy (chemo before surgery) because the tumor was growing very close to my chest wall.  It was her opinion that if we did not do this then there was risk of having to also remove parts of my chest wall to get all of the tumor.  She took the time to sit with us and explain the pros and cons of each situation and then give her opinion as to treatment.  In the end it was left up to me.  I ended up choosing to do the Neo Adjuvent Chemo and do surgery afterwords.  After meeting with her I also decided to call around and look online for a surgeon that would better fit my needs as a patient.  I was going to need a general surgeon fairly quickly to put in my port.  This is used for administering chemo and other drugs and also drawing blood samples rather than having to start an IV or get poked every day.  I found my surgeon Dr. Chiavetta here locally too that was wonderful through other patient recommendations and online research.
Through my entire cancer process I was under the care of lots of different doctors but more importantly lots of different opinions.  I saw 5 surgeons to consult about reconstruction between here and Salt Lake City.  I believe it is very important to obtain opinions from several docs and be able to choose the one that is right for you.  I also believe that getting several opinions to weigh your options is very beneficial.  Any good doctor will not be offended or threatened by you getting a 2nd, 3rd, 4th opinion.   

Lesson Learned:
Doctors work for you and not the other way around.  Don't be afraid to take charge of your health care and do your homework about your situation.  Any doctor that has issues with you getting 2nd opinions is not the right doctor for you.  Don't be afraid to ask questions and question what is going on with your care.  You are the best advocate for your care and you know your body better than anyone else.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Day 1

So we have officially entered breast cancer awareness month. Let the pink ribbons explode upon retailers everywhere. Personally I couldn't be any more aware of this disease, but if it hasn't been forced upon you or your family, as it was mine, it is a good thing to be reminded of.  Enter...the purpose of this blog.

I think of everything in life is a learning experience.  Learning is sometimes fun, sometimes painful. For better or for worse, lessons are learned and we are all the wiser for the experiences that life forces upon us.  Cancer was one of the experiences that my life forced upon me.  I have learned a lot of things from this disease.  
I recently received an email from Komen and in the subject line it read "I think about this disease everyday". Then I thought..hmmm, me too!  I wondered how many other people, like myself, could say these exact same words. Say them, and really mean them. I think there are a great number of us that can unfortunately. Not only us cancer patients, but the people that love us as well. I think it is safe to say that millions and millions of people are affected by this disease, and not only this disease but cancer itself.

I saw a story on the news yesterday about a women here in Colorado that has been faking cancer for several years and has swindled her friends, neighbors, etc. out of money to support her drug habit. You can read about this piece of work here if you are so inclined. I was infuriated and personally offended after hearing this story, as I am sure many people were. On the news I saw them interview one of her neighbors. The neighbor said that she was not sorry that she had offered her help and that she would offer the same help to her again if she found out they were in need of it.  I have to say I would not have been so nice.  Just hearing the report I was yelling at the TV and I wasn't even personally involved.  Maybe I should pray to be more forgiving?

Besides reminding myself to pray to be a better made me think about all of the people that were so kind to me during my fight with cancer. So, so many people offering to help in whatever ways they were able. I was overwhelmed with how many people reached out to help me and my family. People brought in meals, sent cards, paid bills, left money, cleaned my house, took care of my kids, took me to appointments, gave me massages, held my head over the toilet, helped me walk and recover after surgery, shaved their heads, listened to me cry and whine, held my hand, I named it - they did it.
Here is a story related from my blog shortly after I lost my hair:

Jon and I were able to go out to eat at the Egg and I with the twins the other day. We went to go pay our bill and someone at the restaurant paid our bill and gave the waitress a note to give to me that said "A good deed had been done today in loving memory of my mother. Good luck to you ~ a friend" Of course I was in tears the rest of the time there and the whole way home. It is unreal to think about all the many women that this disease has impacted.

I still remember that day.  It was cold and snowing, and I am always freezing, but with no hair it gets really cold.  I had a stocking cap on, but my head was getting so itchy from wearing it.  I realized soon after shaving my head that it was constantly irritated.  I had been messing with it most of the way through our meal and finally just took it off.  I always hated the looks and stares from everyone.  I could just feel everyone in the room looking at me and was so uncomfortable.  It was a bad day on top of all the hat drama because I was feeling horrible.  As soon as the waitress gave us that note I was in tears and cried until we got home.  I couldn't believe that a total stranger would have done something so kind for me.  The stranger really lifted my spirits that day and I will never forget that. I will be forever indebted to those who so generously gave of themselves for my benefit during that time.  I hope that I will be able to do the same for others when the opportunity presents itself.

Lesson learned:
An act of kindness, no matter how small you might think it is, can really make a big difference to the person on the receiving end.  When in doubt, it is always better to act then stand by and wait for someone else to.  You'll never regret being kind and loving.