My sister Jackie, was first diagnosed with breast cancer
in October of 2000. Upon discovering the lump she immediately made an appointment with her doctor. It was due to this self-awareness that they were able to catch it in the earlier stages. She was then referred to an Oncologist who preformed a lumpectomy and successfully “removed all of the cancer.”
Additional testing of the lymph nods confirmed that there were no additional abnormalities. Her Oncologist had her follow up the surgery with radiation therapy. Since markers indicated that the cancer was positive for estrogen she was prescribed Tamoxifen, an anti-estrogen drug. She diligently took her medication, went to her check ups and had her yearly mammagrams as recommended by the Oncologist. All seemed well up until the spring of 2005, only months away from celebrating five years of being cancer free.
Throughout the preceding year she began to have increasing difficulties breathing. It was concluded that her childhood asthma had resurfaced and inhalers were prescribed. This seemed to alleviate the problem to a certain degree, but her condition worsened and she began to have bouts of coughing so extreme as to induce vomiting. Finally, her PCP ordered a simple, routine x-ray. It was only then that the fist size mass in her left lung was discovered. She was referred to a pulmonary specialist who put her through a series of tests. The results not only confirmed that the mass was malignant, it concluded that it had metastasized from the original breast cancer. Alarmed by the size of the mass and fearing that her current Oncologist had let her down we pleaded with her to consult a different Oncologist. She resisted our pleas insisting, “I really like her a lot. She is just so nice.”
Unwilling to go on blind faith, as we had five years earlier, we began to investigate on our own. The initial research confirmed the severity of her condition. As news spread through the family, my son-in-law called to discuss her condition.
He suggested that we take her to the Cancer Center that he had started working for only a few years earlier. After my conversation with him I pushed for us to do just that, and for two good reasons. First and foremost, research confirmed his assessment of the oncologists. The doctors at that facility are known to be some of the best in the world. The Center was very aggressive in their treatments and always had a positive belief that the cancer could be put in remission. The other more poignant reason was his concluding statement of, “If it were me or your daughter – that’s where we would go.”
We convinced Jackie to give it a try, and were extremely pleased with the doctors and the environment. It wasn’t the grave, doom and gloom place we had been expecting. Instead, we found that everyone who worked there was upbeat and positive. The kindness of the doctors and employees was only surpassed by their professionalism. We soon discovered that it was the Center’s policy to give regular CAT scans once the patient was in full remission. In shock, we wondered why Jackie had never received anything more than a mammagram from the other doctor. How much sooner would we have caught the cancer if she had been given even one Cat scan? While there was no way to know for sure, we were certain it would have never reached the stage IV she was now facing. Our anger grew as we watched the stunned reaction of doctors and nurses when they were told she had not received chemotherapy with the original breast cancer. It was apparent to us that instead of getting the optimum treatment, she had only received the minimum. We now understood that the choice of doctors and treatment was critical in this fight between life and death.
All too often we, as laymen, just accept what doctors tell us without question. Yet, it is of the utmost importance that you investigate and research every possible detail. You must educate yourself on which doctors are best and how many treatment options they can offer, for they are not all created equal.