Getting a second opinion after a cancer diagnosis is so important. It puts your mind at ease that you’re making the best decisions.
I made an appointment for a second opinion at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. Fox Chase specializes in cancer. My husband took me to an early appointment on a sunny morning in March. To our surprise, the center looked like a small city. It was sobering to think all the people there had something to do with cancer.
We arrived early because we had been concerned about traffic. I sat anxiously in the waiting room, taking in everything around me. Some were laughing, talking, or sitting quietly. Some appeared as if this was their 30th visit, and others, like me, were waiting for their first appointment. Registration went easy and then we were directed to the women’s center, which was a walk down two long hallways.
We waited. My husband assisted me in the bathroom, and then we waited some more. I scanned the women in the waiting room to see if any were as anxious as me. I saw lots of women with wigs or bandanas on their heads due to hair loss from chemotherapy. Many were reading books or talking to friends. The performer who sang Fight Song, (Rachael Platten) was on one of the televisions. I thought it ironic because the words are so relevant to the emotions of fighting cancer.
Finally, the nurse called my name and ushered us to a large room. She reviewed my medical history and asked why I had sought a second diagnosis. She seemed very cheerful and kind. I changed into a yellow robe and she left. I had researched the doctor I was about to see. He had several years of experience in treating breast cancer. His wife is a breast cancer survivor, so he had experience as both a cancer specialist and as the husband of a breast cancer patient.
After another long wait, the doctor came to talk to us. He was very kind and had southern charm. He confirmed I had DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) cancer, and that radiation wouldn’t work for me because of my cerebral palsy movements. Unfortunately, he saw the same exact cancer as the original diagnosis, and he also recommended I choose a mastectomy. He hesitated on the need for a double mastectomy because he felt certain the cancer wouldn’t return. He told me he would proceed as I wished.
Comfortable with second opinion
I felt comfortable and educated when I talked to him. He asked me if I wanted to have the mastectomy completed at Fox Chase, and I agreed. After learning we lived almost an hour away, he said he could try to have the plastic surgeon drive over to talk to me. He also said I could complete the pre-registration requirements that day so I didn’t have to make a return trip. I was excited at how accommodating they were.
Sure enough, the plastic surgeon drove over from his office. Before he arrived, my husband used his smart phone to research him, so I knew what to expect. I was happy to hear the plastic surgeon’s credentials. After he arrived, he answered all our questions. He gave me direct answers with compassion. I felt confident I had made the best decision by going to Fox Chase.
After eating a much-needed lunch at the cafeteria, we were in for a long time afternoon of blood tests, an EKG, seeing the anesthesia specialist and meeting several others. The least favorite was hearing about the after-care of the mastectomy. It all sounded very scary. I was told I would need to wash with a special soap a week before surgery to help decrease the risk of infection. Then she explained the “drains,” which gave me the creeps. (The drains remove the blood and and other fluids from the incision area to help make me more comfortable.)
With that long day behind me, all that was left for me was to set a date for surgery — and decide if I will have a single or double mastectomy.
Note: Breast Cancer News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Breast Cancer News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to breast cancer.