Friday, February 17, 2012

Be Your Own Best Advocate

A few weeks ago I posted about my first mammogram.  I never got a call back.  I never got the letter they promised if everything was fine.  After about two weeks I called my OB/GYN, Dr. P.  They had never received the report either.  She called me back a couple of hours later and read the report to me.  "A normal mammogram with the appearance of a small mass in the right breast."  How is that normal? I asked.  I was told the radiologist believes it is likely a lymph node. Oh, Ok.

I hung up the phone.  I was left unsettled.  Normal with a mass?  Likely?  Hmmmm.  None of that sounded nearly definitive enough for me.  I called my primary for a second opinion.  She reiterated what the report said.  Said I was young.  Just go back in 6 months. 

Normal with a mass.  Likely.  Young.  Still none of this sat well with me.  I recognize that my history makes me sensitive to this, but isn't that why I'm being screened so young in the first place?  My wonderful mother in law told me to pursue.  Gave me the push I needed.  Another call to Dr. P resulted in her recommendation to visit the Hoffberger Breast Center at Mercy Hospital.

I showed up in Baltimore sheepish.  Feeling like maybe I was wasting people's time.  Maybe my anxiety is getting the better of me.  I mean, a Dr. told me it was normal.  Not just one Dr. but two and a radiologist. 

That's where I met Barb.  Barb is a R.N. at the Hoffberger Breast Cancer Center (which I will say is one of the nicest and friendliest Dr. offices I have ever visited).  Barb walked into the exam room and I was instantly drawn to her.  She had the best qualities of my mom and the best qualities of my mother in law all mixed into one person.  Who wouldn't be drawn to her?

She asked me about why I was there.  She asked me about my life.  She asked me about my babies.  She asked me about my mom - not just her breast cancer but about who she was.  She took a full and complete history.  She offered her arm when I got emotional.  When I asked if I was being silly for being concerned, she assured me.  Told me that I have to be my own best advocate.  That if something doesn't sound right than I have to push for the answers.  She said she would do the same thing.  Then she told me something that finally put my mind at ease.  She said, "sweet heart, you don't have to worry anymore.  You have an advocate in me.  And together we will find all the answers we need!"

After the exam we met in her office where she showed me my films (a novel idea huh?).  She showed me the small spots that the radiologist wrote up in his report.  She confirmed that she is nearly positive they are benign but that I am young and I have babies and I have a history so for her "nearly positive" isn't good enough.

She worked with me to find a state of the art imaging center that has a specialization in breast cancer and takes my insurance.  She called the care coordinator while I was in her office and asked her to take care of me (which she has!)

I'm scheduled for follow up tests in a week.  I'm sure everything in the end will be fine, but I needed to know.  I needed something better than "we think" and "you're young." 

Through all of this I have had a number of friends comment that they would have felt the same way but likely followed what their Doctors originally told them.  They would not have wanted to challenge their doctor.  That was my first inclination too.  But I write this today to say that you and ONLY you are your own best advocate.  Don't settle for answers that leave you with questions.  Keep asking.  Keep pushing.  Take your health, your life and your care into your own hands.  No one else is going to do that for you!

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