There’s a common trope in rom-com movies where a woman gripes to her friends about wanting to meet an esteemed man: a lawyer, an accountant, and most especially, a doctor. Well, guess who got to meet three doctors at the same time? That’s right, me.
No, I wasn’t going on a dating app binge to find “the one.” I simply had the privilege of being diagnosed with breast cancer at 27 years old, which makes meeting multiple doctors at the same time a pretty easy goal to achieve.
Jokes aside, meeting my medical team (or “cancer team,” as they were referred to) was terrifying and overwhelming, and I wish I had never met them.
It’s not that they weren’t great -- of course, they were. They are. But let’s be real. I wish I never met them because I wish I’d never been diagnosed with cancer. Zero out of 10, would not recommend.
Moments after I was diagnosed, I asked the nurse practitioner what my next steps would be. I’m the type of person that takes news -- good, bad, or otherwise -- as an opportunity to find out what to do next. I was ready to get started with treatment so I could get rid of the cancer ASAP. The nurse practitioner told me about the cancer team I’d be meeting, and I asked how soon I could meet them.
The longest 8 days of my life passed between diagnosis and meeting my cancer team. On March 19, 2021, I was introduced to the three most important people I’d probably ever meet in my life: an oncologist, a breast surgeon, and a radiologist. One by one, they came into the room to talk to me.
Two out of my three doctors were women: my oncologist and my breast surgeon, which was refreshing. My oncologist reminded me of a teacher; my surgeon reminded me of a caregiver; my radiologist reminded me of a dad. Each of them would have their role in saving my life, and I had to put all my trust and faith in their hands from the moment I met them.
But they weren’t the only people in my medical team who were on my side. I also had a wonderful nurse navigator who helped me understand who everyone was, where I needed to go, and what I’d be expecting for the duration of my treatment. She reminded me of a friend.
In addition to my cancer center medical crew, I had another doctor at a different hospital who I went to for my in-vitro fertilization (IVF) appointments and oocyte retrieval procedure. She was also a critical player in the “how to prepare for a cancer diagnosis in your 20s” game.
I was equipped with doctors on all sides for different components of my treatment plan, but I’m not usually the type of person to trust people from the get-go. But in a situation like this, you really have no choice beyond putting your faith in people you’ve just met.
And I’m not talking about second opinions -- go get those if you need to. I mean purely just putting your faith into strangers’ hands and saying, “I trust you have my best interests in mind.”
I don’t do that. I don’t trust easily. So I had to find a way to build trust in the only way I know how: asking questions and being vulnerable.
I didn’t shy away from asking about the “vain” stuff like bodily changes, losing my hair, and going into medically induced menopause. I wasn’t too scared to swear, cry, or send a million MyChart emails to my providers. I couldn’t pretend to be someone else when I was in the midst of losing the only “me” I knew how to be.
My team met me with open arms, sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally. They didn’t shoot down my concerns; they didn’t brush me off because I was “too young.” They listened, they acted, and they changed my life.
What more could I really ask for?
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