In one of the private Facebook communities to which I belong, I became alarmed when I saw several posts this week from others talking about the problems that they are having with the side effects of their current treatments and the responses that they were receiving from their oncologists. Although I was not a part of these discussions, the absurdity of the responses that some received and the dismissiveness that they experienced was so difficult for them on top of the physical pain that they were already experiencing that led them to seek professional help in the first place.
“Therefore, if at any time you are not happy with your treatments, how they are administered, who is administering them, side effects that you are experiencing and/or any sort of dialogues or feedback that makes you uncomfortable, it is up to you to make the changes with your oncologist and/or other team members, as needed.”Barbara Jacoby
From my own experience, it reminded me of the first visit that I had with the oncologist to whom I was sent by others in my medical group. He determined what my treatment would be based upon the type of breast cancer that I had, the size of the tumor and my age. These were the guidelines that he printed out for me from WebMD that he decided would direct my treatment. I didn’t understand this at all. Why did I need an oncologist to decide my treatment path if all that was needed was to follow what I found on the Internet rather than getting advice from a medical professional who has spent years learning about breast cancer and all of the options available for their patients based upon their actual cancer which I came to understand was different in every single individual.
Within hours of that meeting, I decided that I would not go back to that oncologist ever again and returned to my primary care physician for another referral. This referral was to another oncologist in the same oncological group and I was so uncomfortable because I didn’t want to run into the first oncologist who I had “fired”. But, the office staff was so accommodating to me and would sneak me into the back “employee” entrance and take me directly to an exam room and close the door while I waited for my appointment. For that respect alone, I will forever be grateful to have this as my first introduction to my new oncologist. And he has proven to be just as respectful to me on every level during the more than 13 years of treatments and annual visits that we have had.
This oncologist had my actual cancer tested. After all of the information was in, we sat down together and discussed options and recommendations and from there, we settled upon a mutually-agreed-upon treatment plan. With my own buy-in, I followed every step of treatment and follow-up religiously in my effort to have the best outcome. And when someone chose to switch me from the brand of one aromatase inhibitor to its generic form without explanation, I didn’t know that when I started to experience joint pain that this was the cause. But, I did know where to turn in order to find out if this was the cause and to know that I had someone who would take immediate action to help correct the problem.
Therefore, if at any time you are not happy with your treatments, how they are administered, who is administering them, side effects that you are experiencing and/or any sort of dialogues or feedback that makes you uncomfortable, it is up to you to make the changes with your oncologist and/or other team members, as needed. It is hard enough to deal with cancer let alone having to deal with anyone on your medical pathway who does not treat you with dignity and respect. Therefore, regardless of which step you are on in your treatment, please request someone with whom you are comfortable. Get that second opinion, or third, or fourth, as needed. It really does make a difference and you have more than enough with which to deal on the physical level with the actual treatment. I know what a difference it made for me personally and I bless the day that I met Dr. Karo Arzoo who changed the course of my treatment based upon actual scientific data and has assisted me through everything since Day 1.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.