Probably seems a bit odd to seek a second opinion after I have already had 3 surgeries, 4 drains, 4 rounds of chemotherapy and 2 infections.
I never felt I needed a true second opinion from a hospital system outside of the one I have been working with. My doctors would always ‘present my case’ before the review board, consisting of multiple other doctors, before making big decisions. To me, the fact that a room full of doctors had to corroborate my primary docs’ choices, seemed like plenty of opinions.
At my final chemo appointment, my oncologist and I started the conversation about what is coming next. Despite the fact that all of the giant choices have already been made, there are a few major things left to decide as we look towards my continued treatment over the next 10 years.
Just because the biggie (chemo) is behind us, doesn’t mean treatment is ending. I will be in active treatment for at least another decade, with the introduction of Tamoxifen. Tamoxifen is a Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator-SERM. It is a heavy-duty drug that futzes with your estrogen levels in a way that slows cancer growth (that is the exact scientific definition, obvs).
Tamoxifen is not for the faint of heart. It has lots of side effects, but it is a no-brainer in my situation, to prevent recurrence.
What remains in question are a host of other options for manipulating my hormone levels in the hope of lessening chance of recurrence. This can include: monthly shots to artificially place you into menopause, a second class of drugs that you can take after you begin the shots, and even the elective surgical removal of one’s ovaries.
These seemed like significant enough decisions that talking to someone completely new might be of value.
I have some friends in high places and within a matter of 24 hours, after reaching out to a dear friend with connections, I had an appointment with a baller oncologist at Northwestern Hospital.
Step One: obtain medical records, which came via email. Step Two: ask someone with an office job to print said records, as they were over 100 pages and I am too cheap and lazy to deal with that level of printer ink in my own house. Step Three: act pathetic enough to have office person not only print, but collate, hole punch and place into a big-ass binder with your info P-Touched on it. BLAZAM!
The appointment went as well as we could have hoped. The doctor was clearly a brilliant woman, as she had somehow committed all of the key components of my diagnosis and treatment to memory and spoke to us about them as if it was something she had studied for weeks. The first big relief was that she told us she would have treated me in the exact same fashion as I was treated already. Always good to know that you didn’t miss a corner in the treatment of your cancer.
I am not going to go into the details of what she thinks about my follow-up treatment, but I will say that it was excellent to hear someone else’s opinion, even though it didn’t vary much at all from my current oncologist’s proposed protocol. This stuff is so heavy and confusing for a lay person that just to have the opportunity to discuss it aloud with a specialist is a huge help.
The best part of the second opinion appointment was that we went to RL for lunch afterwards. My husband and I both got the burger and, since I couldn’t taste it, I found myself asking him, ‘this tastes good, right?’ multiple times. Taste by proxy.
Couple of side notes I would like to share, as I feel you all really need this information:
- I had my eyelash extensions placed today by my girl Anastasia, who had the tough job of breaking the news to me that I am indeed missing a bunch of eyelashes. She said I had bald spots where she just improvised and glued the eyelash directly to my lid. My eyebrows are also starting to defect, which I have known but am in denial about, so let’s just not talk about it, m’kay?
- Last night I had such intense night sweats that I sweat through not only my clothes, but created a wet outline of my body on my sheets like you see when they draw chalk around the dead body on CSI. I would have taken a picture, but it was the middle of the night and I was wet and angry. I have found a silver lining in the night sweats that perhaps this is my new very low impact way of losing weight..?
- I attended a ‘clothes party’ last night with some friends. I might have cried a little bit cause I am too fluffy to fit into things the way I used to and I spent the last 20 minutes of the party wearing an ice pack on my head so I wouldn’t overheat and die on the spot. Not my finest moment, but thank you to everyone there for shopping, as part of the proceeds were donated to the American Cancer Society on my behalf.