Remember that no one cancer’s journey is the same, ignore the horror stories and focus on your own story! Trying to process information and make treatment choices while trying to process your feelings about a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming and disorienting. Take a breath. It will be ok.
• When you first meet with the surgeon, bring another pair of ears (family member, trusted friend, etc.) The person you choose should be reliable and knows how to advocate on your behalf.
• Consider bringing a notebook to write information down and if you have a list of questions, consider bringing it with your appointment with you so you can remember what you need to ask. Make sure you understand that you know who is on your team – Surgical Oncologist, Medical Oncologist, Radiation Oncologist, Genetics, Palliative Care, Nutrition, Social Work, etc.
• Make sure you know what type of cancer you have. Don’t be afraid of asking for your pathology report for better understanding. Learn about the treatment options available. After each appointment you should glean more and more information.
• Feel comfortable with your healthcare team. Sometimes this is a lifelong partnership. You should find healthcare providers that will listen to you, that can explain your diagnosis and treatment in a way that you can understand, and who you feel comfortable with.
• Feel free to ask for a 2nd opinion if you want to get one. No one should get offended at your request and you can always return to the original healthcare team once the consult is completed should you choose to.
• Don’t become a Google MD! Limit your online sources and make sure you go to trusted sites about your cancer.
• Don’t be afraid to ask for professional and emotional support if you need to.