So two Breast Cancer related things on my mind these days. The first one is that it’s been 5 years for me on Tamoxifen and after seeing an oncologist (a fellow at Mayo, not my original oncologist) it seems like the very small (5%) difference in reoccurence continuing tamoxifen for 5 years for me (less than 1cm original tumor, 1 micrometastasis in one lymph node, chemo/radiation/surgerey) may not be worth it to me. There is a slight risk of blood clots and endometrial cancer with Tamoxifen, and while the fellow quoted statistics that say less than 5% of people with my profile have that risk, I have had to have two ultrasounds and a biopsy already because of thickening in my endometrial lining.
So yeah, probably goodbye to tamoxifen when my 5 years is officially up in August. Whoot.
The other thing on my mind, mostly due to this Washington Post article on how acts of kindness really can make a difference in overall cancer care, is that I had experienced this directly in both positive and negative ways in my own breast cancer journey.
The negative: I was diagnosed at Olmsted Medical Center with breast cancer, but they don’t do chemotherapy. So when I transferred over to Mayo, I had to undergo another round of mammograms post-surgery for the Mayo doctor. So I’m high-intensity emotion already because of the diagnosis and looming possibility of chemo, I’m sitting shivering in a stupid gown in the arctic waiting room, expecting one set of mammograms. I mean, they already know I had cancer, right? They call me in for another set. And then another set. And then after 25 minutes wherein I’ve imagined that cancer has somehow grown back in one week, they tell me “we’re waiting on a consultation room so the radiologist can discuss the results with you.”
We all know what that means, right? “Discussing results” = Death sentence.
So I quietly imploded until the nurse came and got me into a room. Whereupon the radiologist came in and said “yep, you had cancer. I can see where it was surgically removed”. And then she sent me on my merry way.
So all I’m saying is that a little bit of kindness in terms of explaining to me that there was 1) heated blankets available for anyone who asked at the front desk and 2) I was going to have to do multiple mammograms despite already being diagnosed would have gone a long way that day.
And I realize I over reacted because I was emotionally distressed and anxious. But hey, that’s what the Washington Post article is saying. That cancer patients are generally distressed and anxious, especially around the time of first diagnosis and nurses and doctors who spend a bit of extra time explaining and listening really make a difference.
The Positive: Case in point. My first round of chemotherapy I had a nurse who recognized I was mortally terrified. She made a point to come over and explain every little thing she was doing, got me a heated blanket, got me treats, asked if she could give my name to another patient who was more experienced to calm me down, etc. etc.
She made all the difference in the world. I survived that first round of chemotherapy in a daze, but it would have been much, much worse without the kindness of that nurse.
So acts of kindness, not just from friends and family, but from your medical care team is soooooooo important.