Thursday, November 7, 2013

Know the Choices You Can Make

Good Morning Cancer Patients and Caregivers;
As with many journeys, the cancer treatment and recovery journey is filled with numerous choices to be made. Many will be made by your cancer treatment team, Oncologist, surgeon and others. While many will be made by you. Your Oncologist and treatment team will decide the protocol they will use to treat you. The surgeon will decide the procedure to use if surgery is required. If you use a Dietitian, they will decide your  nutritional regime. Your Radiologist will decide the radiology treatment protocol. All along the course of the journey, choices are made regarding your treatment. Most cancer patients don't realize they can be a part of the decision process by participating, asking the questions: why? and, what alternative choices do I have?

When I was diagnosed, I could be treated with chemo and radiation, then go through surgery or I could go through surgery and then start chemo and go through radiation. If I had not asked the question about the alternatives I would have never known there were alternatives. When my tear ducts closed from the chemo and my eyes watered because they couldn't drain through the ducts, the eye specialist decided to insert glass tubes into the tear ducts to keep them open. I asked him what were my alternatives. He responded, do nothing, or come in here every week and I will flush the ducts and you will use a steroid eye drop which wouldn't resolve the issue, just make it more tolerable. I chose to have my eyes flushed every week and to use the drops. A week after I finished my last round of a week's worth of chemo treatment, my tear ducts opened and were back to normal.

There were numerous other occasions where I made choices including: deciding on a surgeon based on the procedure he was going to use and his past experience with it, versus using the surgeon the Oncologist referred me to that was going to use a different procedure and was rather nonchalant during our meeting to discuss the surgery; deciding to keep my infusion port in until I was finally released from the Oncologist five years after I was diagnosed, and had my port flushed every three months; requesting to have a CT scan done every three months rather than every six months because I wanted to shorten the time from when the cancer returned to when we identified it and started a treatment; deciding I was going to continue living my live while going through treatment and continue doing the things I was doing when I was diagnosed ( working, water sking, riding motor cycles, lifting weights).

Don't let the diagnosis of cancer and the treatment process keep you from knowing what your choices are and the decisions you can make . Your oncologist and cancer treatment team will share any information and choices that will be made. You need to participate and have them know, you want to know your choices and the consequences of the choices you can make. By doing so will help reduce the fear factor, give you a sense of controlling your destiny, and allow you to feel like treatment is being done with you, and not being done to you.

Stay strong, keep your sense of humor and never give up.

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