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When I think about it…

When I think about it… As I wait at another doctor’s appointment for the results of my latest MRI, I reflect on how much I trust my treatment team. I never question their recommendations, although I know there are alternate science-based therapies to address my stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. I simply assume this team knows the precise right next step.

But does it? Am I really on the right path?

My very first consultation with a breast surgeon was excruciating. I was only 28. I nervously sat across from him as he offhandedly offered me a book of different photos of women with different breast procedures. The first words he spoke were “I am going to ruin your life for the next six months.” My stomach immediately flipped at his abruptness. I walked out his office knowing that I wouldn’t like him or trust him.

But my consultation with a second breast surgeon was supportive–as if I were talking to my high school basketball coach. I could feel he had my best interest at heart, and privately I still thank him daily.

I was terrified when, after surgery, I met my oncologist for the first time. I’d read a lot about chemotherapy, and had no idea how I could raise a child, manage a home, hold a job—and deal with  the side effects of cancer treatment.  But he was reassuring, and I entrusted my treatment to him.

On reflection, it seems as if I based my choice of doctors on their personalities. Did I like them? Did they make me feel comfortable and confident? It seems as if I’d made the assumption that they were all equally well-versed and skilled in the science. Then I picked people I liked. Fourteen years later, I wonder if that is a correct way to proceed. For, how do I really know they are equally well-versed and skilled? Is a good personality sufficient? Isn’t that what scammers have—good personalities?

What does it mean to select a doctor, or a medication, or a therapy, or reject them all? Do I know enough? No, absolutely not. I don’t know close to enough.

On even further reflection, I think the key—for me—is to ensure that I find a trustworthy source. Will it be random posts on social media? Will it be paid ads, pretty pamphlets? Adamant  people who pound a desktop with determination? Friends who’ve had good results? Recommendations from well-trusted doctors? Something else?

And on even more reflection, I realize that I probably could have stayed and worked with the first breast surgeon, who was so off-putting—if my thorough research had demonstrated he was the best.

Amanda Buss, executive director