My mom went with me for the second opinion. I couldn’t stand the idea of all the people who would chide me for not getting one, and it didn’t feel like I needed to make a mad dash to the surgeon’s table for this mastectomy. The appropriately named Second Opinion Clinic turned out to be an extremely helpful process for both my mom and I. For my mom, it was her first chance to ask questions, get information, and be involved in the treatment. For me, it was just clear confirmation of the inevitable.
The moment I knew I was in good hands…
Nurse: Would you like a cup of coffee?
Me: Oh, no thanks.
Nurse: Would you like a glass of wine?
I felt something weird walking to the patient room: pity. The nurse leading me to the room through the halls of the hospital caught the glance of someone working behind a desk at a counter. I could tell the person was looking at the nurse with a question in their eyes, and I watched as the nurse nodded her head – so slightly. I imagined her brows furrowing in as she gave a look that said, “Yes, this is her. his is our 27-year-old breast cancer patient.”
Poor, poor pitiful me.
I was not, however, their youngest breast cancer patient. That award went to a 26-year old… but if I’d had the biopsy in November, I could have at least tied, since I’m sure the cancer cells were hanging out and partying when I was 26 too. And while it ALWAYS comes as a relief to know that I am not alone, if I’m going to get breast cancer in my 20s, I might as well have the distinction of being the youngest. Too bad. I’m only second place.
I couldn’t believe the number of medical professionals I was able to meet with all in one setting. The breast surgeon, plastic surgeon, pathologist, radiologist, oncologist, fertility specialist, geneticist, and a few other folks who I can barely even recall. They all squeezed into my room, showed me my mammogram and ultrasound slides (which I had already seen, but was new to my mom) and discussed the cancer cells, which based on their necroses, were high grade (AKA aggressive little bastards). The fertility doctor stayed to discuss privately what I would need to do if my lymph nodes were positive and I would need chemo. He described the window of time I would have to pull out eggs from my ovaries to have them saved for in vitro later on. The plastic surgeon stayed to discuss my options for reconstruction and showed me photos of women. Which is all very nice, but I am neither old, overweight, nor saggy. It is hard to imagine reconstruction when I didn’t look like any of those women-Not even close! Ugh!
I collected business cards, thought about the pros and cons of each hospital, each doctor, each treatment. I reached my decision amongst a cloud of opinions and without even meeting my plastic surgeon. But my intuition led me.