It’s your health – pay attention, be involved.
I’ve talked before about how important it is to be an educated, active and informed participant in your own health care. This could not have been more evident and re-enforced during my treatment planning visits with my Medical Oncologist. It turned out to be a couple of very important appointments.
Based on the aggressiveness of my recent breast cancer diagnosis and the treatment options available, we chose to go the AC route, for the type of chemo. My Oncologist is great and takes the time to cover all information during the visit. When the explanation of possible concerns with the heart when the AC is used came up, it was a red flag for me.
As perfect timing would have it, I had recently attended a Web Conference put on by the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada – ARC. http://www.arthritisresearch.ca/ The focus of the conference was heart health and specifically its impact on those with inflammatory arthritis. Because of this, heart health was top of mind and it prompted me to ask my Oncologist specifically about any impact or concerns re: this chemo protocol and heart function, reminding her of my long term, severe RA. That led to a discussion and decision to have a MUGA scan done, a test to measure how efficiently your heart is pumping. The test was promptly ordered and we went ahead and had treatments on scheduled to start the within 10 days.
Great, I heard back in 2 days with an appointment. So happy… this is what I’ve been waiting for, a start date for treatment. My appointment set to start my 1st chemo next week. I’m to see my Oncologist on Wednesday then treatment begins on Thursday. Finally I can make a schedule, I can have a plan, I want to get started so I can get it over with!!
My Wednesday appointment goes well with the Oncologist. Great news, final pathology on the nodes is in and again is clear. We are going over details and getting everything sorted out for starting chemo tomorrow and I’m getting a big list of new before, during and after medications to get filled.
I’m then remember my new found education in heart health from the ARC seminar and it prompts me to inquire on the results of the MUGA scan we talked about and ordered last visit.
It is then that my Oncologist checks the results. Wait, this is interesting……while not alarming or anything of great concern, it turns out my results were out of the expected range and my Dr would like to run an echocardiogram to investigate further so that we can make the best decision of which duration of treatment I should take. So, my chemo is cancelled and I’m booked in for one final test.
Of course it’s the right thing to do, of course it makes sense. However…………..do I have to tell you how disappointing this was. On a couple of levels actually. First of all, I’ve been waiting for months to get this going and dealing with all the emotions that go with riding the roller coaster during the waiting game. Secondly, I was feeling disappointed and annoyed that it was me that had been the one to ask the question “so what about those test results from the recent heart scan and my RA and all that…where are we at?”
Well thank goodness I did ask. While I had been initially annoyed that my 1st chemotherapy session had been cancelled and it felt like a wasted trip (3 hour drive) to see the Dr that morning for what I felt should have been able to be handled over the phone. However after digesting all the new information and thinking about what had actually happened, I couldn’t be more pleased or proud of the outcome and how I navigated through the situation. While the situation with my heart may or may not have anything at all to do with my RA, the education that I had received made me more vigilant, confidant and aware and therefore I asked an important question.
While I had been psyched up and ready to go, just as on a launch pad before a rocket takes off on a space mission, should there be any reason – large or small that warrants a second look, verification, tweaking or fixing we certainly want this identified and dealt with BEFORE the start of the journey. Not after, as a missed opportunity to change course.
It’s a great reminder to pay attention and to speak up. I’m looking forward to my appointment with my GP and Rheumatologist tomorrow so we can along with my Oncologist, review the specifics of my situation and make the best choices for my care. I’m happy to be part of my awesome team of health care professionals and tomorrow is going to be another busy day along the journey.