By Diane Powers, PsyD, CADC, CSAT
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
I am a breast cancer survivor. I had my lumpectomy on January 28th, 2007. My surgeon said to me he would be by my side every step of the way and that has been the truth. He has been a source of comfort for me ever since the surgery and I actually look forward to seeing him every 6 months.
However, I seem to have forgotten the traumatic beginnings of the first few months of my journey toward my final diagnosis. I believe it’s because I have been fortunate enough to not have had a recurrence so far.
Being a clinician myself, I realize that professionals can become neglectful when discussing a diagnosis with a client for the first time—forgetting how traumatic this experience may be. When I remember how horrifying some of my experiences were with my own process, I catch myself up short. My experience with the ultra-sound staff was upsetting because they were discussing their confusion over trying to discover the location of the tumor. They were arguing amongst themselves and even asked me to look up on the screen and tell them where to look!
If I had to do it over again, I would have been more assertive and let them know how upsetting their behaviors were. I also had another upsetting experience when, awaiting the results from a core biopsy, a cancer volunteer came into my room and began discussing the assistance she could give me—I was so shocked—I had not been diagnosed yet—there was another patient with the same name in another room and she mixed us up. For this the only prevention I can offer is to insert a middle initial in your name so that horrendous experience can be avoided.
For me, I also would caution against looking up your diagnosis on the internet—all sorts of scary things can happen. Instead, my friend looked up “Questions to Ask Your Doctor,” printed out the questions, and then gave them to me. I kept the commitment to her not to read anything regarding breast cancer on the Internet.
Getting this type of assistance from friends and family is imperative. But…you have to ask them. That may be difficult at first, but asking avoids countless difficulties later.
Asking questions, expressing your feelings, asking for (and accepting) help from friends and loved ones…these are just a few acts of self-advocacy that can make a world of difference.
Dr. Diane Powers, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor and Certified Sex Behavioral Issues Therapist (CSAT), specializes in treating trauma, behavioral issues, PTSD, depression, and anxiety disorders. Dr. Powers has conducted numerous presentations featuring her theory of the etiology of behavioral issues, and she is currently writing a book based on her research, “I’m a Bunny But I Wanna be a Giraffe”.