by Carlos M. Garcia, M.D.
I was just told I have cancer! I have a consultation with an oncologist, what do I do? What do I ask an oncologist?
This event regrettably happens all too often every day in America. Adding insult to injury, the first word we tend to associate with cancer is death. The usual sequence of events usually includes a physical complaint to the primary care doctor. You are most likely referred to a specialist who does further testing. Eventually a lesion is identified, a biopsy is advised and performed. The excised tissue is submitted to pathology for a tissue diagnosis. Once a diagnosis of cancer is obtained you will be referred to an oncologist.
First Rule – Tell the people that you trust and love about your cancer diagnosis. Your behavior will change after you are told of your diagnosis. Let people know what is going on in your life. They cannot read your mind. You most likely are having a multitude of emotions bouncing around consciously or subconsciously, the common thread being fear. Remember the first word associated when a person has a cancer diagnosis confirmed is death. Thus people think about their life, their family, children, spouses, significant others, friends etc. A cancer diagnosis is a major shock. What you are looking for is a simple solution, i.e. we have a 90%, 80% 70% etc., cure rate.
Second Rule – Investigate. This is easier said than done. This is hard for the patient to do initially, because of the first rule above: fear and shock. Thus having others to assist you in this process is beneficial. Remember, knowledge is power.
Third Rule – Be respectful. The oncologist did not give you cancer and he / she is practicing what they have learned. Knowing and remembering that every practitioner’s knowledge is limited begins to put your journey in perspective. You are there to see if you and the oncologist are compatible. Your job is to accumulate information.
Forth Rule – Bring a trustworthy individual who can write down information during all medical appointments.
Fifth Rule – You matter and you are your most powerful healing tool. I am often asked, “How many people with my diagnosis have you treated and how many are cured?” My answer is as follows, “If I could tell you that I have treated 1000 people with your exact diagnosis, and that 100% are fine and well today, 5 years or more after treatment, this does not guarantee your success. Your success depends on identification of your root cause of your cancer and your willingness to change your environment that feeds it.” The only one with skin in the game is you. Physicians practice medicine because it is an art and it should never be a science. I can say that with 100% certainty because we are all unique, even identical twins differentiate when they begin to accumulate life experiences.
Stay tuned for next month’s Part II of How to Interview Your Oncologist