Hi everyone. This is my follow-up post to What You Can Do To Help Yourself. In this post, I am sharing what worked for me after surgery and before Chemotherapy. Although your major focus will be getting set up for your Chemo treatments, there are two things I suggest you take care of immediate after surgery:
1. Be sure to get to a physical therapist to work on recovering the mobility in your arm(s). If you had any lymph nodes removed and/or operated on during your breast surgery, you will probably need physical therapy to help heal and activate the full range of motion in that arm(s). Ask you surgeon who he/she recommends, make your appointment and go. I needed to see mine three times. She gave me several exercises that really helped my arm to feel better.
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2. Get a therapeutic ointment for the area on your breast where you had surgery. It will help heal and lessen the scar. My surgeon suggested Brave Soldier. I also used it on the area where my port was removed (after Chemo) to help heal the scar. It was great with both.
You have a one month window before you must start your Chemo after your breast surgery. It is important to get right to work choosing an oncologist. Get plenty of recommendations, research them and then meet at least two oncologists. I’m pretty sure that most insurance companies cover a second opinion.
Take a friend, all your biopsy, MRI, pet/ct and doctor’s reports and a recording device (with a good microphone). The oncologist meetings were somewhat emotional for me. I needed my friend with me so that we could discuss the information after the meeting. The recording you make will be a great tool to check whenever you need specific information not just what you remember.
Before you have your meetings, write out every imaginable question so that you will have them for your introductory session.
There is so much information and so much stuff going on in your head; it is difficult to get all the information you need to make your decision without organizing yourself in advance. Here are many of the questions I wanted answers for:
- After looking a at my biopsy and MRI, pet/ct and doctor’s reports, should I do Chemotherapy? Why?
- What Chemo regimen do you propose. Why?
- What are the different “pre-medication drugs” before the Chemo treatment?
- Explain the drugs in the Chemo regimen. Why these drugs?
- What are the side effects to each drug?
- What are the medications you will be prescribing to handle the Chemo side effects.
- Can I get my treatments on (name the day of the week you want)?
- What comes after Chemo?
- In your opinion, will I need to take the Hormone pills and for how long?
- Which hormone pills and why that one?
- What if I have reactions to the hormone pills and what might they be.
- How do you feel about getting a Port put in my arm.
A port is a plastic unit that is in your arm so that during the Chemo injection your veins will not have to be pricked. I strongly suggest you consider a port. It made my injections a lot more comfortable. See if the doctor would be willing to have one of the Chemo nurses check your veins during this appointment so that you will not have to come back for a separate appointment. Then if she approves, you can get the doctor’s recommendation so that you can arrange to get the port inserted asap before the first Chemo appointment. (I think it must be at least 72 hours before.)
Take your time. You will probably not get this much uninterrupted, personal time with him/her again during your treatments.
During the chemo sessions, it was my experience that my doctor was not as attentive as I would have liked. It seemed like he was always in a hurry when I was talking to him. I realized that it was not personal that he did not give me the attention I wanted. As my Chemo Coach told me: “If they have too much time for you that means that they are not a good oncologist. The good ones are in demand.”
As long as he/she is knowledgeable, professional, has a solid office staff and nurses, and is known to be brilliant chemist, they are the perfect doctor for you.
Once you have evaluated the information and the other factors that are key for you, make your choice, inform your doctor and schedule your appointments. Make all your Chemo appointments before you start so that you get the days you want. Also, make an appointment to see a Chemo nurse to check your veins if you want to get the port before your treatments start.
I’m looking forward to sharing my next post with you in the coming week. I will discuss the support system you need to build around you before Chemotherapy.