The first meeting is with the surgeon and she sets a perfect tone. She sits down and looks at me and my husband. She says, "we all know why we're here... and we'll get to that, but first, how are you doing?"
She looks me in the eye and gives a light touch to my arm. I instantly know I've made the right decision with this team. I tell her I'm doing well and that the shock is wearing off. I tell her I'm ready to get this thing out of me and get started with treatment, whatever that will be.
As we go through my case, she lets me know that all of the doctors in the room were shocked at how cystic my breasts were. Not only did I have a good number of them, they were all on the larger side. Right after she said this I stopped her and said, "I will only consider a full double mastectomy, I'm not interested in any other option."
She closed her binder, looked at me, then at my husband and said to him, "I like her!"
Then she looks at me and says that the team thought it would be a longer conversation about "the double" and that she is happy to hear I'm also wanting this course of action. With my dense, cystic breasts, a double is the most logical surgery, and I am so glad we're all on the same page right away. She then checks my breast and lymph nodes. Definite tumor in the breast, lymph nodes feel fine, but MRI had shown some activity, so we won't know for sure until after surgery, but she is feeling good about it all given the relatively clean MRI.
As she prepares to leave, I quickly let her know that we have a trip on the books to go up to Seattle and Vancouver Island to celebrate my Aunt and Uncle's 50th wedding anniversary. I'm scheduled to leave in the next few days and will be gone for eight days. She instantly tells me to keep the trip on the books. Nothing will change, and they won't even get me on the surgical calendar for two weeks. I'm so happy I can still take the trip. I think it will be a great way to spend the time between diagnosis and surgery!
Next up is the Medical Oncologist. She also sits, looks at us and asks how I am doing. She says, depending on what is found during surgery and in the pathology report, chemo may or may not be on the treatment plan. It's an unknown for now, but she and I will know each other for a long time, as I will definitely end up on some sort of hormone therapy, which she will manage.
After her, I meet the Radiology Oncologist. Radiation will definitely happen. She asks how I'm doing and how my husband is doing. By now, I'm feeling very good and so happy that I've found my team. I tell her how happy I am to have a plan forming with such a great team.
After the main three, I see the plastic surgeon who goes through every option I have in regards to reconstruction, which includes, no reconstruction. He is so informative and spends about an hour with us. He shows me before and after photos of all reconstruction types, and goes through the pros and cons of each.
Ultimately, I know I will go with no reconstruction, but am glad to have all of the information before making the final decision. Which is, no reconstruction.
The great thing about this team is that they made me part of the decision team and there was no judgement. I've heard stories around reconstruction decisions and how many women felt more pressure to get reconstruction. I never had that, and in fact, I felt so informed that when I chose no reconstruction it was from a place of knowledge, not emotion. It was the right decision for me, and the team respected that, which was so reassuring!
The entire process of meeting the team took almost three hours. In addition to the above, I met my nurse practitioner, surgery scheduler and a woman from the foundation at UCLA that provides many services including, nutrition, counseling, yoga, reiki, and other self care services. It is a morning full of a lot of information. My husband and I take a lot of notes!
That night I sleep better than I have in a couple weeks. The team is in place, the plan is getting formed and I know that we are moving forward! It feels good and I actually look forward to our vacation. Nothing will change, so I may as well have a fun vacation. I know this will be the last trip we take for awhile, so I'm going to enjoy it.
We head back home, pack, and board a plane a couple days later. The surgery is still in the process of getting scheduled, and the treatment plan is still getting formed, but it is coming together and I couldn't feel better about all of it!