“You have breast cancer.” You hear the words, you nod slowly toward the doctor, acknowledging her words, but not actually comprehending them. Your eyes lose focus and you look over her shoulder and stare at the poster of the breast self-exam instructions. What did she say? You want to ask questions, but your head is racing. You are trying to wrap your head around the words, “You have breast cancer.”
Webster defines crisis as a difficult or dangerous situation that needs serious attention. I’d say being diagnosed with breast cancer meets that definition, wouldn’t you?
Though difficult and dangerous and requiring serious attention, having breast cancer is—as the say—- one of the ‘better’ cancers to get. Better cancer meaning that it is very treatable. Better cancer in that there is a lot of research and thus, a lot of energy and attention to new treatment modalities. Better cancer in that there are millions of resources on the web. As a case in point, type in ‘breast cancer’ in Google and you get over 11 million results. Type in ‘pancreatic cancer,’ which is not one of the better cancers to get, and you get a little over 6 million responses. Lung cancer? Just 3.8 million.
Thanks to the attention and funding that breast cancer has gotten, there is a great deal of data on treatment, standardized treatments which benefits each patient. It’s almost ‘cookbook’ in the approach that oncologists can take. If this, then that. If that, then this. And while there is certainly still some “art” to the science of medicine, patients have plenty of on-line resources to tap into for their own understanding and advocacy.
For our work at Guardian Nurses with patients who have breast cancer, we do our best to slow things down for them. Yes, it’s a healthcare crisis, but that shouldn’t mean you don’t take your time to do your homework, create your support team, get the proper tests, consult with the best physicians, and make your best decision. You have time. It may not feel like you do, but you do.
As with any crisis, healthcare or otherwise, consider creating your very own crisis management plan. It doesn’t have to be as extensive as the Exxon Valdez oil spill, but it may be well worth the time you take to ‘slow the world down’ a little bit before you take action.