You just found out you were diagnosed with breast cancer. To say you are in shock is an understatement. Now for the great deluge of doctor’s appointments, testing, treatment, and more.
First things first: your initial appointment with your doctor. That first appointment can be overwhelming and, in our experience, a little prep work goes a long way. We’ve outlined a few pro tips that will help you make your first doctor’s visit a little more seamless and less stressful. In our opinion, the key to staying in control during this out of control time is organization. So let these tips guide you on how to keep it together when you feel anything but that. From the initial appointments, to the second opinions, right up to the final treatment plan, we’ve got you.
These tips apply to all of your early fact-finding appointments… and for your first, second, third, fourth opinions. I got nine opinions on reconstruction, met with four doctors for breast surgeons, and two different medical oncologists!
Here’s how I stayed organized:
- Prepare for doctors appointments by getting all your test results organized and ideally sent to the physician's office before your appointment (digital copies are great to keep on file, especially if getting multiple opinions). Bring physical copies just in case (because you never know). Also, fill out any patient intake forms before your appointment to minimize any stress on the day of. If you don’t have a printer, you can download Adobe’s Acrobat software to fill out the form online. (Front desk staff also love this because your information is easier to read. Bonus points).
- Prepare a list of questions for the doctor and bring with you in an easily accessible place (piece of paper, notepad in your purse, or in Notes on your phone). Just make sure you can find them and have them ready when the physician arrives. Otherwise you may feel rushed and you deserve ALL the time you need.
- Bring someone with you to your doctor's appointments to listen, help you remember what to ask, and to take notes. Your physician may also let you record the conversation. Ask about that if it feels right.
- Take your own notes after your doctor's appointments to help you remember what they said and reflect on any follow-up questions you want to get answered.
- Keep all your notes from first, second, third opinions and more in the same place so it's easier to track. You can use a file folder, your phone, a notepad….whatever keeps you sane.
- Ask your doctor about next steps before you leave your appointment. Whether that means more tests, follow-up appointments, etc. Schedule what you can with the front desk staff before leaving.
- Reward yourself with something that brings you joy or calm after your appointment. You deserve it. This shit is stressful.