I Can Only Assume

8563061447_a0da609aaa_bThat’s what I heard someone say the other day –  I can only assume. To me, that’s where the problem begins.  Assuming rather than listening, learning, questioning, researching and clarifying definitely sends you speeding the wrong way down a one-way street.

Many years ago I had Stage 0 breast cancer – a carcinoma in situ.  Back then it was considered cancer.  More recently though, it’s often considered pre-cancerous, but not a malignancy. Dr. A, the physician I consulted post-lumpectomy, offered me a very direct, emphatic, no questions about it advice concerning follow-up treatment.  His advice: Radiation therapy. At the time, radiation was commonly considered “standard of care” post-lumpectomy – meaning it was the recommended, accepted treatment.  Dr. A was an extremely well respected physician and considered to be an authority in his field. But, how he presented his advice to me was chilling. “If you don’t have radiation, it will be the biggest mistake you ever make in your entire life!”  Take that in for a moment.  Needless to say, I left his office shaken. Very shaken.

When I settled down and started breathing again, I began considering his advice and doing my research. I didn’t assume his advice was above question.  Back in those days, I was working as a pharmaceutical representative and had access to many doctors.  Asking radiologists – should I or shouldn’t I – became my focus. Generously, they opened their text books to me for research. I learned there was more to a treatment recommendation than I had been told intitally.  Much more data had to be entered into the equation before the most appropriate treatment could be chosen. Nowadays, that information is available to all of us on the net.  Yes, it is.  If you need help researching the net, ask anyone under 30!  With some time, some effort and maybe some assistance – i.e., kids/grandkids – we can find out what we need to know to become an informed, educated, empowered patient. Certainly, we’re not going to have all the answers, with deference to the experience, education and expertise of doctors, but we definitely can formulate several, essential questions.

After much consideration and research I was pretty sure I was not going to follow Dr. A’s advice.  I kept my appointment with Dr. B, the radiologist, who was scheduled to administer the treatment. He agreed I did not need radiation treatment. Incredibly affirming and pretty amazing as well.  That was eighteen years ago.  Guess it was the right choice for me at the time.

My point:  If I had taken the “I can only assume” attitude and failed to question, to learn more about my individual, health condition, I would have respectfully accepted Dr. A.’s advice and moved forward with the radiation. It wasn’t that it was bad advice. It very well might have been excellent advice for another patient.  For me though, bearing in mind all the pieces of my health puzzle, it wasn’t the best advice. My treatment would have been excessive, expensive, energy sapping and would not have improved my health.  And that’s not even factoring in the occurrence of potential side effects.  Who needs those.

I’m not suggesting you deny recommended, necessary treatment. Absolutely not.  But, what I am suggesting is you keep asking questions.  Do be sure to understand the risks and the benefits of any treatment and get a second opinion.  Remember, there are no stupid questions. I know how hard it is to question authority figures.  It’s not easy for me, believe me,  but when it comes to your health it’s more than a good idea.  It’s imperative.

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