I've heard many a discussion about the ways people got their news. Some people are told over the phone and are upset at the impersonal nature of the method, and some are called to the doctor's office, already knowing something is terribly wrong, that it's probably cancer, and then having to go through the agony of waiting for the appointment, driving to the office, sitting in the waiting room.
I was told immediately after my sonogram by the radiologist. I was already sure I had cancer, so was grateful to have it confirmed that quickly. It's relatively unusual to be told that way - radiologists like to be certain and the common saying is "until the cells are on a slide, you can't be sure." However, I think in some cases an experienced radiologist can be sure - and my radiologist was.
After he sent the pathology results to my primary care doctor, I called to find out what kind of cancer I had. He told me it was invasive over the phone - which again, I was grateful for. He faxed the results to me and I was able to study the terminology before meeting with a physician to discuss my treatment plan.
To me, the hardest part of this disease is the uncertainty and the waiting. Finding out the way I did meant I had time to get over the shock before I met with the breast surgeon. I could google, I could read books, I could find other cancer patients and educate myself a little. When I finally sat down with my breast surgeon, I had some knowledge and had better questions to ask than "Um.....are you sure?" I wasn't wasting his time, or mine, by being stunned and trying to absorb the news and come up with an intelligent question when I knew so little about the disease.
Some people though, seem to prefer to be called into the office and told in person. They need that comforting authoritarian presence, the feeling that somebody cares. I have heard many people say that they find it cold to be told over the phone.
Oddly enough, most of these people also say that they were in shock after hearing the news and didn't absorb much of what their physician told them. But, they did feel better about being in the presence of a doctor, even though they didn't have good questions to ask.
Some have said that they thought the physician who told them rushed through the news and looked bored. I've heard stories of doctors looking at watches and around the room while they tell somebody they have a serious illness.. Everybody remembers where they were when they heard Kennedy was shot, or when 9/11 happened - those of us who had cancer also remember forever the moment we got the news. So, if you are a doctor who is easily distracted or has a habit of checking his watch every few minutes, I suggest you not during this particular conversation.
I think the best way to make everybody happy would be to ask the patient when setting up these tests. "Okay, we have to do a diagnostic sonogram and mammogram on you - if the results do come back malignant, how would you prefer to get the news - by phone or in my office?" I think that would cover it and make everybody happy.
Except of course, when you get that call to come in - you know what it means. So, unless you want to go in to hear "nothing is wrong" I guess there really is no perfect way.
How did you get the news, and are you grateful at the way it happened, or did it upset you?
A quick note and apology; I'm sorry I have not updated this blog as frequently as I have in the past. I started my new job and it's been an exhausting, but exciting, adjustment. I'm still dealing with tamoxifen side effects, so by the time I get home, I'm just ready to rest or sleep. However, once school starts (next week) and I get in a rhythm, I'll be back too my old ways and frequent updates, so please bear with me.