Becoming a Proactive Cancer Patient
Experts explain what newly diagnosed cancer patients need to know to help fight their disease.
Don't Be Afraid to Rock the Boat continued...
Rocking the boat also means not accepting everything your doctors tells you
as gospel. If you feel the need for a second or even third opinion on any
aspect of your cancer care, get one.
This advice is equally true for people who suspect they have cancer or some
other serious problem, but have been told nothing is wrong, Kennedy says.
"If a doctor is dismissive or hard to communicate with, or tells you
nothing is wrong when your gut tells you it is, you need to find another
doctor," she says.
Forty-seven-year-old Julie Gomez learned this lesson the hard way. The
Houston woman saw a long line of doctors for a painful stomach problem for
almost a decade before her rare gastrointestinal cancer was finally
"I was told I had acid reflux or that I ate too fast," she says.
"One doctor did all the right tests, and actually saw something on the scan
but told me he just didn't believe it. That was eight years before I was
Talk to Other Patients
Gomez has had four surgeries to remove gastrointestinal tumors in the 10
years since her cancer was diagnosed, and she may face more in the future if
the tumors target her liver or grow big enough to block her intestines.
She now volunteers at a telephone hot line run by M.D. Anderson that matches
cancer patients with people who have had the same diagnosis or treatment.
"My cancer is so rare that I didn't meet another person who had it until
five years after my diagnosis," she says. "It was very, very
Gomez now talks to at least one person a week with her disease in her
volunteer role, and she believes this is one of the best things patients can do
to learn about their illness.
"The Internet is a great learning tool, but it can also scare you to
death," she says. "The statistics, especially, can be misleading. They
may tell you survival for your disease is less than five years, for example,
but if most people with your cancer are diagnosed in the 60s and 70s and you
are in your 30s, that may not apply to you."