[2021-05-25] Cancer coaching #2

Today, I had another call with my coach from the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. We used the occasion to prepare for an upcoming conversation I will have with a breast surgical oncologist. As I've written before, because of my faulty BRCA2 gene, I am at increased risk of breast cancer. The purpose of the call with the breast surgical oncologist is to discuss the possibility of having a preventive double mastectomy.

I shared with my coach the questions that I had come up with to put to the doctor, and together we identified a few more, for example:
  • How reliable are mammograms and MRIs for detecting breast cancer?
  • Does breast cancer progress more quickly in people with a BRCA2 gene change?
  • What would be the difference in my prognosis if I were to have a preventive double mastectomy (before cancer) vs. a reactive double mastectomy should cancer be detected?
I appreciated the opportunity to discuss these questions with my cancer coach. When I saw the call on my calendar this morning, I remembered that I had committed to identifying questions for the breast surgical oncologist so that my coach and I could discuss them. Just making that commitment to someone else was the push I needed to put my questions down on paper.

The reality is that I don't spend a lot of time thinking about cancer. That may sound odd coming from someone who writes a daily post for a blog on living with ovarian cancer. But as regular readers will have noticed, I focus on cancer only some of the time, not every day.

In fact, I make an effort not to dwell on my situation, while doing what I need to do to get healthy. Reading books on other people's cancer stories, perusing online forums on ovarian cancer, talking with other cancer survivorsthese have their place, and I've engaged in them all. However, I have chosenjust as some others in my situation have doneto spend less time thinking about cancer and more time living my life. While I don't want to have my head in the sand (that is, ignore my circumstances), I also don't want to go down a rabbit hole (that is, expend a lot of energy contemplating things I can't control, including whether my ovarian cancer will recur).

I believe in taking things day by day. Some days, I have to think about cancer: when I talk to my cancer coach, when I get the results of blood work, when I do my monthly check-in with the oncology team. Other days, I don't. That's just what works for me.