One of the strangest things about being a cancer survivor is that I never know which doctor to see for what. If I have a new, strange symptom, do I go to my primary care physician, a specialist, or my oncologist to rule out a recurrence? Early on, I felt like since my treatment had just ended, there was nothing stopping the cancer from just coming right back so I needed confirmation my symptoms weren’t indicative of a recurrence.
Since I had triple-negative breast cancer, there is no targeted treatment because they don’t know what is feeding the cancer. Other types of breast cancer patients are often on additional medication for 5 to 10 years to prevent recurrence. When my treatment ended, I stopped completely and had nothing else to take.
In the beginning of survivorship, I almost always went to my oncologist for reassurance. I felt so vulnerable that I needed to be sure that X symptom wasn’t cancer. Now, I trust my primary doctor to know when to refer me and I always follow my instincts. I won’t hesitate to advocate for myself if need be, but luckily it hasn’t come to that.
Another strange thing about being a cancer survivor is that I feel the need to get my oncologist’s approval for.. basically everything. I don’t know if other people feel this way or not but for example, when my husband and I began talking about starting a family, I wanted his input and green light to proceed.
My cancer was hormone negative, so in theory, there is no risk to getting pregnant but I still felt like I needed his assurance. Simultaneously we were consulting with a fertility specialist and I wanted the green light for any fertility treatments we may need. His response was an easy, “go get pregnant and send us a photo of your baby!” It was definitely the answer that I hoped for and needed.
I am not pregnant yet so I can’t speak to what it will be like in reality but I imagine that all the unique pregnancy symptoms, especially as it would be my first pregnancy, will send me on a wild ride of “Is this pregnancy or is this cancer?” and plenty of consults to be safe. Just another day in the life of figuring out the ‘new normal’ as a cancer survivor.