Are you one of those women that goes for your annual gynecological exam and expects to hear the well-used phrase from your doctor, “Everything looks fine… see you in one year.” I used to be one of those women! But have you heard that 1 out of 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime? I didn’t have any family history of breast cancer and for years was so thankful I was not predisposed to one of those dreaded diseases that women have to worry about. That all changed in November 2012 when I went for my annual mammogram screening. The radiologist reading my X-ray thought the calcifications they had been monitoring for years had changed. A diagnostic mammogram was ordered, and then the area was biopsied. It was confirmed that I had breast cancer!
No one chooses to get breast cancer, but you do have many choices how to treat it. How was I going to make all those decisions that were going to be facing me in the upcoming months? I recalled receiving information from my Human Resources Department about an enhancement to our medical benefits called ConnectCare3. I also recalled reading their newsletters each month which include a testimonial from an appreciative patient they helped navigate through the healthcare system. Maybe they could help me!
I called their toll-free number and spoke to a very nice Patient Advocate who completed a brief Intake Assessment with me. After I returned some signed forms, a ConnectCare3 Nurse Navigator was in touch with me within 24 hours. I immediately felt like someone was going to be looking out for my best interests throughout this medical journey.
I was diagnosed with DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ), which indicates the presence of abnormal cells inside a milk duct in the breast. DCIS is considered the earliest form of breast cancer and considered noninvasive, meaning it hasn’t spread out of the milk duct to invade other parts of the breast. While DCIS isn’t life-threatening, it does require treatment to prevent the condition from becoming invasive. Most women with DCIS are effectively treated with breast-conserving surgery and radiation. My ConnectCare3 Nurse Navigator provided me with lots of good information so that I fully understood my condition.
I was told I needed a lumpectomy, followed by radiation. I was seeing a local breast surgeon, and after an appointment and discussions with his office staff I started feeling like I should get a second opinion. I dreaded “starting over” but just didn’t feel comfortable with that surgeon and his staff. My ConnectCare3 Nurse Navigator came to my rescue again and provided me with several outstanding options for a second opinion. I chose which breast surgeon I wanted to see, and my Nurse Navigator accompanied me to that appointment. It got to the point where I was feeling very overwhelmed, so having her along was very reassuring. She came prepared with a list of questions to ask the surgeon, wrote everything down, and provided me with a written report soon after our visit. It was his recommendation that the lumpectomy be followed by Accelerated Partial Breast Radiation. I was very impressed with this surgeon’s knowledge and treatment plan. I scheduled my appointment for surgery, and my surgeon and I agreed to talk further about radiation options after my surgery.
My surgery went well. My ConnectCare3 Nurse Navigator continued to research the different types of radiation available for DCIS treatment locally and elsewhere. One week after surgery I went to see a radiation oncologist for a second opinion regarding the type of radiation that would be best for me. She agreed with my breast surgeon that brachytherapy with balloon mammosite would be a good choice for me. This accelerated partial breast radiation would be done over five days versus 6½ weeks of traditional external beam radiation. I was thankful that I met the criteria to undergo this shortened course of radiation as it was going to be much less disruptive to my busy life.
I suffered no side effects from my radiation and the recovery went well. I am so grateful that I had my ConnectCare Nurse Navigator along for this ride. She was truly my sounding board through it all and answered all my questions with well-researched information. When it came time to make decisions, I felt more confident and informed, thanks to her great research. I’m trying to do my part now to minimize my chances for recurrence and have been trying to eat healthier and avoid stress.
I heartily recommend that you call ConnectCare3 if you’re experiencing any type of medical issue. They exhaust all options in helping you find top-notch physicians and evidence-based information so that you can make informed decisions.