Part 2: When the Doctor Becomes the Patient

When the Doctor Becomes the Patient – Part 2

Let me first thank you for your heartfelt thoughts, hugs and prayers. This outreach of support means so much to me and I’m getting better at accepting and receiving these gifts. I am blessed to have so many incredible patients who remind me everyday that I too need to take care of myself.

women hugging after getting test results

In my last blog, I left you with the next step in my journey – to determine the best course of action and discuss options. I scheduled my appointment with Dr. Kathy Toosie, a well-respected breast surgeon, and a dear friend of mine. Some of you might wonder how I could see a close friend to be my doctor during this time. It is because I trust her without hesitation and know that our friendship will not alter the way she treats me. I am a patient now – NOT the doctor. I underwent a stereotactic breast biopsy which showed “atypical ductal hyperplasia” (ADH) – this is NOT cancer but a precursor for possible future breast cancer.

When I arrived at her office in Encinitas, Dr. Toosie greeted me with a warm hug. She said, “What are you doing here?” I was surprised because my office had sent her copies of my reports including the biopsy results. I gave her a glance of disbelief, and then she chuckled and said. “I know why you’re here. Come on into the exam room.” After getting my medical history and doing a complete breast exam, she instructed me to follow her into her office.

mri scanner

“We need to get a bilateral breast MRI to make sure there is nothing going on in the right breast or anything else in the left breast”, she stated sternly to me. “Ok”, I thought, “I can do that.” At first, I was hesitant, asking was this really necessary and maybe we could we just monitor it. (Yes, it’s true – doctors do make the worst patients!) Then, she sternly looked at me and said, “We don’t sit on atypia” –in doctor parlay, that means you don’t monitor atypia, you remove it. She recommended that we first do the MRI and then if it is negative (meaning does not show any other abnormalities), we proceed with an excisional biopsy of the left breast – removal of the atypical cells and surrounding tissue. “How are you going to excise it – it’s so close to the chest wall?” I asked. She calmly stated that she could make a small incision around the nipple area and remove it using that approach.

“Wow, now I need to get an MRI and then have surgery!” I started to get a little scared, but then took a few deep breaths and reassured myself. “I don’t have invasive breast cancer. I have ADH – and it needs to be removed. Be thankful that it’s not worse.”, I said to myself. I recalled how many patients over the years I had to share the news that they had breast cancer. I had been given a gift – a wake-up call to take care of my health. I know that it could have been worse and that I would deal with that if I needed to. I truly believe that without our health, life means nothing. All the money in the world or material possessions can’t bring us happiness or restore our health.

So here we go. I’ve responded to the wake-up call and scheduled the bilateral breast MRI for this Friday. Depending on the results, Dr. Toosie will recommend the best course of action. Having trust in my physician in huge for me. I know this is true for many of my patients too.

walking one step at a time

For now, it’s one step at a time – keeping a positive, confident stride.

In health and happiness,

-Dr. Diana

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