Cancer & Illness Healing Stories

A weekly column for individuals who have overcome cancer or a seroiusness illness or who are currently patients.
The column will also include excerpts from "Draw No Conclusions", my new book about my 4 year journey with cancer. Due to be released in 2012

Second and Third Opinions

There is no reason not to get a second and third opinion. Most people are not reluctant to take this action. But I can sense some resistance still out there! Your doctor will not be offended and if they are, find another doctor.
A few tips on the second opinion process: I would certainly ask your current doctor for a list of other doctors to get the second opinion. But remember there is a vibe of an “old boys club”. And the second doctor might be reluctant to offer a radically differing opinion. Also, your current doctor will refer you to doctors that are usually in the same thinking in terms of treatment. This is not a hard and fast rule. In my case, the four top radiation specialists in NYC referred me to each other. But each of their approaches to treatment was different. So there is nothing wrong with asking your doctor for a referral but also do your own networking. Just get on the phone and within a few hours you will find your way to the top people.
The third opinion may be what you discover in your own research and I would strongly encourage you to do research. I used an organization called Find Cure. They will put together a 160 report for you based on your diagnosis of all possible treatments that are available to date around the world-both conventionally and alternatively. Of course, you can get on the internet and do this yourself. But I felt it was money well spent because they are experts and what if I missed the one treatment that could have saved my life.
My own research really paid off for me and the research paper confirmed my findings. I discovered they were doing a parotid gland-sparing protocol or IMRT in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This was important because bilateral radiation would destroy both parotid glands thus giving me very little salvia or none at all. I have heard of people who killed themselves from this poor quality of life. (There are many other nuances to this part of my story which I will talk about in other chapters.)
Doctors are extremely busy. They have very little time to do research. So usually they will recommend a protocol they have had success with. But that might not be the right or best protocol for you. I have heard some very shocking stories around this. For example, a cancer patient who was diagnosed as terminal; the doctor said there was no successful treatment available. This patient accepted that information and looked no further and subsequently died. The family found out soon after that only 30 miles away they were doing clinical trials with great success that this patient would have been appropriate for.
Be patient and do your homework, it could save your life. Second opinions are a win-win.

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