A Second Opinion…I’ll Second That!

March 1, 2010

“I can’t promise you that I’ll be able to cure your cancer if you don’t terminate this pregnancy and start chemotherapy right away,” my initial oncologist had said to me with a painful look on her face. I did not know that doctors were in the practice of making promises to begin with! On top of her incredulous recommendation, something about her demeanor and approach did not sit well with me. My husband sensed it, too. Was it her “doom and gloom” tone of voice? Maybe it was the fact that she presented this recommendation to me when she was nine months pregnant herself? She just seemed terribly afraid about the affects that chemotherapy could have on the baby. Birth defects and spontaneous abortion were both possibilities that she had warned me about. When I asked her that day if her practice had ever treated a pregnant woman before, she replied that they had not. I left her office that day confused and heartbroken. I was 37 years old and pregnant for what would likely be the only time. The pregnancy was completely unplanned, but in all of the chaos of receiving the cancer diagnosis, somehow it gave me solace to know that I had even more to fight for. I had a baby in my belly that needed me, and I wasn’t ready to give her up that easily.

 Thank God for the Internet, because I went home that day and started researching pregnancy and cancer and turned up data that was contradictory to what my oncologist has told me. I read about the studies that doctors like Richard Theriault and Elyce Cardonick had been doing with regard to women who were pregnant while undergoing treatment. Their studies had revealed that in the small number of the cancer/pregnancy cases in which babies were born with a birth defect or other issue, no case was able to correlate chemotherapy with the child’s issue. In a nutshell, there was no proof that chemotherapy would have any negative affects on my baby, especially if I waited until the second trimester.

Armed with this new perspective, I proceeded to validate this information by seeking a second opinion from another oncologist that I was referred to by a friend. Sure enough, Dr. A. as I’ll call him, had treated several pregnant women and assured me that some chemotherapy medications were safe for use during pregnancy. I could be treated with two medications while pregnant and another one after I delivered the baby. He seemed extremely positive that I could beat cancer and raise my baby. I quickly decided to abandon my original oncologist and asked Dr. A. to take me on as a new patient, and thankfully, he agreed.

 So why do I relay this story with such passion? For two key reasons:

  1. Don’t ever be afraid to seek a second opinion. For crying out loud, doctors refer to what they do as “practice!”
  2. In you receive a diagnosis for cancer or anything else that is long-term, be sure to find a doctor that you feel comfortable with. It makes all of the difference in the world. If you have fundamental issues with one doctor, as I did with my first oncologist, you probably have not found the right one for you. Keep looking, you’re worth it!

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