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Alone ... finding a surgeon

VVW Member Posts: 7
On the day I was given my biopsy results I was on my own.  Apparently, it was the first day in 2022  that patients were allowed a support person when receiving pathology results ....but noone told me.  All the signs at Breast Screen Vic stated that support people were asked to wait outside due to Covid. With it being really hot weather we had decided that my husband would drop me off and head back home to wait for me to call.  Prior to my visit I had a phone call checking on Covid symptoms, but no mention of bringing a support person. Once in the clinic I discovered most of the other women waiting to get results had a support person with them. 

Thanks to those on this site who had suggested recording interviews, this was invaluable advice.  

I got a very brief explanation of my pathology results from the consultant, and didn't have a chance to ask questions.  Being a private patient I was handed a folder by the nurse with a cd of my results. On asking for clarification I was reassured that it wasn't necessary to select a surgeon on the day.  When I asked how does one go about finding a surgeon and I was offered a range of business cards of those who worked at the clinic and saw patients privately.  It felt bizarre, but understood it was starting point.  But I didn't feel like selecting my surgeon based on the colour and size of the type font on their business card. : )  Fortunately, I contacted my GP and she arranged a telehealth call with me straight away.  On my GP's suggestion I spoke to the person at the surgeon's room. Getting a better idea of what it meant to be a private patient I found very reassuring and helpful.  But the week waiting to hear back once the GP  forwarded the referral has felt more like a month.

Happily, I heard yesterday that I have an appointment to see Dr Anita Skandarajah at the end of next week.  I definitely slept better last night having this date in my diary.


  • arpie
    arpie Member Posts: 7,003
    edited February 2022
    Gee, that's a shame @VVW - it has been difficult for those not being allowed to have their support person with them during covid - I am surprised someone didn't message you :(  Do you have a Breast Care Nurse? 

    I am so glad you recorded the pathology appt, so you can even go over it 'again' with your hubby, so he knows what was discussed.

    Re choosing a surgeon - well done on checking with your GP & them getting back to you so promptly!  They are recommending surgeons/specialists all the time to their patients & would have good feedback from them.  Mine gave me a couple of Surgeon's names & I did a 'google review' on them to see what comments others had made - and one of them had terrible reviews, so I went with the other & he was just brilliant. 

    Make sure you ask your surgeon UP FRONT about 'out of pocket' expenses - and anaesthetist fees etc - otherwise it can be a bit of a shock.  Mine gave me an actual 'quote', so I knew it would be about $3000 initially (but I was able to have my surgery just 2 weeks after diagnosis.)  Even as a Private Patient, your Fund may not cover EVERYTHING.  I even had to pay an extra $500 of my own pathology for some reason!  I went private for my surgery (and ended up paying $5000+ over the first 12 months), but I went public for Oncology & Radiation Oncology (no fees) and they were all just excellent.

    Jump onto this link & check out other areas of the Forum - we even manage to have a laugh now & then!  Down the bottom are some 'tick sheets' that you can hit the link for - good suggestions for ongoing questions with your 'team' .... If you add your general location to your Profile (city/town), others will know where you live & may be able to point you to specific services available to you locally .....

    Take care & all the best with your surgeon's appt next week!!  Sleep well! xx
  • VVW
    VVW Member Posts: 7
    Thanks arpie for your comments, tips and the link.  All very helpful and I really appreciate your encouragement. This online community and BCNA is a wonderful resource and support!
  • arpie
    arpie Member Posts: 7,003
    Looking back, I was alone when I got my 'initial' biopsy pathology results from my GP .... I basically said "Oh FxxK" and she gave me a big hug (pre covid.)  Sadly, she moved to Melbourne the following year - she was a wonderful GP & I've struggled to find another one 'as good' since.  :(

    It will be your 'final' pathology report (after your surgery) that will dictate your ongoing game plan ... you should also be assigned a Breast Care Nurse (either your Surgeon will have her own) or from McGrath - if not, ask about it.  ..... They will be your first 'port of call' for many questions - but also feel free to ring the Helpline (1800 number at the top of the page, in the Blue Banner) and they'll be able to help/guide you as well - specifically if you feel down or sad.

    Other than that, just whack up ANY question on this thread & we'll do our best to answer them & support you thru this, specially in the initial stages, when it is all a blur.  That way, you'll have a 'continual story' of your progress as you go thru each step.  (My initial post ended up being about 10 pages as I went thru surgery, rads & then tabs!  LOL). It is 4 years since my surgery.

    It sounds like your hubby will be great support for you - lean on your family & friends if they offer support - be it meals, getting the kids to school, mowing the lawn or even walking the dog!!   Try & keep busy between now & next week .... just keep doing what you love doing - it really does help pass the time.  I love my kayak fishing & from the Oct to Jan (when I finally got my biopsy results) I just tried to fish EVERY DAY!  It is my 'safe space'!

    Don't feel compelled to tell EVERYONE at this point - just the family & friends who you are closest to & you know will be supportive!  I told on an 'as needs to know' basis.  Maybe wait til you know a bit more after you see the surgeon - or even wait til after the surgery/pathology results, as there will be lots of questions & it can get a bit 'over the top' sometimes.  I didn't tell some family until the 12 month review!  ;) 

    take care xx
  • Afraser
    Afraser Member Posts: 4,190
    Hi @VVW

    There are as many ways of finding your medical team as there are forms of breast cancer! My GP googled my surgeon - could not be happier with him. He proposed my oncologist (my daughter did check him out - good research credentials!) and they work together all the time which is, to
    my mind, a plus. When I encountered an unexpected side effect while having chemo, my oncologist checked me into hospital (his office was in the hospital building) so I could see the first cardiologist on duty. ‘My’ cardiologist is brilliant. It’s been a good run. 

    How much you share is, as @arpie says, entirely up to you. I was working and decided to let all my immediate work colleagues know. It allowed me to set the tone for talking about it (OK to ask questions, jokes even better!) and, as I kept working, smoothed the way through a wig and a Taxol-ed nose! 

    Best wishes for your appointment. 
  • VVW
    VVW Member Posts: 7
    Hello @Afraser,  I was reassured to read your observation that 'there are many ways of finding your medical team as there are forms of breast cancer'.  We're so fortunate here in Australia to have access to such a large number of experienced surgeons and oncologists, particularly in the major capital cities.

    Good to hear from you and @arpie on your thoughts on sharing my diagnosis with others.   :)
  • Julez1958
    Julez1958 Member Posts: 942
    Hi there
    I had a great ( female) GP who recommended a breast cancer surgeon - I said “ would you go to him if you had breast cancer”? She said “ definately”. Also she said she had referred many of her other patients to him and got excellent feedback about him.
    That was good enough for me.
    I went as a private patient and was very happy with my care and he recommended my plastic surgeon ( I had reconstruction), radiation oncologist and oncologist.
    All were excellent as was the private hospital I went to.
    But beware of out of pocket expenses , mine were steep but I would still do it again.
  • Zoffiel
    Zoffiel Member Posts: 3,372
    Look at Peter Mac. There are A Grade surgeons there in the modern age (maybe less so back in the day on occasions when the dinosaurs were still in control)  PM if you like and I'll give you a couple of names, we are not supposed to make comment on the proficiency of individual medicos on the forum.
  • VVW
    VVW Member Posts: 7
    Feeling very supported. Thanks. <3   Having been referred to an excellent surgeon and with a definite date for surgery at the end of the month I'm feeling both relieved and reassured.  @Zoffiel - thanks so much for your input and offer that I could PM you.  It's actually worked out that I'll be having my op at Peter Mac.  A good outcome all round.   :)