My routine mammogram in February of 2013 turned out to be not so very routine. The radiologist saw something that looked suspicious in the image and thought I should have it biopsied. I wasn’t very worried because the technician assured me that it was probably something innocuous. It didn’t look like any malignancy she’d ever seen, she told me, and she’d done thousands of mammograms.
Consequently, I was totally unprepared for the call from my gynecologist, the following week, informing me that I had breast cancer and needed to meet with a surgeon immediately! My surgical consult resulted in two separate surgeries. First a lumpectomy then an expanded lumpectomy and the removal of twenty lymph nodes. Until I received my surgeon’s report, I hadn’t known that there are different types of breast cancer. I soon learned that there are and that mine was of the category HER2. I was told that my cancer was aggressive and that I needed to schedule an oncology visit in order to begin treatment as soon as possible.
I was given the choice of receiving treatment at a hospital or at a community oncology center. I thought treatment would be the same at either location so I chose Augusta Oncology simply because of its proximity to my home. At the time, I didn’t know anything about community cancer care centers or how advantageous it would be for me to receive my treatment at one. Though my surgeon had attempted to educate me about HER2 breast cancer and my probable course of treatment, his explanation was too technical for my understanding at the time. It wasn’t until I met with my oncologist and oncology nurse that I understood exactly what type of cancer we were going to defeat and how we were going to go about doing so. During each appointment with my oncologist, I was given as much time as I required to ask questions and have procedures explained. I never once felt that he was eager to finish with me so he could move on to another patient. I very much doubt that the same amount of time with my doctor would have been possible had I been treated at a teaching hospital. I am grateful that Augusta Oncology is small enough to allow each patient to have a personal relationship with their treatment team. The staff knows who you are, even before you sign in, and you get to know them as well. When I called with an after-hours problem or question, my call was always promptly returned by someone with whom I was familiar and who was familiar with me. It was reassuring to see the same faces during each visit. The demeanor of every staff member with whom I interacted at Augusta Oncology was professional, calm, warm, and caring. I would rather have not had to have chemotherapy, but since I did, I’m glad it was there.