Some Women Learn Value of 2nd Opinions

12:03 PM, Oct 6, 2010   |    comments
Chapman McMeekin put a pink hair extension in her daughter Sarah’s hair at Pine Elementary School in Spartanburg as part of Turning Pine Pink, a breast cancer awareness event. (Photo: KEN OSBURN / Greenville News)
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Columbia, SC (Greenville News) -- Ruthie Ivester was working on her wedding plans last September when she found a lump in her breast.

Her doctor told her not to worry. She was only 32 and had no family history of breast cancer. It was probably just a cyst.

The Greenville woman went on with life, but the lump kept bothering her. So she got a second opin­ion and she's glad she did. It turned out to be an aggressive form of can­cer.

"I'd been carrying this thing around in me for seven months, misdiag­nosed in the beginning," she says. "My major point is that even if the doctor tells you it's a cyst, get a second opinion be­cause you have to get it out or do a needle biopsy before they really know what it is."

Second opinions are al­ways a good idea, says Lindsay Thompson, out­reach coordinator for the South Carolina Moun­tains to Midlands Affili­ate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

"We always recom­mend second opinions even if you think (the doctors are) probably right," she says. "People will go for their yearly ex­am or feel something and

the doctor will say it's nothing, just a cyst. But the woman says it's just not right. You have to trust your instincts. It'll only cost you the amount of a doctor's visit."

Ivester, who had worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative until she lost her job in a downsiz­ing, kept her COBRA in­surance, which covered her medical bills. After a lumpectomy, she was a ra­diant June bride, then she had additional surgery that showed the cancer was limited to the breast.

Now she's undergoing four weeks of chemothera­py before beginning six weeks of radiation.

"I got lucky," she says. "The doctor told me she has three miracles a year, and I was one of them be­cause it had not spread at all."

A second opinion gave Chapman McMeekin the peace of mind to forego chemo and radiation after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

A stay-at-home mom with a 9-year-old son and 7­-year-old daughter, the Spartanburg woman be­gan having mammograms at 30 because her mother had breast cancer. Two years ago, the test showed a change and because she was just 34, she was told she could wait six months and check it again.

"I said, 'I can't sit here and worry about this for six months,' she recalls. "When you're 34, you have to be even more proactive about your health, espe­cially when it comes to breast cancer, because the general consensus out there is that it doesn't hap­pen to young women.

"You have to follow your gut."

A biopsy revealed stage 2 invasive cancer. A sec­ond biopsy confirmed the diagnosis. She had the op­tion of a lumpectomy and radiation or a bilateral mastectomy and recon­struction. She chose the mastectomy.

Afterward, she was told she also should have che­motherapy. But McMee­kin remembered how che­mo weakened her mother's heart so badly she needed a transplant. And she knew about the other potential side effects as well. So she decided to investigate the options.

Because there was no sign of cancer in her lymph nodes, her team concluded hormonal ther­apy would be as effective. So McMeekin takes drugs to suppress her estrogen levels.

"I did not want to do the chemo and what I found from a second opinion is confidence in my treat­ment," she says. "Having two oncology minds agree to a treatment makes it easier to make the best de­cision."

Deciding to take action instead of wait also made a difference, she says.

"Had I waited six months, I have no doubt it would have been in my lymph nodes," she says.

"If you feel it's not nor­mal, it's not normal," says Thompson. "Go get a sec­ond opinion."










































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