From ER Doctor to Breast Cancer Warrior.Read Dr. Jackson's Story.
"When I first read my biopsy results on my phone I blinked hard a few times and re-read them, positive that it was a simple misunderstanding. I had been given another patient’s biopsy results. As a doctor, I recognized “invasive ductal carcinoma” as a type of breast cancer and there was no way that at the age of 32 with no family history of any kind of cancer that I had breast cancer. I was sure it was a fibroadenoma (a more common benign breast tumor) that was causing the intermittent stabbing pains. Cancer was not even on the differential diagnosis that I had created for myself.
Having spent the last decade plus training as a doctor I can’t just turn “the doctor” in me off. Specializing in emergency medicine, I am trained to consider, identify and treat the worst case scenarios: Chest pain and ST segment elevation on your EKG? Ma’am, you’re having a heart attack and I’m going to help you. Your Mom just called and is slurring her speech? Could be a stroke and I can take care of her. Yet, I had not prepared myself for the worst case scenario of cancer.
As I moved through the motions of the multitude of tests I needed to complete before starting chemo, my denial transitioned into considering that I was going to die. I knew my form of breast cancer was particularly aggressive and without having had the benefit of results of the tests I was undergoing to better quantify it, my ER doctor brain kicked in and I assumed the worst. I wasn’t going to let me fool myself again, so I mentally started to prepare.
I see death, talk about death, and handle death every single day in the emergency department. You never really get comfortable with it but you find your own ways to deal with it and move on to the next patient. I also counsel patients on having critical illness and establishing end of life wishes. The first thing I ask them to consider is their values - “What is most important to you in your life?” I find that being able to answer this question helps patients determine the answers to the rest. For me, it’s my family: my babies and my husband.
So, no, I wasn’t going to die. No matter what I had to endure, I was going to kick and scream and fight to be with my family. I held my head up high, prepared to fight, and picked myself up when I started to stoop, all with my family in mind.
In overwhelming, confusing and dire situations when you don’t know what to do, think about what is most important to you and your next steps will become more clear.”