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I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. It was a missed diagnosis literally by both my primary care doctor and the radiologist who read the mammogram.

By December 30, 2010 - 3:56pm
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A mammogram on a palpable lump is not the correct action to take, and the radiologist did not even get the lump on the film, which could actually be seen with the naked eye, and then called the lump 'benign,' and instructed me to check back in 6 months. After watching it then grow rapidly I went through all the authorizations and appointment making to see a specialist as I had a gut feeling something was wrong. I had an aggresive infiltrating triple negative ductal carcinoma which had been left to grow for 5 full months. After 14 weeks of aggresive chemotherapy, double mastectomy and numerous reconstruction surgeries I am left with neuropathy from the Taxol (chemo drug) and Major Depressive Disorder. Complicating this is the narcotics I must take for the pain. And, of course, I have a medical malpractice lawsuit. I must say I like my psychiatrist but he has me on Lamictal for the depression. I am not bi-polar and I am still terribly depressed. HELP??

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Hi Janny - I'm both saddened and angered by your story. You are among far too many women who have not received the care they needed and deserved. I'm glad you are speaking out, as your words will help other women.

It's not surprising that you are now dealing with major depressive disorder. It's also not clear why you are on Lamictal, which is an anti-epileptic medication that is also used to treat bi-polar disorder. Since you like your psychiatrist I would go back to see him/her, ask why that particular drug was prescribed, explain that it's not working, and ask for a different medication that will help with your specific symptoms.

Beyond that I would look for some additional means beyond medication to deal with the depression. One is to join a support group where you can openly discuss what you've been through and will continue to go through as a cancer survivor. As a leukemia patient I find that the groups I'm in have been invaluable and fellow patients are far more open to discussions about my cancer than are my "regular" friends.

Another avenue for you is exercise, which is now recommended for patients before, during and after treatment. Has your oncologist referred you to a physical therapy program? If not, I would get a referral as soon as possible and make sure that you are working with a therapist who has experience in working with breast cancer survivors. Aim for a home exercise program that you can continue after the physical therapy ends. This will make a huge difference in your recovery process, both physically and mentally.

You may also find it helpful to read articles by cancer survivors as they have a lot of wisdom to share about the recovery process, and medical professionals typically don't provide much help in this area. We have a number of articles in our cancer and breast cancer sections, and I would especially recommend those from Annette Mattern, who is both a breast cancer and ovarian cancer survivor. https://www.empowher.com/users/annette-leal-mattern

Journaling can also help, whether you do it publicly as a blog, or privately for your own eyes only. Many studies have shown that people who journal after a traumatic experience recover more quickly than those who don't.

Let me know if these suggestions are helpful and if I can help you further. Your life has been changed forever, and learning how to live well as a survivor isn't easy but there are 12 million others in the US who are doing the same thing, and they include a lot of good people who want to help make the journey easier for you.

Take care,

December 30, 2010 - 7:18pm
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