“Dr Kathleen Thompson’s foray into combining medical and patient “expertise” results in a tight but still emotionally evocative journey through her experience of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. The book – deliberately – exposes a key issue facing patients going though any such experience (which could apply to all illness), namely, how do you take control of your patient experience to ensure you get the best treatment?
Some tough issues are addressed, such as how can you possibly hope to understand what is going on? Ms Thompson, a former paedetrician and medical researcher, was often herself stunned into incomprehension of what was being said to her.
How do you insist on the treatment you want and need, how do you get a second opinion? If communication is a big part of the challenge of overcoming illness, how do we begin to communicate accurately, over all the technicality and the panic, to get to the best possible decision?
Thompson presents a controversial and poignant description of her fight to get the surgery procedure she wanted for herself, after originally being rejected for her preferred operation by the well-tailored consultant “Miss Gomez”. Throughout the book there is a good balance of crunchy breast cancer-related medical advice and human detail from her case history.
The book raises many questions moving forward. After reading the book, I wondered if it might be possible to record medical consultations so patients could go over again what had been said. Thompson herself says that in Britain patients are notoriously submissive about questioning medical advice; perhaps at least summaries of what is being said, akin to the summaries she offers at the end of each chapter, could get the ball rolling, assuming of course the lawyers can be kept at bay.“