In a post-truth world, I find it rather ironic that I’m studying the lack of a single narrative relating to the patient experience of breast cancer.
We think of science has having a single truth – big t Truth. The laws of the universe behave in a particular way. However, the human body is complex and each is unique. Each person experiences the world in a different way. We each have our own sense of truth – that is little t truth. It is that little t truth that I’m studying.
My research looks at my experience with breast cancer treatment. A lot of people don’t realize that the science around breast cancer treatment doesn’t result in a single treatment option. There are choices at almost every stage of treatment. The doctors don’t know what will work and what wont. If you speak to multiple doctors you often get conflicting answers. This makes the patient experience that much more challenging. Add to it that each phase of treatment is handled by a different doctor (breast surgeon, plastic surgeon, medical oncologist, radiation oncology – and that doesn’t include the doctors that treat side effects of treatment – sleep doctor, dermatologist, endocrinologist, physiatrist, psychologist, primary care … the list doesn’t seem to ever end).
My point is the entire process is complex. There is no single answer to the question. There is no single experience. There is no Truth in this study. There is only my experience, and my view. Sharing my experience and my view helps other patients who are going through similar experiences. Their experiences won’t be the same as mine, but there will be some commonalities. They will need to make some of the same decisions. Their choices may be different, but the things they need to decide are the same. So my experience, and my articulation of how I came to my decisions can be a valuable to others.
The other point of value, I believe, is in the sharing of how I coped with various mental and physical side effects of treatment. Some of these insights and coping strategies may be of use to others.
And so, it is interesting that in a world where Truth is being questioned as if it were truth, I’m studying truth not Truth …
Feature image (c) Rebecca J. Hogue