It's not everyday a cancer patient gets to interact with a pathologist.
But at Sharp Chula Vista off Medical Center Drive, breast cancer patients get the opportunity every other month.
“Meet the pathologist,” a program created to give patients the opportunity to ask questions about their diagnosis, was created by Dr. Omid Bakhtar two years ago.
Its inception followed the discovery of a lump in his pregnant wife’s breast.
“We were scared about what the future held and we were quite anxious to get news on how advanced the disease was and what our treatment options were and the well being of our unborn child and what that was going to mean to him,” Bakhtar said.
Today, Bakhtar shares his story several times each year with women fighting breast cancer at the new Barnhart cancer facility at Sharp hospital in Chula Vista.
“The hope is for patients who are in the early phase of diagnosis to understand the disease process and to be able to contribute to what their ultimate care should be,” Bakhtar said. “For patients who have already undergone treatment … for them to understand why they had the treatment they did and what their future concerns or risks are.”
Cancer patient navigator Angiolina Mohi, who helped organized the program with Bakhtar, said the program goes beyond Sharp patients.
“We’re open to helping all patients,” she said. “You don’t have to be a Sharp patient—it’s a South Bay thing. We’re open to supporting all women in the county.”
Bakhtar said it is up to individuals whether or not they want to attend.
“There are people that want to have nothing to do with this meeting at all and then there are those that have a thirst for knowledge,” he said.
Breast cancer patient Jo Swanson is of the latter.
Swanson, 59, attended the meeting last week for the first time, although she’s no stranger to the disease.
She was first diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in 2005 and ultimately got a mastectomy.
“I was very fortunate,” she said. “I didn’t have radiation or chemo. A year after my mastectomy, I went for my yearly breast (exam) and they thought they saw cancer in my other breast. I told my doctor I wanted my breast taken off. In 2006, I had a prophylactic mastectomy.”
Swanson said the program is extremely important.
understands that feeling of what your experiencing then someone who’s been in your shoes, walking that same walk,” Swanson said. “When you have an understanding it gives you some feeling of, OK, I can do this.’ you become more empowered over the C word,” Swanson said.
“Finding out you have cancer is so overwhelming. One day your world is peachy neato keeno and they next day everything is upside down.”
Swanson received tests back last month that concluded she now has thyroid cancer.
“I think group support is just such an important aspect of getting through this diagnosis treatment journey no matter what your treatment is or what your cancer is,” she said.