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I Can’t Believe I Need a (New) Oncologist!

Last week I received a letter from my oncologist stating he was ending his practice at my clinic.

Just when I am finally becoming really comfortable with my oncologist, just when he is starting to smile a bit more during my appointments, just when I am finally starting to feel a bit more in control of my post-cancer treatment life, he decides, “after thoughtful consideration,” he’s had enough and is moving on.

What?

How could my oncologist just “drop me” (and all his other patients of course) and end our “relationship” so casually?

Immediately I went through a wide gamut of emotions. I felt surprised, let down, concerned, abandoned, panicked and even slightly angry. On top of that I felt a bit betrayed. I wondered if he already knew his decision at my last appointment. Why didn’t he tell me? Didn’t he owe me that?

Next, I was immediately transported back to the day of my first oncology appointment about a year and a half ago. I sat there in the waiting room that day probably feeling a bit sorry for myself saying to hubby, “I can’t believe I need an oncologist.”

“Well, you do,” was his simple and honest reply.

After reading and then re-reading the “termination letter” last week and again every day this week, I realize the relationships we establish with our medical team members, perhaps especially our oncologists, run deeper than I thought; no surprise there.

Our oncologists are the ones who “walk with us” through diagnosis, treatment decisions, side effects, fears and follow-up appointments. They listen to countless questions (some of which are asked over and over again), offer coping suggestions, write prescriptions, observe our changing bodies, deliver bad news, encourage us to stay the course, show compassion, offer alternatives, take notes, order tests, acknowledge our anxieties, comfort our partners and above all listen to us.

They deal with life and death issues every single day.

When you boil it all down, they help us face cancer. They help us face our mortality. They help devise a personalized plan to enable us to live as long as possible.

When you put it like that, it’s no wonder they grow weary, need a change, move on or even change careers entirely. The work must be exhausting.

I understand my oncologist’s decision and wish him only the best. I will always be grateful to him for his solid and compassionate guidance through the past year and a half.

But I must admit, I’m a bit anxious about finding a new one.

Part of my anxiety about finding a new oncologist is starting over with someone who doesn’t know me. I will have to start over with someone who doesn’t know me from “that day.” I will have to rehash my cancer story. I will have to condense it down. My new doctor will be “sizing me up” and I will be doing the same with him/her. First impressions will be made once again. Maybe I’ll like my new oncologist better. Maybe I won’t.

Relationships evolve. Relationships end. New ones begin. Even with oncologists.

Some days I still can’t believe I ever needed an oncologist. Some days I still wake up and forget for a few moments cancer barged into my life.

Then I remember.

I can’t believe now I need a new oncologist.

Once again hubby gently reminds me, “Well you do.”

Have you had to change doctors and if so, was it by choice?

How do you determine if a doctor is a good fit for you?

What is an oncologist’s (or any doctor’s) most important role?

Alli

Thursday 10th of November 2011

It had taken me over 2 years to finally find a GOOD Family Dr. I adored him, great personality, he really had taken time to make sure all my needs were met. I could finally take a breather. Well not so fast!! There was a falling out of sorts with the chief Dr at the clinic. He left to work in another city, to far to go so I stayed with the other new Dr. Happy Days!! He was coming back they kissed and made up! That was short lived. Received a call from the clinic. My Dr went back to Libya right after the death of Ghadaffi (He was from there) So now I have another Dr. I do like him, he's very nice but I would rather have the other one back......

Nancy

Thursday 10th of November 2011

Alli, Sorry you've been going through such a "musical chairs' ordeal with your doctors. We just keep adapting don't we? Thanks for sharing.

Lisa

Wednesday 9th of November 2011

One reason hubs and I are holding back from moving to another state is that I can't bear the thought of losing my surgical oncologist! My hema/oncologist,eh, I could find a replacement, but sweet Dr. Hagans--shudder the thought! Good luck Nancy!

Nancy

Wednesday 9th of November 2011

Lisa, Oh I so understand. Some doctors are simply irreplacable aren't they? (and some are!) Thanks for commenting and for your good wishes, Lisa.

All Things Caregiver

Wednesday 9th of November 2011

Nancy,

Your dilemma popped into my mind today as I listened to the interaction between the young lady who works for me and her client. This client was concerned with the fact my co-worker was going to be out of the office for the next few weeks, leaving this client no choice but to get her pain management massage elsewhere. This client was not concerned with her possible pain, she was upset she may be "cheating" on my co-worker by going elsewhere for the two weeks she wouldn't be able to come to our office.

What my co-worker told her, I thought, was very insightful:

"please feel free to always explore other options. Although I am proficient at what I do, having a different set of eyes and pair of hands on your body can only be beneficial. We are all human; what I may have missed, someone else may catch."

Although I would NEVER compare the severity of the two situations, and the stress you must be feeling trying to determine your next step, try and see this as a fresh set of eyes willing to help you and improve your situation.

Best of luck,

Tory

Nancy

Wednesday 9th of November 2011

Tory, Your advice is perfect. Someone else mentioned "re-framing" the situation in much the same way by trying to view it as an opportunity for a fresh perspective. That's what I'm going to do, or at least I'm going to try to. Thanks for your comments.

BreastCancerSisterhood.com

Tuesday 8th of November 2011

I'm amazed oncologists last as long as they do. I would think their chosen profession would be emotionally taxing and depressing. My chemo nurses are the ones I loved, and like you, I was devastated when one of them left the practice. Thank God for angels like that.

XOXOXO, Brenda

Nancy

Wednesday 9th of November 2011

Brenda, I'm amazed oncologists last as long as they do too - talk about a stressful job. I imagine the rewards are quite great as well though. I never got that close to any particular chemo nurse, but I know many people do. Thanks for commenting.

ButDoctorIHatePink

Tuesday 8th of November 2011

It would be awful if I lost my onc, especially being Stage IV. I'm so sorry.

Nancy

Tuesday 8th of November 2011

Ann, I think it would be tougher to change being Stage IV for sure. I hope you don't ever need to. Hope you are feeling better post liver surgery. My best for your continued healing and thanks for taking time to comment.

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