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.
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?