My Revolving Door of Oncologists Continues to Revolve

Sometimes I’m envious of those who have and have had ongoing stable relationships with their oncologists. It would be really wonderful to have a doctor/patient relationship that feels solid and enduring. Not rehashing your story over and over would be nice. Trust is hard to build without at least some amount of continuity. Of course, the nicest thing of all would be not needing an oncologist in the first place.

I will never get used to the idea of needing an oncologist. Never. I still can’t fully fathom requiring such a person in my life, but…

Last week it was time for my six-month check up and I reverted back to oncologist #4. My revolving door of oncologists continues to revolve.

I’ve had five oncologists. Five. I’m really not a difficult patient. It’s just how things have gone for me.

A very brief synopsis goes like this:

Oncologist #1 left to practice elsewhere. Oncologist #2 (loved her) was a sub, which no one bothered to tell me, so I only saw her once. Oncologist #3 was a sub as well, but after being informed of this I was okay with it. I’ve been a substitute teacher. I respect subs. However this particular sub had me scheduled for two scans without fully reading my chart. Ties were immediately severed. Oncologist #4 was/is a wonderful man and doctor. But again, he’s a man. So when I learned my cancer center was hiring a new female oncologist who happened to have lots of BRCA experience, I figured since I was sort of in oncologist limbo-land anyway why not try her out?

My first appointment with #5 was okay. Maybe just okay should have been a heads up for me, but I really wanted things to work out for us. Appointment two was a disaster. Without sharing too many details that would probably just bore you anyway, let me just say the appointment concluded with me in tears and her washing her hands of me, which in itself I found hurtful and weird. Of course, I would have ditched her anyway, but shouldn’t that have been my call?

So now I’m back to oncologist #4. I should have stuck with him in the first place, but as they say, live and learn.

At my most recent appointment, oncologist #4 proved that not only is he very competent he’s also kind, understanding and more than willing to take me back as his patient. He stated right off the bat, “Nancy, you have the right to see whomever you’d like. Don’t ever feel as if you need to apologize for changing doctors. This is about you”.

We had a productive and partnership/type appointment, which is how oncology appointments must be; as should medical appointments of any kind.

Oncologist #4 was knowledgeable, kind and caring. He listened. He validated. He offered his perspectives and opinions, but also listened to mine. He was never dismissive.

It’s weird to call an oncology appointment pleasant, but this one was. And of course the best news of all was that I’m still NED (no evidence of disease).

As oncologists go, I think I’ve finally “settled in on one” for the long haul. At least I hope so.

Even now three years post my diagnosis,  I still deserve an oncologist that “fits”.

If you need one, you deserve the same.

How many oncologists have you had?

Have you ever had a doctor (of any kind) ask to sever ties with you?

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26 thoughts to “My Revolving Door of Oncologists Continues to Revolve”

  1. I can relate…although not with my oncologist. I have that type of relationship,with my primary care physician. She has me coming in 8 times a year just to refill my thyroid medication…yes, you heard me right EIGHT. The first visit to see her is to review the lab work and to pick up RX then I have to come back to her 30 days later to ‘discuss’ how I’m doing. That’s two office visits 4 times a year or she won’t refill my RX. Ludicrous. I have had this condition for well over 30 years and every other doctor requires me to come in ONE time every six months. (Or as needed if I feel something off). I should have realized it was all about the money when upon leaving you’re shuttled through her over priced supplement pusher in the guise of making your next appointment. But, I rationalized, female doctors are hard to find around here.

    My last visit (having just discussed my completion of 6 rounds of chemo) she made the astute observation that I had no eyebrows so my thyroid must be off. She actually looked surprised when I reminded her that losing one’s eyebrows is a common side effect of chemo and not necessarily due to my thyroid being off. (I mean seriously…you DID attend medical school didn’t you????)

    Last month I received a bill for $5.00…for an ‘RX Refill Fee’. You’ve GOT to be kidding me…the $240 office visit is not enough to cover that??? That pretty much pushed me over the edge. My insurance company refused to pay it and guess what Ms female doctor… I’m not paying it either. Last week I had her office send all my records to my new primary care doctor. This week I receive a certified letter stating that she no longer felt it in her best interest to be my doctor. Finally. Something we agree on. But wait, didn’t I fire you?

  2. Nancy,

    Oncologist #4 seems like a keeper! It’s great to have an oncologist that is the right fit for you….although it’s not great to have an oncologist at all.

    I’ve had the same oncologist since I was diagnosed. He is wonderful. However, when I first saw him, I wanted a second opinion, and that oncologist told me I didn’t have long to live. I left the appointment sobbing and called my original oncologist, who calmed me down. He has proven his worth, and I am so glad to have him.

    Congrats on NED!! I’m so happy for you. Huge news.



    1. Beth, You are one of those people I’m envious of then! Well, what I mean of course is I’m still sorry you ever needed an oncologist, but I am glad you have that solid relationship with the same oncologist even after all this time. That must be quite wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I still have my one and only Oncologist I like him to bits!I won’t change unless he retires We have established a great relationship he knows I’m no nonsense I want the truth nothing else will do. I did fire my family Dr i had him for so long each time I asked about the swelling in my arm he blew me off saying I had twisted it in a fall or and the lump on my side was a fatty tissue women get these for no reason ok….I probably already had Breast Cancer for more than a year.. Alli x

    1. Alli, I’m so glad you have a stable and solid relationship with your oncologist. And a no nonsense kind of doctor is the best kind – one who tells it like it is. And good for you for firing your family doctor.

  4. Nancy, I’m sorry you have had such a bad experience, but #4 sounds like a keeper.

    I have had the same male oncologist since I started treatment two years ago. From the first meeting, I trusted him, Often, when I go in, I see a female GP who assists him. I prefer to see him when I’m getting test results, but I have formed an excellent relationship with her over the years as well. They are both confidence-inspiring, kind and willing to listen. I wouldn’t trade them for anything…except a cure.

    1. Kate, I do hope I can hang onto #4. It’s my plan as of now anyway! It sounds like you have two terrific professionals in your corner. Confidence-inspiring, kind and willing to listen – you can’t ask for much more than that. Well, other than not needing them in the first place, but… Thanks so much for sharing.

  5. I have had the same oncologist since diagnosis, 4 years ago. (Not counting radiation oncologists, surgical oncologists for liver resection and other sub-specialists). Since I see mine every three weeks and have for these past 4 years, I am very happy that I like him, and more important almost, that he seems to trust me. I agree with you fully, this has to be a good fit as you will have him/her in your life for a while, or if you are metastatic like me – forever.

    Mine is kind, compassionate, but also very smart, up on the latest treatments and not afraid to refer me for special treatment, which I hear is not the norm. He has a dry sense of humor that not everybody gets but which I like. I would be extremely upset if I ever had to switch and would do everything in my power not to.

    Last year, he was injured and was off for 3 months. I had a replacement, also a kind doctor, but he didn’t know me, he didn’t treat me as an intelligent being who understood her case better than he did – and while I could tell he was sensitive, it wasn’t to my taste. He wasn’t MY doctor.

    This is an important relationship and I believe it is imperative you find somebody you feel comfortable with, both in knowledge and in personality.

    I’m glad you have.

    1. Ann, It is an important relationship for sure. Things just haven’t gone smoothly in this area for me for various reasons… I’m so glad you have that stable relationship with your oncologist, Ann. It would be horrible on a whole different level to deal with this “revolving door” if also dealing with mets. I’m sure it was hard for you to see your doctor’s replacement, even for that three month period. And a doctor with a good sense of humor – that’s a nice added bonus! Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  6. I’ve had the same oncologist since diagnosis. My guess was that he was 60ish, but one of the nurses told me he is in his 70s (and she was right). I really dread the day he finally retires. He tells me not to worry about the statistics, that I am not a statistic.

  7. dear nancy,

    I am so sorry you have had to endure the revolving door of oncologists – but delighted for you that it led you back to “the one”. it sounds as though you’ve found the perfect fit with someone who truly practices the art of medicine – and that’s exactly what you deserve.

    as you know, my story is rife with irony. 30 years ago, when I started my hospice work, I frequently had patients who were being cared for by on oncologist I’ve always referred to as Dr. Wonderful. if I phoned him to ask for new orders for pain meds, report changes in the pt’s condition – whatever it was – he always thanked me for being his eyes and ears and heart, asked about the family (always knew all their names), and was immediately responsive to all their needs. for 3 decades, I tried every single hospice case on for
    size, exercising my empathy, and trying to imagine what each person living the life of dying was experiencing. and I always, always thought to myself, if I ever need an oncologist, it HAS to be Dr. Wonderful. when my breast surgeon called to tell me I had ST IV Met BC, all I could think of was how devastated and frightened I’d be if I couldn’t have him, and expressed that to the surgeon – she texted him, and in less than 30 seconds he texted back, “tell her so come see me tomorrow.”.

    the amazing thing is that Dr. Wonderful has become even more of a magnificent physician. I write down my questions, and before I have the chance to ask them, more than likely, he will have answered them. he has made it a priority to form strong bonds of caring and support, first with hugh before he passed away, and always with my son, adam, who is my only family here. we cry together, laugh together, and he is always so kind and so thorough – and his entire staff mirrors the excellent patient care he has demonstrated by example. he calls me, sometimes even on a week-end day to ask how I am doing, and tells me he is thinking of me. I don’t know how I could be so fortunate. irony can sometimes bite you in the behind – and it has, many times over. but the irony that ended up connecting this marvelous man and gifted physician to me turned out to be one of my most cherished blessings.

    this was a great post, nancy – sharing this story will resonate with many others who have gone through what you have – but will also serve to dispel hesitancy and doubt that we deserve the very best care we can find for ourselves.

    much love and light,

    Karen, xoxo

    1. Karen, Thank you for sharing about your amazing Dr. Wonderful. And yes, what irony… I’m truly grateful that you have this dear kind doctor and his staff in your corner. You certainly deserve this extra special compassionate care you are receiving. Thanks so much for reading and for the wisdom you always share.

  8. It really is about you, the patient. Fortunately, there are choices and one can go “shopping.” It’s not weird for oncology appointments to be pleasant. An oncologist who genuinely cares knows how to put the patient at ease.

    Congrats on being NED. That’s wonderful news!

    1. Eileen, True, but sometimes in smaller ‘doctor markets’ the shopping around isn’t all that easy and my market is in no way as small as some. And it also does take a fair amount of energy and effort to shop around and some with cancer (or any condition) just aren’t up to doing it. So I really feel for those who are stuck in a not top-notch doctor/patient relationship. Everyone deserves the best. You’re right of course, oncology appointments can and maybe should be pleasant, but still… the fact that you’re seeing one isn’t pleasant at all. Thanks for reading and for the congrats.

    1. SwoosieQue, Welcome! I’m glad you found me too. Yeah, I have a fair number of posts don’t I? ha. I’ll be visiting your blog soon. Thanks so much for seeking me out and letting me know you landed here.

  9. Hi Nancy, I hope you’ve finally found the right oncologist. I had to switch as well. My first one was an older gentleman and he wasn’t interested in being collaborative with me re my treatment options, so I switched to another, younger one who was open and caring and shared a lot of information with me so that we made a join decision about my regimen. I hope your #4 works out. xo

    1. Claudia, It’s hard to understand why some doctors don’t care to collaborate more with their patients… I’m glad you found a good fit too. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  10. I’m hoping you warm up to this guy. I always try and remind myself it is their knowledge that matters… not bedside manner. That said, you do need to have a good working relationship. After all, it is your life you are both working on!

    Congratulations on your continued good health!

    1. Mae, It is their knowledge that matters most, but their personality and method of care delivery is a huge deal too, as I am learning… As you said, a good working relationship is needed. I think it’s an absolute must. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

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