The other day I met with oncologist number five. Yes, that’s right, number five. If I didn’t know better, I might think there was a problem with me and I don’t mean cancer!
Seriously though, changing oncologists isn’t easy. Cancer patients can become quite attached to their oncologists.
This relationship with an oncologist is somewhat like the one a woman usually develops with her obstetrician. In both cases there are many doctor appointments. In both cases there is a genuine bond that forms during an emotional, often times frightening time period of one’s life. A dependency based on deep trust develops.
There might very well be a feeling of deep disappointment, even abandonment, if your obstetrician is unable for whatever reason to be the one delivering your bundle of joy. This happened to me twice. Likewise there also might be a feeling of disappointment when one’s preferred/original oncologist is no longer around or available for whatever reason.
Life is an ongoing timeline of adaptations.
I vividly remember the very first meeting I had with oncologist number one. Imagining I needed an oncologist in the first place seemed unfathomable. It some ways it still does. It was almost like an out of body experience at that first meeting, as if I were there to speak about someone else’s life, someone else’s cancer, not mine.
About a year ago I received a “termination letter” from oncologist number one stating that he was leaving his practice at the cancer center I have been going to. It was time for he and his family to make a change, something that was completely reasonable and shouldn’t have been so unexpected. But it was. The news was surprising and the forced change was unsettling. It felt like he was abandoning me when I wasn’t quite yet ready. It had taken a while for us to develop our bond, but we had finally done so and the idea of starting over with someone new was not a pleasant one for me to contemplate.
Still, I accepted his “resignation from my case” pretty well. I understood life is about change and wished him well.
I carried on fine and rescheduled my next appointment with oncologist number two, who turned out to be a substitute, a fact no one bothered to tell me about when I made the appointment. This was bothersome for me as I immediately connected with this particular doctor and hated learning she would be temporary.
A few months later when it was time for my next appointment, I met with oncologist number three. This meeting did not go well. From the get go I knew we were not a match, not even close, and thus that doctor patient relationship ended before it even really began. I decline to divulge details, but let’s just say his judgment seemed less than stellar.
Immediately, I consulted with oncologist number four because there were a couple of pressing issues still in need of attention. Oncologist number four kindly squeezed hubby and me in and added me to his growing list of patients. Both hubby and I liked him and once again felt like we were in competent and caring hands.
Recently my cancer center added a new female oncologist to its expanding list of specialists. I knew about this new hire way back during my meeting with oncologist number two, but things weren’t official until September. These things take time.
In the mean time I contemplated if another meeting with yet another oncologist and then perhaps yet another possible change was worth the time and effort it would take to figure this out.
Ultimately, I decided yes, it was worth the time and effort. Again.
So you guessed it. I met with oncologist number five intending just to chat a bit, ask a few questions, see how we would or would not hit it off and determine her availability. I would then decide where to go from there.
It turned out oncologist number five and I did hit it off. First of all, she had done her homework by reading my file, which is rather thick, before she entered the room. She had familiarized herself quite well with all I had been through medically speaking, an immediate good sign. She’s experienced, even with relatively rare BRCA patients like me. She was thorough in her exam. She asked pertinent questions. She listened to my concerns. She offered opinions and advice when I asked for them. Most importantly, she seemed skilled, competent and genuine.
So the bottom line is this: I believe whenever possible it is worth the time, effort, consternation, upheaval and inconvenience to keep searching for an oncologist, in fact, any doctor until you are satisfied.
I think oncologist number five is a keeper, at least I hope so.
Have you had to change oncologists?
What things are most important to you when choosing any doctor?
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