As some of you may remember from a previous post, my oncologist recently quit and moved his practice elsewhere, hence my need to find a new oncologist.
When I arrived recently to check in for my appointment with my new oncologist feeling a bit more apprehensive than usual, the receptionist casually mentioned to me, “Oh by the way, your new oncologist is temporary. She’s filling in until two new doctors are hired. She will probably only be here six months tops.”
Of course, my immediate reaction was what? Why didn’t someone tell me this? Why is the patient the last to know?
As my blood pressure started to rise a bit, I replied back to said receptionist (trying to sound equally casual about things), “You know I don’t really like starting over with someone new so many times. It would have been nice to know this before today. I might have chosen a different doctor to see.”
“I know,” she responded. But clearly, she had no idea where I was coming from.
While waiting for my name to be called, I quickly adjusted to the situation. I’m getting much more adept at quick adjustments. Cancer does that to a person. Also, I was a substitute teacher for a number of years I reminded myself over and over. We substitutes stick together. We substitutes know we are the glue that “holds things together.” I’ll be fine. Substitutes are fine. A substitute oncologist will be fine. Everything will be fine.
And it was!
First of all, seeing a woman oncologist was rather nice. Secondly, she was a great listener and I found her to be very compassionate and easy to talk to. She patiently went over my file, asked me questions, explained her philosophy about monitoring breast cancer patients (which of course, is the same as my old oncologist’s philosophy – no scans, no tests, in short, no procedures without symptoms) Sometimes this wait and see approach makes me uneasy, though I do understand its logic. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, she took lots of time to address my questions and concerns, and I had more than a few to discuss.
I ended up really liking my substitute oncologist. She seemed to be not only a great doctor, but also somebody I might like to share a cup of coffee with. How many doctors can you say that about?
A substitute doctor I learned, is sort of like a traveling doctor of years gone by. Her official title is locum tenens, a person who temporarily fulfills the duties of another. A locum physician is one who fills in when a hospital is short-staffed. My substitute oncologist shared with me about her experiences traveling around the country “filling in,” an admirable thing to do I told her. That kind of nomadic life-style takes a special kind of person/doctor.
Before this appointment I told myself I would approach it as an opportunity, a new pair of eyes (and hands), a new mind to bounce questions off, a fresh perspective and a chance to learn from someone else’s experience.
I did. And I intend to keep doing exactly that.
Then I’ll start all over and do it again with oncologist number three; whenever that might be.
Has cancer made you more adept at adapting quickly to change?
Have you ever had a “substitute doctor?”
Have you had to switch oncologists?