You might think after seven years I would have adjusted by now to having an oncologist, but I have not. Not entirely anyway. It still seems strange to have need of such a person in my life. As I’ve written about before, I’ve switched oncologists five times. Yes, five.
To briefly recap, oncologist number one relocated. Number two was a sub, which no one bothered to tell me. Number three was a total mismatch; we lasted one meeting. Number four, who is also my current doctor, was totally fine but I opted to try number five because of her extensive experience with brca+ patients and yes, I admit it, also partly because she was a woman. That relationship was a disaster. I am back with number four and over the past four years or so, we have developed a stable doctor/patient relationship based on mutual respect, among other things.
Switching oncologists can be stressful for a lot of reasons, but if you’re not satisfied with the one you have, it pays to shop around.
At this point, my followup appointments are rather boring which is a good thing, a really good thing. I hope to remain boring from here on out, as far as cancer goes.
My oncologist and I don’t chit chat much. Our relationship is warm and cordial, but for the most part, we stay on topic. We don’t hug, though we do shake hands. We don’t overshare personal stuff. He has no idea I write a blog and have authored three books about cancer. Why I’ve never told him I do not know, but I suspect it has something to do with the introvert in me. His tone is always pretty serious and I respect that. Besides being knowledgeable, the best thing about him is that he listens even when I’m pretty sure he doesn’t agree with me. I never get that look or tone suggesting, here she goes again. I am never made to feel like I’m “just the patient,” so what do I know.
Last week, I had my six-month checkup. Btw, some oncologists turn their patients loose or switch things up to annual visits after five years or so.
(If applicable, has this been the case with you?)
Thus far, my oncologist continues to opt for seeing me every six months.
At last week’s appointment, we talked about the usual stuff: my meds, (reluctantly, still staying the course with Exemestane) if I’m having any new symptoms (I am not), side effects (ugh) I deal with, blood work results and brca stuff. We talked again about screening tests for pancreatic cancer due to my brca+ status (not doing any as of now) and revisited the topic of the Breast Cancer Index Test (still contemplating).
We discussed my recent skin cancer which I forgot to mention at my last appointment (oops). And of course, we talked (again) about our mutually agreed upon avoidance of using the word, cure. We both are more comfortable with NED (no evidence of disease). He chuckled when I mentioned I prefer to live in reality. He concurred by iterating once again how sneaky cancer can be. He’s had patients’ cancers recur decades later.
I was in out of that exam room pretty fast, though not fast enough.
It has now been seven years since my diagnosis. Seven years!
I am grateful.
But as I’ve mentioned before, I do not nor will I ever say, I am dancing with NED. I realize this phrase works for some, but it does not work for me.
I am still NED. I am still grateful. I am still pissed off. I am thrilled to still be boring.
And one more thing, those great life lessons supposedly gleaned from cancer continue to elude me.
I remain a resistant “cancer learner.”
If applicable, are you still sometimes gobsmacked by the fact you need an oncologist?
If applicable, how would you describe your relationship with your (or your loved one’s) oncologist?
Do you feel the word “cure” is too loosely tossed around?