After my recent annual checkup with my primary care physician, I decided she just might be my new best friend, medically speaking that is, of course.
As I prepared for my appointment which really means as my list of things to cover continued to grow, I felt sort of guilty. I felt as if she was the one in charge, again medically speaking, of helping me pick up the pieces. And there were/are quite a few pieces to pick up!
Don’t get me wrong, all the specialists (and there have been too many to list out) I’ve seen are great. I value their expertise immensely. But partly due to this expertise their “vision” tends to be very focused.
For instance, oncologist #5 has reminded me more than once that her primary job is to try to keep my cancer in check. I get that. I want that.
Since I now have a cancer resume, I realize I will always be thought of as a cancer patient from here on out by most of my doctors. Heck, even my dentist now “knows” and requests updates on things.
But I am more than a cancer patient.
I am a whole person with whole body (and mind) issues that matter too.
All the other specialists I’ve seen and see still, wear “blinders” to a certain extent. It’s harder for them to widen their view of me. It just is.
When a person starts tiptoeing through survivorship, there can be a lot of cancer fallout to contend with. Unfortunately, many of you reading this blog know exactly what I’m talking about.
Even if you’re lucky enough to be “finished” with cancer treatment, there is a lot of cancer crap to deal with from there on out. I won’t bother to list out all my personal issues, but let’s just say I couldn’t cover all of them in one, though lengthy annual physical appointment. My PCP requested another meeting so we could discuss things further and yes, she did also end up referring me to yet another specialist… Like I said, I have a few issues…
What I love most about my PCP is her willingness to listen – really listen.
As I’ve written about before, too often doctors seem dismissive. This doesn’t mean they are dismissive, but sometimes impressions, good or bad, are what patients remember most.
Another reason I respect my PCP so much is because she not only listens, she offers me something else that’s intangible, but equally important – validation.
For example, she acknowledged the difficulty I’ve been having with side effects from taking Arimidex. She listened, but more than that she offered compassionate validation.
After considerable listening coupled with some pretty frank discussion, she said, “Nancy, I’m giving you permission to go off all AIs for one month. Let’s see if we can start getting you to feel better. Let’s just do it.”
Of course, it’s not like I needed her permission and I had pretty much already decided I’d be stopping for a short break, but hearing her say those words meant a lot.
It was validation.
She went on to say, “I don’t think you’ve recovered fully from cancer treatment. I don’t think your body has bounced back yet from the harshness of chemo.” (I’ll spare you the details).
Next, and most importantly, together we devised a PLAN.
And I like the plan.
We have lots to work on, but at least now I have a PLAN.
This is such an important missing link for so many in cancer care survivorship.
Every cancer patient deserves a PLAN for survivorship because frankly, tiptoeing through this thing called survivorship isn’t as easy as it’s cracked up to be. Mostly because cancer and all the accompanying fallout is never really over.
So, while all the specialists in your medical life are probably pretty terrific, don’t underestimate the help and guidance your primary care physician might be able to offer you as well.
You might discover that yours is your new best friend too.