A dotted line jumps from hospital to hospital

Changing Cancer Centers, Again!

Starting in January, I will be changing cancer centers for the second time since my diagnosis with stage IV lung cancer. My amazing oncologist, Dr. Jyoti Patel, was at Northwestern Medicine when I first started with her, then moved to University of Chicago Medicine for about three years and is now going back to Northwestern. I have followed her as a patient through all these changes.

Adjusting to a new hospital and procedures

Believe me, I know I am fortunate that all of her moves have been in the Chicago area! And I’m very happy for her because each move has involved promotions for her and increased responsibility for lung cancer research. However, change is never fun for me and beyond the logistics of making sure all my records and insurance information get transferred correctly, I am not exactly looking forward to getting used to a new hospital and new procedures.

Yes, I have been at Northwestern before, but it was over three years ago and my favorite nurses are no longer there. I recently visited Northwestern for a Lung Cancer Awareness Month event and realized that either I no longer remember my way around (chemo-brain after 6 years of targeted therapy treatment?) or there have been changes made since I have left (also possible!). As a result, I will have a lot of newness to get used to before I feel comfortable.

Missing the friendly faces and welcoming atmosphere

While it took me a while to figure out procedures at University of Chicago and learn to deal with the extra hour round-trip it added to my commute for appointments, I did get very comfortable there after some time. I had my favorite places to get coffee and lunch, knew the nurses and PAs, and even got to know the hospital administration staff through participating on several patient and advocacy committees. I believe I helped University of Chicago spread awareness of lung cancer and this past November was so happy to see both the LUNGevity Lunch and Learn and Shine a Light on Lung Cancer well attended. It truly makes me sad to leave the friends and warm, welcoming atmosphere I found there.

Don't want to test my good fortune

Added to my angst is the fact that last time I changed cancer centers (from Northwestern to UChicago), I also experienced slight progression, which eventually led to a treatment change for me. Being the superstitious person that I am, I am somewhat concerned that this will happen again with the cancer center switch. On November 20, 2019, I reached the milestone of three years on my current, second-line targeted therapy treatment and naturally am getting worried that I might start developing resistance soon. My first targeted therapy treatment also lasted three years before its effectiveness began to peter out.

Where my oncologists goes, I will follow

Before this becomes too much of a pity party for me, however, I want to express how happy I am that I have an oncologist whom I am thrilled to follow as she changes positions! I would never consider NOT moving with her because I feel that she truly treats me as a partner in my care and together, we have made all the correct treatment decisions for me since the beginning. My husband is just glad that she isn’t moving to another state because he would be afraid that I would want to relocate our entire family to go with her!

I am looking forward to getting to know everyone at Northwestern and am sure that once I get settled, will also enjoy a warm, comfortable atmosphere. I am hoping that I will find a way to connect my advocacy efforts for lung cancer to my new cancer center, similar to how I did at University of Chicago. And who knows, I might end up back at University of Chicago one day in the future!

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