A man and a supportive partner are led through a field of holes by a doctor with a map

The Journey and the Oncologist

I think sometimes that I take my oncologist for granted. He’s been an angel to me since day one. He often says he’s wasting my time, but unfortunately, I still need him and I will need him as long as I live or until he retires. He says he is going to pass me off to his replacement and I hope that he is right. Don’t we all?

Live your life

He knows that I am a worrier and he tells me all the time to just stop worrying. He emphasizes over and over to live my life and enjoy any and all that I can and want to do. We often discuss topics unrelated to cancer and merely chat. He quite possibly thinks that I am his “crazy” patient, but that is fine too. We joke about me having a heart or not when he listens to me. It’s the little things that matter and I appreciate the comfort level that we both have in our visits.

Different needs of the patient

I’ve told him how grateful that I am for him and he usually changes the subject. He doesn’t accept or want praise. He treats cancer. My 25 months of good labs and scans is a rare scenario for him compared to his other patients. He quite possibly told the patient two minutes before me that their cancer was back and there was nothing else he could do. I am just one.

Yes -- I live with cancer, but I can’t imagine covering a list of 90 patients in a day with a laundry list of needs and so many intricate details to keep up with while we are all very different.

Compassionate care is key

He mentions so many cases of success, but he also mentions other cases that don’t always turn out so well. I remember my first appointment with him. It was no less than two hours. I couldn’t seem to get past death and dying. I am not sure what I expected. It was almost like I expected him to say that I was going to be gone by the end of the year and it was October. I was nervous and afraid, to say the least.

I remember the stack of paperwork that I was to fill out and the overwhelm that came with it. I remember him being direct yet compassionate. I remember him telling me that he couldn’t cure me, which is when the tears began to roll. He did, however, say that he could treat me and that many don’t get that option.

Value of hopeful doctor's visits

I left the office that day feeling hopeful merely because of his positivity and also his hopefulness. We never discussed prognosis that day. I later asked him what my prognosis was and he very assertively responded with “there’s only one that knows”. I was grateful for that.

I had heard horror stories of people being told they had mere months and honestly I expected to hear that. So many oncologists are downright mean to their patients so I have heard. I believe there is a fine line between being direct and honest, but also in the delivery of that news.

My solution-minded care team

There’s never been a thing that has occurred on my journey that he hasn’t investigated. I was having severe bone pain. It was almost like growing pains. I didn’t want to call and whine, because I didn’t want yet another test that could tell us that something was wrong, but I knew I needed to. I am the only one that really knows how I feel and when my body tells me that something isn’t right, I need to listen. He ordered a bone scan within a few days. It turned out fine. He didn’t just call in a pain med and band-aid the issue. Neither he nor I knew what was going on, but he was solution-minded and moved on to the next step to rule out bone metastasis.

Grateful for my team

I am grateful that I have had such an incredible journey with my team of doctors from the initial indication that something was in disarray until now. The nurses are always kind; the ladies in the lab are always cheerful and happy to see me. It just makes a difference on the journey that we’d just rather not do.

I hope you all also have a wonderful care team. If for some reason you do not, know that it is okay to seek other care. Going to the doctor has enough stress than to not be satisfied with the care that you receive.

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