A woman speaking to her doctor about palliative care

Palliative Care and Lung Cancer

The difference between palliative care and hospice are totally different. Some people will think, "Oh no, palliative care". I know that I used to think like that, but I've finally relented and decided to join the many other palliative care patients who were already one step ahead. And finally, after almost 10 years, I've come to realize what palliative care really does. And if you have cancer and your PCP is wanting to refer you to pain management, you should consider another PCP.

Changing my PCP for several reasons

Like most PCPs, they do not understand much outside of their realm of specialty. A PCP is a general practitioner. They treat common colds. If the PCP cannot resolve the issue, a specialist will take over. I'm changing general practitioners for several reasons. The primary care physician I have now and for the past 16 years has only diagnosed me correctly maybe once. The times she couldn't resolve the problem, she referred me to a specialist, just not the right one.

Case and point. I had migraines for 8 months leading up to my cancer diagnosis. I kept seeing the PCP that got me so used to pain medication it takes stronger doses to help, yet she acts like I'm a drug seeker nearly 10 years later.

She had me taking Loratabs every few hours. As soon as they wore off, the pain returned. Instead of sending me for an MRI, she said she would get me a referral to an ENT. So, I finally got the call back from her office about a month later saying they had gotten my referral. I replied, "Too late, I had a brain tumor that came from my lungs and am currently in the hospital after a craniotomy". I hung up on her.

Dismissing my pain for too long

For a while, I didn't see her again. Then I got MRSA which she kept telling me it was allergies.

She finally put the nail in the coffin when I needed pain medication for the MRSA and she told me that she would have to refer me to Pain Management.  Quite frankly, that was insulting. I rarely went to her and if I was in pain I would say so occasionally, but most of the time suffered. I explained every time I was there that I could not take NSAIDS since I'm a cancer patient. Instead of educating herself a little, she immediately wants to send me to Pain Management when I only went to her 3 times at the most over the course of a year for a few pain pills.

Whenever I start talking about pain medication, I feel like doctors automatically shut down and I'm treated like a druggie.

Connecting with a palliative care specialist to help with pain

My 9th rib is fractured and I've been living with it for over a year. Get ingrown nails where a podiatrist can't get me in for weeks so I suffer. I gave up on the rib. Now the foot is the problem. I'm laying here in pain because people who abuse narcotics have ruined the lives of people who need them.

However, I called my insurance and oncologist and had them refer me to palliative care. This is not cancer care meant to be curative. This is cancer care to help alleviate symptoms and side effects of cancer and medications. I will not see her again because she couldn't even acknowledge I have cancer.

Don't rule out palliative care

Yes, palliative care makes you comfortable while fighting cancer. In fact, people who seek palliative care tend to live longer with a terminal illness than those who don't. Hospice is usually called in when someone is dying and are steadily given certain drugs/iv medications to keep them comfortable as there is nothing left for them to do to sustain life.

When you get continuously misdiagnosed and treated like a drug seeking cancer patient, call palliative care or your oncologist to refer you to see one. Do not let these general physicians make you feel horrible about yourself.

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