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Three years ago I would have had no idea how many doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals I would meet in the course of being treated for cancer. The medical personnel associated with the cancer center are numerous enough, and even more so since it's located within a teaching hospital. I still have vague memories of seeing a little procession of baby doctors following the head resident into my room the morning after my surgery. Let me just say neither he nor I were at our best that day. A couple of months later, when the same resident made a rather cavalier and callous statement to me while I was suffering from neutropenia, we had our revenge: my husband immortalized him to our email group as "Dr. Houselet." Both senses of the name were appropriate, believe me.

Fortunately for me, most of my experiences with medical personnel have not been that bad. I have several favorites: one of the chemo nurses in the clinic, who was always patient, kind, and reassuring; one of the phlebotomists in the cancer center blood lab who is an absolute master of a painless blood draw; one of the chemo nurses in the chemo infusion lab who was equally as skillful with an even harder task. The night nurse when I was hospitalized for my surgery was a seriously competent woman who helped me avoid a breathing crisis; she and I have become friends after my discharge. I think fondly of one of the women at the infusion reception area whose cheerful welcome every time I went in to face the ordeal made things just a little easier to take. I don't know for a fact that this is a promotion, but now this woman is actually working the main reception desk for the cancer center, and I think she does a good job of spreading her particular gift for reassurance there too. I remember them all with gratitude (and I ask for the one superb phlebotomist every time).

And for the most part, I appreciate the rest of my medical brain trust as well. Although I sought a second opinion way-back-when because I was appalled that my original oncologist was recommending what was often considered a palliative treatment, now I'm glad I didn't make the switch. Early on, she seemed to me like a cold fish, but now I think of her more as reserved and reluctant to deliver bad news. We have developed a rapport, which I have for my part been nurturing by bringing flowers from my yard for her staff room each consult. In fact, most of the time now I count on her to help me identify some of the flowers, since I don't always remember them myself. Most of the rapport comes from my insistence on getting as clear an answer as I can get to my question. I think she respects that and responds to the challenge. Recently I even encouraged another woman with endometrial cancer--whose first oncologist is the one I sought out for a second opinion--to check with mine to see if the remedy I've been taking might be a good one for her. Each quarter I have a follow-up consult there is yet another fellow tagging along, but for the most part they've been curious, solicitous, and proficient. I have to assume that Dr. Houselet is the exception, and that my oncologist tends to provide a good model for her residents and fellows.

For that matter, I should acknowledge the gynecologist who performed the D & C that led to my diagnosis, and who made the original referral to my oncologist. I did not know this gyno at all well when I had the D & C; we'd had only one meeting previous to that. But her compassion and concern when she gave us the bad news were genuine, and even in that terrible moment she was reassuring. She was also human in ways that many other of my doctors simply have not been, telling us about the travails of her sister-in-law who had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Under the circumstances, it didn't strike me as being a boundary violation, or TMI. Instead, I took it as an indication that she really did appreciate how scary and intimidating it was for a family to have to deal with cancer--and that it was still possible to make it through.

I've had excellent care from an osteopath, whose gentle and skillful manipulations helped ease my collarbones and ribs when my lung nodules were being reabsorbed and causing me pain. She's also the doc who suggested testing my Vit D level, which was at a seriously depleted 12 when it was first checked. Both my acupuncturists have been very good as well. The first one did a great job at pushing back my neuropathy and persuading me thereby that acupuncture did have something to offer me. The second one has been very good at helping me maintain my emotional and physical equilibrium now that I have achieved remission.

My Ayurvedist probably deserves the most credit for helping me to maintain an even keel emotionally, however, and I daresay that her other remedies are probably significant in my recovery as well. She helped get me through the first crisis, when I really didn't know which end was up, and she's a constant source of support to me to live my life fully.

So far, I'm pretty pleased with the team I've assembled, and thankful that I live in what I've heard called a "resource rich" environment. That is indeed true. I do not know what would have happened to me had that not been the case.

My questions for you tonight have to do then with the professional health-care workers who have impressed you the most. What roles were they in? How did you encounter them? What did they/do they do that made a difference for you? Do you see them regularly, or was that a one-off experience that made a big impression?

Now I suppose if you want to complain about some less-than-stellar personnel, that's OK too. But that could be its own diary, no? Tonight, I could use some positive vibes. So let's honor those who have gone above and beyond, whether they know it or not.

Monday Night Cancer Club is a Daily Kos group focused on dealing with cancer, primarily for cancer survivors and caregivers, though clinicians, researchers, and others with a special interest are also welcome. Volunteer diarists post Monday evenings between 7-8 PM ET on topics related to living with cancer, which is very broadly defined to include physical, spiritual, emotional and cognitive aspects. Mindful of the controversies endemic to cancer prevention and treatment, we ask that both diarists and commenters keep an open mind regarding strategies for surviving cancer, whether based in traditional, Eastern, Western, allopathic or other medical practices. This is a club no one wants to join, in truth, and compassion will help us make it through the challenge together.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Sorry for the slightly late arrival tonight. (17+ / 0-)

    I had two unexpected doctor's appointments today, which set me back. But they also got me thinking, and so here we are! Good to see everyone.

    Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

    by peregrine kate on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 05:13:01 PM PDT

  •  My oncologist was the best (9+ / 0-)

    As he was also a hematologist, I first got to know Dr. Peter Yu when I was diagnosed with anemia in the fall of 2001.

    A year later, when I got colon cancer, he was my doctor for that also.

    And two years after that, when I was found with testicle cancer, he continued to treat me. (I think the urologist was a little hurt when I asked him, "Since I already have an oncologist who knows my health history, would it be OK for him to do the followups to the testicle cancer if he has that expertise?")

    Anyway, I saw Dr. Yu regularly for years. At some points it was weekly, but then after I did chemo for the first cancer, and radiation for the second, the visits became ever fewer and all that we would do would be to go over any health issues and look at my latest blood tests.

    Eventually visits with Dr. Yu became every month, then every 3 months, then every 6 months.

    And finally there came a day, a wonderful and unexpected day 6 or 7 years after I first had seen him for the anemia, when he told me at the end of a session: "It's been a pleasure treating you, but I don't think there is anything else I need to do for you. You don't need to make another appointment."

    I wasn't expecting that, and did not know what to say, other than a simple hand shake and "thank you."

    I went out to my car to digest that a bit, then called my parents and we had a nice cry together. (Which I'm doing right now, actually, as I recall this.)

    But that felt like a totally inadequate response to the doctor who got me back to good health, who could possibly have saved my life.

    "Thank you" didn't cut it.

    I went home and thought about it for a few days, and wrote him a nice, long, thank-you card, and mailed it to his office. Told him how much I appreciated his efforts on my behalf; how kind and thoughtful and funny he was in my visits; and that I'd never forget what he did for me.

    Told him I hoped I'd never see him again! (As a patient, that is....)

    •  My goodness. He saw you through a lot. (7+ / 0-)

      Good for him. And even better for you!

      I remember those monthly onco appointments when I was going through chemo. They were SO damn stressful. It was a big relief when they went down to quarterly consults. I might well be a little wistful when they drop next to every-six-months. But I'm looking forward to it all the same.

      I bet the docs are very pleased when they get to tell someone they've made it. Even though I have several years to go before there's that kind of confidence, my onco is pretty encouraging. She's on me now to make sure my BP is under control since, as she remarked, we've got you through this, we don't want to lose you to a stroke!

      It was kind of you to send the note. I would guess it made his day.

      Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

      by peregrine kate on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 05:47:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I sent a letter to the Chief of Surgery and told (5+ / 0-)

      him how great my surgeon and his team were. I went into great detail about what specifically it was that they did great. My surgeon said he was quite pleasantly surprised when it was read aloud in a staff meeting.

      I fell in love with one of the anesthesia nurse who was there for both of my surgeries, but I think that was due to the drugs. I wanted her to be my new best friend!

      Tracy B Ann - technically that is my signature. If I had Bill Gates money, I'd buy Detroit.

      by ZenTrainer on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 06:44:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Oh gosh, the team I finally ended up with is (5+ / 0-)

    all great.

    The receptionist at the Breast Clinic does all my paperwork for me, I don't have to do a thing. She sets me up with every free service I can get; special bras, compression sleeves etc.

    The physicians assistant for my surgeon has been there since my first mammogram and took phone call after silly phone call from me.

    Everyone at my acupuncturist's office is great. I have a therapist who has had cancer twice and who would charge me nothing per visit but I started at $5 and have raised it to $20 as my workload and income increases.

    My chiropractor has been there since I found the lump. When I can't afford a treatment she feels I need she pays for it. Right now she wants me to see her naturopath and has offered to pay for the visit and the first months supplements.  (I'm not interested in that right now for some reason.)

    My oncologist is actually great. Was fine with my not doing chemo or radiation or Tamoxifin. He reads my mood well too, and takes time with me.

    So, lovely people, who have made the experience much more bearable.

    Tracy B Ann - technically that is my signature. If I had Bill Gates money, I'd buy Detroit.

    by ZenTrainer on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 06:54:23 PM PDT

  •  Aww, that's wonderful. (4+ / 0-)

    Yes, my acupuncturist and my Ayurvedist slide their fees for me too, and that definitely helps. My osteopath wrote off some of her fees last year, partly since insurance was being stupid. I have been very well cared for.

    Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

    by peregrine kate on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 07:02:34 PM PDT

  •  I'll have to go with (4+ / 0-)

    my surgeon as my favorite. It took a while to get to a surgeon, but once he saw the tumor in my colon he convinced the colonoscopy doc to go in a get some good video, and not worry if he nicked the tumor-it was coming out.
    He had a good laugh when I told him I needed about a month to get my stuff for school squared away. "I'll see you Thursday."
    It was Tuesday, and I had a colonoscopy on Wednesday and didn't bother to eat and waste the bowel prep.
    As I went into surgery I still had not been informed that I had cancer, although I knew. I still bet a buck that I didn't, just to tempt the fates. When I woke up I asked if I had won my bet.
    Not quite.
    He knocked me out to put in the plastic catheter for chemo, but he only novacained me to take it out. I asked him if he would make a new scar at right angles to the original one. When he said no and wanted to know what the hell was I thinking we got into a slightly heated disagreement which made the nurse a little uncomfortable. We decided to talk about fishing instead.
    I had to be good because I needed a note from him that I could go back to work (against his advice).
    He would yell at me when I called with a question about what might happen to me if I did.....
    Apparently I was always doing things I shouldn't be.
    He let me know I was a terrible patient (but he had plenty of company with that assessment)
    Love to all and especially you, PK. Have a great week.

  •  Hi Kate! I've had many great people (4+ / 0-)

    who took care of me.  One oncologist who wanted to make me feel better and the other who wanted to help me beat up on my cancer.

    My son, who was five at the time, made one of those Thanksgiving handprint turkeys with construction paper feathers and the inscription reading "I am thankful for..."  My son decided that he didn't want his feathers sticking out the turkey's back end so he glued them protruding from the breast.  He had the teacher write, "I am glad for Dr. Robinson."

    I gave it to him.  He called it "the flaming turkey," framed it and put it in his office.  It's still hanging there, next to his MD.

    "I speak the truth, not as much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little the more, as I grow older." --Montaigne

    by DrLori on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 07:27:48 PM PDT

  •  Dear MNCC members, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sara R, ZenTrainer

    It's time for me to get to bed. Thanks to all who stopped by to rec and/or comment. And thanks to those who might yet do so! Hope everyone has a healthy week.

    PS--Please Kosmail me if you want to write a diary. Most dates in August are open; I especially need coverage on Monday 8/26. Thanks!

    Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

    by peregrine kate on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 08:44:20 PM PDT

  •  Definitely my surgeon (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sara R, ZenTrainer

    At my first appointment with him after I found out I had  breast cancer, he walked into the exam room, stuck out his hand to shake mine and introduced himself as, "Hi, I'm Ron, I'll be doing your surgery" then he spent the next hour or so going over all my options.   I had to wait six weeks to get on his schedule but he was worth the wait and the tumor wasn't going anywhere.   Then, a few days after my surgery, I noticed I had no feeling under my armpit where he did the sentinel lymph node biopsy so I called his office thinking something was horribly wrong.   They informed me he was on vacation but would get the message.   Not an hour passed and my phone rang, my surgeon taking time from his vacation to calm my fears and assure me that it was a normal feeling.  I could hear his kids laughing in the background and splashing in the pool.  I love this guy.  His wife is his NP and she's a dream too.   They are highly thought of in my area and I feel very lucky to have had them by side during my cancer journey.  

  •  for me? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ZenTrainer

    its the whole team. from my primary care MD to my oncologist, to my Surgeon, to my pulmonologist. they are all my favorites.  What can I say? I am a social butterfly and like them all! LOL

    Life is not a problem to be solved but an adventure to be experienced.

    by DarkHawk98 on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 12:16:33 AM PDT

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