Monday, October 20, 2014

I Need a New Oncologist

I got a letter from my oncologist, Dr. R, over the weekend. He's leaving the practice and moving away.

I'm really saddened by this. I've been with him since I was diagnosed.

I've come to like certain things about him. He's on the young side, and I always felt (since my bone marrow biopsy) that his youth had made him a little less jaded, a little more sympathetic. I like his nerdiness. I like that he keeps up with what's going on in the field, and seems open to new things (even if they aren't his first choice). I like that he takes the first 10 minutes of our appointments to just chat, ask about my kids, make fun of the Red Sox, and whatever else is on our minds. I'm going to miss all of that.

And now I have to find someone new.

When I got the letter, I said to my wife, "I really don't have the time or the energy to train a new oncologist."

I was only half joking.

It's going to be hard to replace all those good things that I like about him.

It's only been a couple of days, but I'm already considering options.

I could stay with same office of the practice. The letter mentioned the name of the new oncologist, and I looked her up. From what I can tell, she isn't a hematologist/blood cancer specialist, like Dr. R is. She seems very good, though I want someone who is up on all of the good things that are happening in the world of Follicular Lymphoma.

I could stay with the practice, but go to a different office. I did a quick search, and there are a couple of blood cancer specialists at the other offices. They've been around for a long time. They won't have that youth that I like so much in Dr. R. And while there's something to be said for experience, we're in a rapidly changing world, and some of that experience maybe won't matter as much soon.

I could go to Dr. C, the lymphoma specialist I saw a few days after I was diagnosed. I'm officially his patient, since I'm in his system. He teaches in a medical school, which has advantages when it comes to being cutting-edge. But being a patient in a research setting isn't always fun. Lots of medical students poking around me. I certainly support education, which is a consideration. But I also remember Dr. C as being more straightforward than I might like (as Dr. R had warned me he would be).

Or I could try to find a new oncology practice altogether. I've done some searching online. Do you know how hard it is to find an oncologist online? It's really kind of hard. There are a bunch of websites that allow patients to rate physicians, but the ones I have found are not very active (one or two reviews per doctor), or pretty outdated. I found what seemed like a great hematologist nearby, did some deeper searching, and found an article all about his retirement party in 2012. Not very trustworthy sites.

Dr. R's last day with the practice is December 15, and my next appointment is scheduled for December 18. So I could try to move my appointment to see him before he goes. But right now, just thinking about that final conversation with him makes me sad.

We face so much uncertainty as cancer patients -- especially, I think, as patients of indolent lymphoma -- that it was really nice to have a Dr. R there. I figured he was young, and he'd be around for a long time, just like I plan to be. And now I have to face that one more uncertain thing.

And it stinks.

I'm going to keep chipping away at this, and figuring out what to do. I don't have much choice. But I'm a cancer patient, and that's what we do. We can't ignore some of our problems, so we face them and deal with them, using whatever knowledge we can find to help us make good decisions.

This problem is no different.

But it still stinks.


Anonymous said...

I know of a good practice in Torrington CT is you are in that area.

Lymphomaniac said...

I'm closer to New Haven, so that might be too much of a hike. But I appreciate the suggestion.

Anonymous said...

My insurance no longer covers my visits to UCLA. After 7 1/2 years I was expected to find a new Onc. Fortunately for me, my Medicare kicks in on November 1st of this year. I've actually paid out of pocket for my 3 quarterly visits to my Onc. Fortunately my 4th visit scheduled in Dec. will be covered by Medicare. We develop a rapport and trust with our Onc's and it's hard to have to change. I'm sorry for you Bob, hopefully, you'll find another Onc that will meet your needs.

Lymphomaniac said...

Sorry to hear about your insurance problems. And you're right -- we do develop a trust, and I think that's a lot of what I'm sad about. Thanks for the well wishes.

Anonymous said...

Lympho Bob:
first of all, I've been meaning to write you for some time to thank you so much for your blog. It's been very reassuring these past eleven months since my NHL diagnosis and I believe like you, I am more and more optimistic about our future.
I'm sorry to hear about your doc - mine has become a new great friend that I see every few months ;-). A suggestion for you that I suspect you've already thought of: ask his opinion of who you should see? And by all means, move up your appointment if you can - that'll give you some more time to "shop"...

Anonymous said...

Hi how is the search for a new doctor going? Well I hope