As you probably know, I got a letter a couple of months ago from my beloved oncologist, Dr. R, letting me know that he was leaving the practice and moving out of state. I did some initial research on replacement possibilities right after I got the letter, but then I kind of put it out of my mind. I didn't want to deal with it. It made me sad.
On Monday, I got a phone message from Dr. R's secretary, saying she wanted to chat with me. I avoided that call, too -- I finally got back to her on Wednesday.
(Have you noticed that I'm really good at avoiding unpleasant things? Is it any surprise I did so well Watching and Waiting?)
I had an appointment scheduled for a few days after Dr. R was going to be leaving, and his secretary wanted to try to get me in before then. She gave me a few open times, and I was able to take one yesterday morning.
I was kind of dreading it.
I did my blood work and other vitals, and then got in to see him pretty quickly. I got the details of his leaving: he got an opportunity to take a teaching position in another state, and he and his wife decided it was a good time (and a good place) for a move. I reminded him that I told him a few years ago that he should be teaching, after he got an offer to do a little teaching in a local nursing school. He's patient, and good at explaining things. So I approve of the move.
I also got the impression that there are some small issues with the practice, which went from private to being affiliated with a teaching/research hospital a couple of years ago. Nothing that would have pushed him out, but just another reason to say this is a good time for a move. I've seen changes in the practice, too, from my position as a patient, so it doesn't surprise me that there is some stuff going on from his end as well.
We also talked about the possibility of my staying in the practice (which is pretty likely, since there aren't a whole lot of oncologists in the area that aren't part of the practice). I go to one of 6 different offices in the area only because Dr. R works there. He thinks his replacement would be fine for me, but thinks I might be happier in an office closer to my home (which I agree with).
I told him I'd really like to see a Hemotologist, or at least someone who has a particular interest in Lymphoma, rather than just a generalist (which is what his replacement will be). "It took me 3 or 4 years to train you," I told him. "I don't have the time to train someone else in Follicular Lymphoma." He laughed, probably remembering that he had a fellowship in Hematology at a prestigious hospital before I met him.
He told me about the oncologists in the office that he was suggesting I go to. One doesn't seem to match up with my and Dr. R's shared philosophy of not doing more than is necessary (Watch and Wait; Rituxan instead of chemo), but the others in that office seem like they'd be fine. (In fact, two of them were on my list of possibilities from when I did some research after I got his letter.)
So I feel OK about where I may go from here. I trust his judgement.
Of course, this was a regular office visit, too, so I should report on that:
Blood work is good. No new nodes popping up anywhere. I feel fine. No appointment necessary for another 4-5 months.
But this time it will be with a new oncologist.
I shook his hand and said goodbye, and thanked him for being a good doctor for me. I resisted the urge to hug him, because I think it would have made him uncomfortable.
I stooped by to talk to his secretary, who told me what would happen from here with the new office. I'll hear about an appointment in the next few weeks.
And then I left.
And I'll be honest, I got a little teary in the parking lot.
I've probably seen two dozen doctors of all kinds on my adult life, but I've never had that reaction with any of them. Mostly, if I have to switch doctors, it's mild annoyance that I have to go look for someone new.
But Dr. R was different. Not just because he is an oncologist. He's also a kind man, and everyone in his office was the same, from the receptionist to the phlebotomist to the nurses. I can't imagine what it's like to be in oncology, whatever the position. It takes a special person to stay that upbeat in the face of sometimes difficult circumstances. Dr. R and his staff knew me. They remembered the things I told them, they asked about my kids, and they knew it all even if I didn't see them for months.
I'm going to miss them all, but especially Dr. R.
But we move on because we have to. And I will move on.