Imagine pouring your heart out to your Oncologist about something important to you, when he suddenlypicks up his belongings and leaves the room–mumbles something inaudible, and leaves! No resolution of the issue, no mention of when to follow-up with the next set of scans. NOTHING. Just leaves you sitting there wondering what the hell does that mean?
Recently, I put a call in to my Oncologist, the head of Thoracic Oncology at a large Cancer Center in Florida. It was regarding an insurance form that his office filled out incorrectly. Through this experience, I’ve come to learn Dr. Oncologist is only concerned with whether or not my cancer has returned. The various treatments and surgeries I’ve had have not been without lasting effects–I’m not complaining–these treatments have saved my life, however, my life is very different than it was pre-cancer. My point is that Dr. Oncologist never asks about any of my other health issues, so when I go for my scans and they come back clean, everyone is happy, and off I go. My current Oncologist is not the Oncologist who saw me through my diagnoses and treatments as I moved from the Northeast to Florida afterwards. I’m not sure if that should affect our relationship, but I feel that somehow it does. My prior Oncologist knew every little ache and pain I experienced and was invested in me as a whole person; I don’t get that from my current Oncologist. I’m not looking for sympathy, I just feel that a doctor should be aware of all of my health issues even if he is not treating me for those specifically.
Let me give you an idea of what I deal with: I have a limited lung capacity causing me to have shortness of breath upon exertion such as walking too fast or too far, walking and talking at the same time, attempting to carry anything and walk (i.e. laundry, groceries), walking on any incline, especially stairs. In addition, I have severe thoracic pain in my entire right chest area, front and back as well as internally, which is managed by a Pain Management Specialist at the Cancer Center through Radiofrequency Ablations and medications. I’m never pain free–it is remarkable what you can get used to after awhile. I also have issues with my left arm and hand due to the necrosis that I have around the surgical site (which was also radiated) where a metastatic tumor was removed from the right side of my brain. I will also have to take anticonvulsants for the rest of my life because of seizures caused by the necrosis. My adrenal glands no longer function due to the massive doses of steroids I took to reduce brain swelling before and after my craniotomy, therefore, I will need to take steroids from now on. There are more health issues that I deal with that I won’t go into detail about, I just want you to get an idea of what the lasting effects have been.
When I tried to speak with my Oncologist by phone, a social worker returned my call to tell me that the doctor said that the form was correct; there was no evidence of disease, I was capable of working. I couldn’t even comprehend what she said. I hung up and tried to make sense out of what just transpired. Obviously, anyone who knows what I experience daily understands that working is just not possible. A few days later I called my Dr. Oncologist’s office again and left a voicemail asking to speak with him, explaining that I understand that I currently have no evidence of disease, however, what about all of the ramifications of my past treatments? I suggested that if it was more convenient, I would even come in to speak with him. Once again, I receive a call from a social worker stating that Dr. Oncologist still feels that the form is correct and there is no reason for me to come in! That’s twice I was dismissed and made to feel like a malingering low-life!
Several weeks later I was due to have my scans. While reviewing my scans, Dr. Oncologist receives and takes a call on his cell phone! From the conversation, I can tell that he is speaking with a patient whom is entering a clinical trial. I suppose that trumps no evidence of disease. I mention this only to contrast the fact that I was not given the courtesy of reaching him by phone. After we review my scans (all clean by the way), I tell him that I must speak to him about what happened with the insurance form and how he made me feel. I explain to him all of the lasting effects of my treatments, in addition to the myriad other health issues I have, and it concerns me that he is unaware of these. I also acknowledged that in retrospect I should have sent the form to my Primary Physician who has a broader perspective of my overall health. Basically, he was unapologetic, claimed he did not know, but now he does. I’m not even certain what he was referring to. . . my health or the way I was treated! And then he “took his marbles and went home” like a little kid unhappy with the way the game is going. I suppose I was dismissed again. Pure arrogance.
Has a doctor ever treated you like this?
Is it unrealistic to expect doctors to be both personable and professional?
Would you report his disrespectful treatment to his superiors?