Doctors and More Doctors: A Way of Life for Cancer Survivors


The bonds that you make with your doctors can last a lifetime, and I’m so glad to call many of them a friend.

cartoon drawing of cancer survivor and blogger, Jane Biehl

One of the toughest parts about getting old ("elderly" is the polite form) is the increase in doctor appointments. I used to chuckle when my parents complained that all they did was go to doctors and funerals. Somehow, it is not so funny now.

Since I've had many chronic conditions since childhood, I have always gone to doctors a lot and certainly more than my peers when I was younger. But cancer has exacerbated this exponentially. We have our appointments with the oncologists and treatments, and these can sometimes be five days a week. Then, the side effects from chemo begin and it is worse. I have gastroesophageal reflux disease from chemo, which means more trips to the gastroenterologist. My hearing deteriorated from ototoxic medications and resulted in more trips to the audiologist. I have lost over a dozen teeth as my gums have softened, and my dentist now knows me better than my family! Because of the rarity of my cancer, I have two oncologists; one locally and another at a major treatment center an hour away. Now I have cataracts, which has meant many more appointments.

The list goes on and on, but you get the idea. Each one of us has a story as some cancer survivors have radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, surgical oncologists and lots of MRI and CT scans. And of course, our primary care physicians are the quarterbacks for us!

Sometimes it is impossible to keep track, and I look at my calendar constantly to be sure I do not miss an appointment. Each doctor is different (or nurse practitioner or whoever you see) and has a unique personality. Some answer questions easily and others have to be pried. Some are on time, but I have one who is always one to two hours late. Some are all business and others are more personal. We are forced to adapt our personalities to each one. We also need to get along with nurses, therapists, technicians, and the list goes on and on. It is stressful and difficult.

However, I consider myself fortunate to find so many people who have studied for years to help us and most of them truly care. I have met the most fantastic personalities and consider several of the professionals my friends. Last month, I had the most wonderful event that happened. My oncologist of 12 years left the practice to move to a warmer climate. I miss her terribly and she was a friend as well as a doctor. I aspire to be like her because she was so caring and giving. She contacted me when she was returning to Ohio for a wedding. We had a great reunion and tearful hugs at the Starbucks at the cancer center. As I left, I realized how many wonderful people I have met on my cancer journey and that is something to be truly grateful for.

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