The Loss of an Oncologist Is Heart-Wrenching for Cancer Survivors

I think all of us feel abandoned somewhat when we lose an oncologist, and other cancer survivors have expressed these same emotions to me. But I have to realize that a piece of her will always be with me until the day I pass.

The relationship between an oncologist and patient is different than any other partnership, even with another doctor. As patients, we begin this journey when we feel the most vulnerable that we have ever felt in our lives. We are reeling after being diagnosed with a disease that many people think is potentially fatal.

We are dependent on this doctor for treatment plans very different from a surgeon performing surgery or a family doctor prescribing antibiotics. We need to succumb to treatments that make us sicker, including surgery, chemo, radiation and IV treatments.

We feel like we are on a roller coaster as we rejoice with the doctor when we beat back cancer, whether for the short or long term. We commiserate when it may come back or worsen. We run to them when there is a new problem because we are scared. They are the most important person in our lives because living longer is dependent on them.

They see our vulnerabilities and tears frequently. We are fortunate to have many others on our team and the oncology nurses are angels to us. But the oncologist is our quarterback and we know it. They become our mentors, our friends and our beacon in the lighthouse in this unique partnership.

I was fortunate enough to have Dr. Shruti Trehan as my oncologist for over 11 years. She was all of the above to me as I saw her every single month and we learned a lot about each other. We also shared a love of writing and she talked to me about spirituality several times.

When my beloved service dog passed away, she immediately called to tell me the dog was watching over me. She had shared with me a few months before that she had dreamed my 17-year-old dog did not have long on this earth. I was astounded when I thought of her hundreds of patients and how she dreamed about my beloved canine partner.

I asked her one time how she handles losing patients and she answered that she gathers up her faith and spirituality to help the next one.

I told many people that I wanted to be like her when I “grew up!” Other medical doctors in the community shared with me that she is not only a great doctor but a wonderful person.

When she reluctantly told me that she was leaving her practice to move to a warmer climate, the bottom dropped out of my stomach and landed on my feet. I felt the room spin as I had lost a doctor, a confidante, a friend and a lifesaver.I am convinced I wouldn't have lived this long with “incurable” cancer if I had not had her.

I summoned up the strength to tell her she needed to do what was best for her.And she does need this because she and her husband are starting a new life together and she said now was the time.

Of course, she had my back as always. She referred me to the Cleveland Clinic an hour away with another wonderful physician who specializes in myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). She said it was time for me to do this anyway since the variants are getting worse. But I no longer have her to call, answer questions and watch over me.

I think all of us feel abandoned somewhat when we lose an oncologist, and other cancer survivors have expressed these same emotions to me. But I have to realize that a piece of her will always be with me until the day I pass. She was there with me the darkest of times and the happiest of times. She will spiritually always be with me though many miles away.

Godspeed, Dr. Trehan, because you will save many more lives in your next phase of life and will always be remembered by those you have helped before!

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