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  • Rare Cancers
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  • Thyroid Cancer

Who is in charge?

Article

It's been 25 years, and I still see my oncologist once a year. Is this too long? Should I keep seeing him until I die? (We explore this topic more in "Coordinating Care After Cancer.")When you have had cancer you begin to understand that not all doctors are created equally. There are those who care for our reproductive issues and womanhood and others who take care of sniffles and flu. And then there are those who hold our lives in their hands – or so we believe. After getting the results of my highly suspicious mammogram, my gynecologist called to tell me I needed to find a surgeon because I probably had breast cancer. I remember asking her if she could take care of it. I laugh at that question now. Did I really believe gynos handled cancer? I don't know. I had no idea how many different kinds of doctors there were. I was young and healthy and hadn't filled out an insurance claim until my daughter was born, the year before I got cancer. She explained that there were specialized doctors that dealt with cancer: surgeons, oncologists and radiologists. I had stopped listening back at the word cancer. Soon I was embroiled in the cancer world of doctors and nurses and surgery and chemotherapy. My oncologist was a warm teddy bear of a guy who I really liked. But mostly I wanted him to like me and to think I was worthy of staying around a while to raise my kiddo. Somehow I felt like if he liked me, I would have a better chance of living. As treatment ended and I tried to move on, he told me I would see him every three months for a while. Well, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that what he was looking for were signs it was back. I didn't make it three months for almost a year. I kept having aches and pains that I was sure were recurrence. Eventually, enough time had passed, and I was calm enough to go to six months and then eventually a year – but it took me about 12 years to get there. By then I had an internist who I had chosen with care. She had also had cancer. I felt she understood my occasional irrational fears. By now she has taken care of lots of the standard aging issues we all face. My oncologist is still in my life. And always will be.If you're finished with cancer treatment, who manages your care? Your oncologist, primary care physician or another medical professional?

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