I Fired My Doctor and I Couldn’t Be Happier
I used to think that once I was referred to a particular medical specialist, I was obligated to be their patient; even if I wasn’t wild about their bedside manner, the way I was spoken to or even how I was treated by the office staff. I had to trust that my referring doctor knows who’s best, right?
When I was referred to a breast surgeon to determine if I was going to have a mastectomy or a lumpectomy, I found out I was meeting with one of the most prestigious surgical oncologist at the cancer center in my city. I was confident that she would have the best recommendation. The right plan. I would have nothing to worry about. She was the best after all.
Anticipation is greater than the realization
On the day of my appointment, I arrived prepared. I had a small notebook and a pen to take notes with. I wanted to make sure I didn’t forget anything we discussed. I had my questions ready to ask and the dates that would be better for me and my family for a surgical procedure. I was pretty proud of myself. I was like an eager 1st grader on her first day of school hoping to impress the teacher.
Dr. Kim is a very imposing woman. She walked into the exam room with an extreme presence. There was very little small talk, she was all business. She went over my cancer “background” and asked the standard questions. Her next question completely threw me for a loop. “Tell me why you want to have breast surgery,” she said. I was dumbfounded. Was she serious? I told her that I wanted cancer out and wasn’t sure what surgery was appropriate. “But why?” she asked. “The horse already left the barn. It’s not going to make a bit of difference with your prognosis. You’re already metastatic.” Her tone was crisp and matter of fact. “You’re doing well, you’re stable. Go home, have some champagne and celebrate.” She patted my shoulder and walked out the door.
Tears stung my eyes. I could not believe what just happened. I also couldn’t decide what was worse, that I was dismissed because I was metastatic or that she wouldn’t even take my feelings as a patient into account for why this surgery was important to me. So, am I just supposed to leave a cancerous tumor in my breast simply because I’m going to die anyway? Oh no. This is MY body. I’m making the decisions. Dr. Kim is not the only breast surgeon.
Bedside manner is customer service
A few months later and with the assistance of my Oncologist, I located a wonderful surgeon. Dr. Ana listened to me, my concerns and why I wanted to have breast surgery. Together we worked out a plan that we were both comfortable with but at the end of the day, allowed me to have the tumor removed. I would have a lumpectomy to remove the cancer. If I remained stable/NED for 2-3yrs and I decided I wanted to have a mastectomy, Dr. Ann would do a second surgery.
That was 2 ½ yrs ago. It was the smartest decision I could have made. Dr. Ana called me a week after surgery to tell me that I was right to have the lumpectomy. The cancer was still active but just small enough that scans weren’t picking it up. That phone call was satisfying and scary all at the same time. Satisfying because I was right all along and who doesn’t like to be told they were right? Scary because the cancer was STILL ACTIVE. The peace of mind I have now knowing that thing is gone is priceless.
You are your best advocate
It’s important to remember that we, the patient, are the customers and the doctors work for us. The relationship we have with our medical team is critical. There needs to be a level of trust, respect, and honesty between both. Give yourself permission to find another doctor; if you feel you aren't getting the proper care or that your concerns aren’t being heard.
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