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« Angry at Cancer | Main | Free CURE »

August 15, 2011

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Tango

My internist when I initially got sick, treated me like a hypochondriac when I had a lot of symptoms- pain, loss of appetite with 35lbs weight loss, malaise, fatigue etc. I had countless tests with nothing showing clearly. I stayed with her too long because we'd had an excellent relationship before I actually got sick and she had a great rep. When I wrote her some time later to tell her my symptoms had been caused by lymphoma, she was able to acknowledge that she took her frustration in not being able to make a diagnosis out on me. I didn't sue her, or the pathologist who misread a biopsy as benign as that's not my style. Another specialist I saw through this time, was a much better listener, and with the same info he would say to me- something clearly is wrong, it just hasn't manifested itself clearly yet, never treated me like I was crazy. He was empathetic and told me, "they told me in medical school that you never want to be a difficult to diagnose patient. Sometimes the best physician is able to say, "I don't know," and not blame the patient. The doctor who was able to say "I don't know," and truly listened to what I was saying was my hero- even more so than the doctor who eventually made the, then obvious, diagnosis.

Jonnie Hickman

I agree Dr Wendy. I think that as a patient that my advice would be establishing a medical team that fosters empowerment of the patient. I sometimes think that choosing your doctor is just as important as the treatment you receive. A mutual trust and realization that you are working together to find the best result.

For me also realizing that my doctor is as human as I am, helped to foster a good relationship. I found that when she would refer me to another doctor, such as a surgeon, a radiation oncologist and so on, I was able to relate better to them because the doctor I trusted had sent me.

The unknowns in the cancer world effect us all. I teach that each patient has a plan of care tailored to fit them and what is good for you may not be good for your neighbor, even with the same diagnosis.

There have been times throughout my fight where I have needed to know every detail of my illness and there have been times where I just needed to coast without thinking too much about it. In those times, having a doctor that I trust gets me through that. She knows more than I do about cancer and sometimes just getting up is my contribution to this fight.

At my first support group, I walked in wanting to know everything I needed to know in that hour. As they went around the table introducing themselves I would ask, who is your doctor, what treatments, side effects...etc One lady looked at me and said, "I don't know. I just do what they tell me." I thought sheep. Three years later, I realize the importance of at times being just a sheep.

Thank you Dr Wendy,
Jonnie

Wendy S. Harpham, MD

Dear Tango,
Thank you for sharing this.

It helps patients to keep in mind what was said to you by the specialist who was an empathetic listener: "something clearly is wrong, it just hasn't manifested itself clearly yet."

Some physicians who are excellent in every other way may have difficulty with this situation. So even if a patient's doctor does not express this idea (for whatever reason), the patient can say it to comfort themselves.

I hope you are doing well now.
With hope, Wendy

Wendy S. Harpham, MD

Dear Jonnie,

In an article for clinicians, I share the idea you present: A patient can have different needs over the course of his or her survivorship journey: http://tinyurl.com/OTApr1007

Let me know if you have any trouble with the link.

With hope, Wendy

Deb Konrad

Another right on target posting...my internest was actually my biggest advocate...after seeing 2 different oncologist who, out of lack of experience, did not know what to do for me, he pushed me to seek the opinion of a third, who turned out to be the one who did have experience with my subtype of lymphoma and knew what to do for me and treated me accordingly.My intern had told me "I have known you for 25 years, you are not the type of patient who sees me with every little things, you weren't the kind of mother who constantly called me when your children had a sniffle....if YOU are telling us that something is wrong, then something IS wrong.When I started to feel better after starting treatment, I wrote him a thank you note...he retired last year and I miss him. I was so lucky to find my current oncologist, he is a listener, not one to dismiss anything I say either.

Wendy S. Harpham, MD

Dear Deb,
Yours is an important story on many levels. Besides the importance of persisting in looking for answers, your story highlights the value of meaningful relationships to quality medical care.

I hope you, too, are doing well now. With hope, Wendy

Tango

Hi Wendy--
Thanks- doing great- in CR for years.

As you say, "Some physicians who are excellent in every other way may have difficulty with this situation. " Physicians are human like the rest of us. But, when your body is telling you that something big time is wrong, and the doc is treating you like a hypochondriac (granted after numerous tests come back normal), it's probably time to jump ship and find a doc who will keep working with you to get to the root of the problem. Tango

gesund leben

Very nice post. Just bookmarked it.

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