Friday, September 19, 2008

Are You Ready for Your Oncologist's Appointment?

Yesteday my husband had another appointment with his oncologist. It was just routine, but then again, when you have cancer, very little can be classified as routine. As we entered the doors of the Cancer Clinic, it made me realize just how many times we have visited over these past two plus years. Most of you reading this post, may think that a hospital visit is not something to be very upbeat about. Probably not, but for our family, each visit has made the difference in my husband's survival.

We are very fortunate in our community to have a separate cancer facility. Although it is still contained within a central hospital system, it is used primarily only by cancer patients. After our many, many visits there, it now almost seems like we're going to visit "family", every time we enter those doors. For it is in this place where we have had to listen to the most devastating news of our lives, as well as receive very positive and encouraging reports on other occasions. Here we have met cancer patients with whom we have formed a common bond. Everyone may look different in appearance, but at the same time, they share the same goal of fighting their cancer and crossing the finish line to survival. On most appointment days, we usually have the opportunity to once again meet some of these "friends" that we've connected with. Sometimes it appears to be a chance meeting, but when I look back on it, for the most part, I believe that fate has stepped in and allowed us the opportunity to meet these patients, just when we need each other the most. Nothing is more inspiring than speaking with another cancer patient who may be taking similiar treatments and discovering what works for them, or discussing side effects that they may be experiencing.

It's also a time when we see the medical staff who are so very devoted to all cancer patients. We have become family with them as well, and there is always a smile that says "welcome". All of these professionals are so very devoted to their chosen career, and over time, one comes to realize just how committed they are to each and every patient. Whether it's the nurses in the chemo ward who are always there to answer your many questions and reassure you that everything is going ok, or the technologist who overtime can now remember your daughter's name and asks how her career is going, or the doctor's secretary who assures you she'll call first thing in the morning with your blood results, the many clinical pharmacists with whom you've developed that special relationship after many telephone inquires about your meds, or the front line secretary who always greets you with such a pleasant smile and calming voice. And last but not least, your oncologists, who have been right there with you from the beginning and who are always there to offer support and encouragement.

Yes, strangely enough, it is a place where we do feel at home.

As caregiver, I always ensure that anything that needs to be asked, is written down in advance. Nothing worse than remembering that important question, after you've left your oncologist's office and are heading home. Bring a magazine along, just in case the waiting times are lengthy as reading will help reduce stress levels and anxiety. Make notes during the oncologist's examination, in case you may need to refer back to something at a later date. It's so very easy to forget what is being said, and once outside, believe me you will forget if it's not written down. Don't hesitate to ask your oncologist any questions that may be on your mind. It may seem very trivial, but it will help eliviate stress levels if he/she can resolve questions that are on your mind.

Good luck on your next oncologist's visit! I trust you will reunite as well with patients whom you may have met on previous visits and I hope you can also feel somewhat "at home" at your health care facility. Take the time to look around your health care facility, ask about resources that might be available to you or your family and introduce yourself to another cancer patient or caregiver. The rewards will be immeasurable!


Anonymous said...

I'm hooked on your website. As a caregiver, I can totally relate to what you are saying. My husband and I have made numerous visits to our hospital for check-ups and tests. Yes, I guess it does seem somewhat like a homely atmosphere by now.
Speaking of resources-our hospital does provide consultation for not only patients but also for caregivers and immediate family members of they need it. Just wanted to let your readers know this.
I really enjoy your posts.

Anonymous said...

I greatly enjoy reading your postings. You are an exceptional writer!
Good luck to you and your family!

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Anonymous said...

Never have I thought of it that way when I go to see my dr. You do have a good point there, and I have also met many other cancer patients with whom I have shared many conversations.