Sunday, April 19, 2015

Am I ready for the Suvivorship Clinic?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

current mood: feeling left behind

So I went for my first one year checkup the other day. I have to admit I was a little more nervous than usual because, let’s face it, it had been a year and not the norm of 6 months. And of course the fear of having my blood drawn always scares me. What if they find something abnormal? What if my cancer is back? And then of course there is the fear of the blood draw itself, cause it usually takes lots of poking to finally find my vein. Yes, I’m one of those people who are crazy and say…Damn I miss my port! But Elio, who I have come to know and ask for, got it right the first try. I heart Elio!!!

So with my blood drawn, I head to Women’s Oncology. I wait my turn and like clockwork, they are running 45 minutes behind. Hell it’s only 9:15 am, how could they be that backed up? Don’t even get me started on that tangent...

So I get into the examining room and the usual questions are asked and of course I get to change into that fashionable gown, “opening in the front”. And again continue to wait...

Finally Beline walks in with her usual smile. She starts off the conversation with, “Oh my gosh, I love your hair"!  Now keep in mind I haven’t seen her in a year and I’m pretty impressed she even remembers my long hair. I’m getting side tracked, I know, but I just wanted to point out how Beline is more than just my Oncologist's Assistant. She is a rare find in the medical field, or at least along my journey. She actually cares and gets to know you on a personal level, not just a "cancer" level. So we chat and catch up over the past year. I tell her, that I have a new job. I thought she was going to fall off the chair she was so excited for me. She knows all about BCF and how much I loathed that place. I told her about my hip and how I went to the orthopedic and did physical therapy and finally got a shot to help with the pain. So she’s happy that I’m following her instructions from last visit. But now, here comes the usual lecture… Have you found a General Practitioner? And of course my answer is no. She once again lectures me on the importance of seeing someone regularly not just going to urgent care when I don’t feel well. And then of course gives me an example of why… If you had a general doctor who knew your medical history and you went to see them say twice in one year for bronchitis, they would know to look a little deeper knowing that one of my side effects of breast cancer is a possible recurrence in my lungs. Yes, it all makes sense to me. Find a Doctor that is invested in me and my health, I get it. But besides my cancer, I’m a pretty healthy person. Sure I get the occasional cold, but if it’s more serious, I can go to urgent care and be in and out instead of having to wait to make an appointment to see a general doctor. But don't get me wrong, I get Beline's point.

OK, so here comes the whole point of my blog… She tells me that now that I am a “Survivor”, which they consider anything 5 years after your last treatment. Now keep in mind, I am longer than that but when I moved down here, they wanted to keep an eye on me, since this isn’t where I had my original treatment. So now Beline starts talking about how I don’t have to come here to the Cancer Center anymore, I can go to what is called a Survivorship Clinic. OK? She explains that I would see a nurse practitioner and would still follow my post cancer treatment plan. Another words, if I needed a bone scan, they would schedule that for me, etc.

So here comes my fear. And I mean no disrespect to any nurse practitioners out there. But I feel once again that I’m being released into the unknown again. Here’s why I feel that way… When you are first diagnosed with cancer, you have this whole team around you. Breast Surgeon, Oncologist, Plastic Surgeon and Gynecologist. Sure little by little your team shrinks as your treatment ends but now I’m scared because I feel like I’m seeing someone that’s second string. What if they don’t pick up on something? I have to admit, I was scared when I started seeing Beline. Sure she’s not an Oncologist, but she’s higher than a nurse practitioner. Am I just hung up on the title? I don’t know. I feel like I’m being tossed to the second string team now and rolling the dice with my follow up care.

When does a cancer survivor feel safe?


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