a woman firing her doctor

Why I Fired My Oncologist and How I Hired Another (Part I)

Within 10 days of being diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), I fired my oncologist and hired another one. I learned a ton in the process. Here’s what happened.

After some alarming blood work results, my primary care physician sent me to the hospital for further testing. The tests revealed my CLL diagnosis. The hospital admitted me to try and get my white blood cell (WBC) count down. The oncologist who happened to be assigned to rounds at that time, who I’ll call Dr. Crappy, was assigned to my case. The next day, I was discharged but quickly started noticing things about my new doctor that I didn’t like.

Deciding that I wanted to change my oncologist

So what didn’t I like about Dr. Crappy? Here are a few:

Timelines slipped

The first timeline slipped was in the hospital. Dr. Crappy was supposed to see me sometime between 9:00 AM and noon. I was even woken up in the middle of the night to draw my blood so the results would be ready by 9:00 AM. Yet, he didn’t see me until after 6:00 PM. This was the first of several missed timelines.

Rushed visit

My first (and last) visit with Dr. Crappy in the hospital lasted maybe 15 minutes. After waiting all day... 15 minutes! We didn’t even have time to mentally process what was being said. I’ve heard many patients talk about how difficult it was to focus when they were given the news they had cancer. Before I knew what happened Dr. Crappy was gone.

Broken promises

Dr. Crappy said I’d be contacted within 48 hours to get a bone marrow biopsy performed and that’d it’d probably take 3 weeks to get me in for the test. 36 hours later I still hadn’t been contacted and couldn’t get in contact with Dr. Crappy either.

I knew I needed a bone marrow biopsy, but didn’t know who to contact or how to get it scheduled. Keep in mind, I didn’t know anything about my prognosis. I didn’t know if I had weeks or years to live. My prognosis was a mystery and the test would shed an enormous amount of light on my future. It was critical I get the test ASAP!

Not a Priority

These and other factors made me feel like I wasn’t a priority to Dr. Crappy. I felt like a number caught up in an uncaring, bureaucratic machine.

The important of communication

In hind-sight, I realized the ER doctor had spent more time with me and given me more information than Dr. Crappy had. Dr. Crappy didn’t seem to answer any questions or explain the process I’d be going through to go from diagnosis, to tests, to treatment.

When it’s lucky to have a friend with cancer

It’s horrible when anyone you know has cancer. But in a twisted way, I was richly blessed to have a close friend who had been diagnosed with cancer just a few weeks before me. As I spoke to her, she told me about how she was being treated by her oncologist who I’ll call Dr. Wonderful. Hearing how her experience with her doctor was so different than mine, I decided I wanted a Dr. Wonderful.

Read Part II of Why I Fired My Oncologist and How I Hired Another.

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