Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer
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.

 

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Blood-Cancer.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Ann Harper moderator
    1 month ago

    My daughter had a Dr. Crappy too! We stayed with him for a few reasons. 1. He worked under Dr. Wonderful who was my daughter’s original doctor. Dr. Wonderful was a lot further away and Crystal got extremely sick after treatments so this was easier on her. After treatments were done, we went back to Dr. Wonderful. 2. The nurse practitioner and nurses, who were really who we dealt with, were wonderful.

    It’s great you found out early on and changed right away. Everyone wants to be given special treatment especially when first diagnosed. Good luck to you and I’m looking forward to part 2.

  • Carolyn B
    1 month ago

    I’ve fired one as well and wish I could have fired two others. The first was “Doctor” with a CAPITAL D. Umm nope. I need to have discussions, not Doctor is right do as I say. Switched my nih comprehensive cancer center doc. Was dicey as he was the clinical chair and all changes had to be approved by him. Got patient advocacy to help me with this. New guy is great!

    The next one forgot about my first chemo. I showed up, there were no orders. She was out of town. Wished I could have fired her but she was my only choice. Oh and she also could only handle cheerful, grateful patients, not one stressed out over cancer #2 in one year, having to work full time through chemo, having a kid who was having a melt down over all of this… I was not doing a good job at being the kind of patient she needed.

    Insurance changed. Had someone else. He wasn’t keeping up in the field and kept criticizing that I wasn’t getting CHOP (that’s right CHOP not R-CHOP – I was getting Rituxan and Bendamustine). Fortunately a comprehensive cancer center was running the show with local treatment with respect to at least having a decent chemo regimen.

    I got shingles and his office made an apt for 8 days out. I pointed out I needed the antiviral in a timely manner. They didn’t care. I had to go to the ER and pay a ton for the obvious they could have taken care of (and oncologist later admitted they dealt with that all the time).

    Same office I had a white count of 0.5 and no nutrophils – same deal more than a week for the neulasta shot until I came to the office and camped out. In fact they never called me, the when I asked the lab for the result they had called that office two days prior.

    Lesson learned here is that the office staff also affect the treatment when they don’t call you about cancelled apts, don’t pass on test results that need immediate attention to the onc, don’t make timely apts in cases that matter like with shingles and counts that bad…

    I finally have a really, really good onc. He, personally, actually calls me if the front desk forgot to change an apt, he has.makes time to discuss issues, he makes sure that what needs to happen happens (well in combination with his nurse practitioner – who those folks are does matter)…

    Really stressful to deal with making changes in the middle of something stressful, but it is worth the effort.

  • Daniel Malito moderator
    1 month ago

    @jamesspeidel I think I met your doctor’s cousin from overseas – Dr. Doesn’tGiveTwoCrapsAboutMyTime. I mean, it’s such an uncommon name, they must be related, right?

    Finding a doc who actually helps you AND doesn’t make you beg for his or her time is a hard thing. I’ve lucked out in the past, but I’ve also had a few duds. Great stuff. Keep on keepin’ on, DPM

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    1 month ago

    Sad isn’t it? Empathy is something many doctors need a refresher course in how this works, in working with patients.

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    1 month ago

    I’ve had to fire one as well- we learn to do what must be done when things are not being done. Good article!
    Best

  • Susan Gonsalves moderator
    2 months ago

    @rusty_vs_cll Excellent article. Will help others to expect basic competence from their doctors. Dealt with a lot of the same as you did, but luckily, not since I moved to a different community, hospital and oncologist.

  • Poll