Cancer Doctors – guest post

Few of the guest posts I have published have dealt with the doctor-patient relationship.  But recently I ran across one that was not only insightful but also displayed a wonderful sense of humor.  In fact humor seems to permeate her blog.  Our Guest Blogger is a BRCA1 survivor and she  writes at I’m A Mutant.  Be sure to read her “About” sections which lists her blog’s cast of characters.

We Can’t Go On Like This

I am happy to report that I have a new doctor and I like her very much.  I shall refer to her as Dr. Let’s-Get-Real and I do mean that as a compliment.  Since we’re coming up on six months since my last ovarian inspection it was time for me to go in for an ultrasound and CA-125 blood test, the typical maintenance routine for mutants that still have ovaries.  I was supposed to see Dr. Statistics at Cancer-R-Us but I had a business trip that conflicted with my appointment and I couldn’t get out of it.  When I called his office to reschedule, I was told that he wouldn’t be able to see me until early February.  When I explained that this wasn’t going to work because I would still be recovering from my mastectomy, I was told that the next available appointment after that was early March.  When I complained that a mutant like me is really not supposed to go for such a long period of time without an ovarian inspection, I was told that Dr. Statistics only sees patients one day a week so it was basically my problem.  At which point, it dawned on me that I am not only a patient and a mutant but I am also a consumer with excellent health insurance.  There are many cancer centers and famous “BRCA” docs in this city so there was no reason for me not to vote with my feet.

So I called one of the competitors of Cancers-R-Us and I got hooked up with a lady doc who is very well spoken of on the FORCE message boards.  I was able to get in to see her last week.

The rival cancer center is a full service cancer center too but it is much smaller and grittier than CRU.  I guess I’ll just call it the Cancer Bodega.  The first thing that I noticed in the waiting room was that there was a surfeit of young women waiting to see Dr. LGR.  They looked pretty healthy so I was wondering what they were all doing there since Dr. LGR specializes in the treatment of ovarian cancer.  It was then that I remembered that the receptionist at the CB mentioned that they do the “surveillance” there one day a month.  I was in a room filled with my fellow mutants!

Anyway, the CB is not an especially well run operation.  The typical visit for “ovarian surveillance” consists of an ultrasound, a CA-125 blood test and a physical exam.  I got through it all but it took over three hours!

Despite the aggravation of waiting for hours wearing little more than a vile green smock, I liked Dr. LGR just fine.  She’s a warm and open person, easy to get to know, direct.   I can’t say that in substance she told me anything different from what Dr. Statistics at CRU told me but it was her demeanor that made all the difference.  I felt that she actually had some interest in listening to me, getting to know me, letting me direct the conversation, rather than setting the agenda.  And she didn’t hide behind her white coat – on the subject of oophorectomy she acknowledged that the idea of removing healthy organs to prevent cancer is “crazy” (her choice of words) but she also said “but ovarian cancer is worse and I hate ovarian cancer more.”  She admitted that she wished that she had something better to offer me and that she wholeheartedly believed that there would be something better for the next generation of women who have to face this down because “we can’t go on like this”.

Perhaps I’ve just been waiting for one doctor with enough clarity to not mistake the lesser of two evils for something inherently good.

No, we can’t go on like this.

from: I’m A Mutant


About Dennis Pyritz

Dennis W. Pyritz, RN, BA, BSN, has been a cancer nurse since 1987 and a cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor since 2004. In December 2001 he was diagnosed with t-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL), a rare aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Dennis was treated with the then new monoclonal antibody, alemtuzumab (Campath) as this disease has a median survival of 7.5 months. He achieved a 26 month remission but relapsed in February 2004. He was retreated with Campath and went into a second remission. In August 2004 he underwent an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant with his brother, Mark, as donor. Dennis has remained in remission since - a near miracle. Throughout his career as cancer nurse and patient, Dennis has had the opportunity to speal to both lay and professional groups. Dennis has spoken on cancer topics and survival issues across the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Cyrpus, Israel, and India.

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