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Myeloma Mom: Some Doctors Are Worth Stalking

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Published: Apr 22, 2014 3:09 pm

Have you ever had a doctor break up with you?

I’ve gotten to know a lot of doctors over the past eight years. Some have been with me since my myeloma diagnosis; others have come and gone.

Before my diagnosis, I was eerily healthy. Even as a kid, I rarely had any­thing more serious than the sniffles. For most of my life, I saw a doctor once a year for my annual checkup, and that was about it. Even my preg­nancy was completely uneventful. I showed up for my regular checkups, had the baby, and that was about it. Doctors were never a big part of my life. I really didn’t think about them too much. If I had to switch doctors, it wasn’t really a big deal.

Then I was diagnosed with myeloma, and I suddenly found myself in a world of doctors. They were no longer people I saw for a few minutes once a year when I was healthy; they were now part of my regular routine, helping me make important decisions about a potentially deadly illness.

Most of my doctors have been amazing, so it’s always hard when one of them moves on.

A couple of years ago, my myeloma specialist sent me a breakup letter. She said she was participating in a study at the hospital and would no longer be seeing patients in the clinic, so I’d need to switch doctors.

It was a classic ‘It’s not you. It’s me.’ breakup letter.

Just like that, it was all over between us. We’d been together for over six years. We’d been through all kinds of ups and downs, through stem cell harvests and bone marrow biopsies and giant jugs of my pee. It was magical.

“That’s it?” I thought. “You’re leaving me for ‘a study’? Is the study younger and better looking than I am? That study will never love you like I did! I gave you my blood! My blood! Did that mean nothing?”

Of course, I moved on, and my new specialist is also a great doctor. But I still miss my old doctor. Change is always rough.

Last fall, I got a similar letter from my family practice doctor, Dr. G.

I’d been going to Dr. G. for over ten years. She was the one who first discovered my myeloma when perhaps other doctors wouldn’t have, back when it was just a tiny blip on a blood test. I owe a lot to Dr. G., and even though she’s not an oncologist, I always appreciated that she knew all about my weird medical history.

When I got the letter that she was moving on from the practice she’d been with for years, I was distraught. Another doctor breakup! I couldn’t take it!

A few months later, I was driving down the interstate when I noticed a familiar face smiling down at me from a billboard. It was Dr. G! The billboard was advertising that she was at a new practice, but I drove by too quickly to get all of the details. Every time I’d pass the billboard with my eight-year-old daughter in the back seat, I’d ask her to read it for me.

She’d catch about two words each time, so it took several trips before I had enough information to Google Dr. G.’s new practice.

I soon made an appointment for my annual checkup and discovered Dr. G. was just as excited to see me as I was to see her. She gave me a big hug and was thrilled to hear I had been stalking her on the interstate. Stalking cases don’t end that happily all that often.

That’s when I realized that doctor breakups can be just as hard on the doctors as they are on the patients. They miss us, too! Do you think my former myeloma specialist still thinks of me from time to time with a fond sigh? That’s what I’ll always imagine.

Karen Crowley is a multiple myeloma patient and columnist at The Myeloma Beacon. You can view a list of her columns here.

If you are interested in writing a regular column for The Myeloma Beacon, please contact the Beacon team at 

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Photo of Karen Crowley, monthly columnist at The Myeloma Beacon.
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10 Comments »

  • Steve said:

    Great article … very funny!

    Going through my own MM specialist breakup at this time (which actually had a real-life stalker in it … sort of a side story), I know how one can feel. But, yes, life goes on … and as I told him, we’ll always have Cincinnati. :)

    S.

  • R said:

    My first true man love ( Oncologist) was cut short by Ins Co rules. I had to go thru their “preferred Provider”…and a different clinic.

    I could have stayed with him, but I would have had to pay for the Stem cell collection/ Transplant myself. I just didn’t have $120 K laying around, ….so I went with the UNMC folks.

    My current Oncologist is a gem, who is affiliated with UNMC, but far enough away to be an Independent thinker. I greatly appreciate that in him.

    My First Onco and my second Onco are “buddies’–so I didn’t really skip a beat in transferring my care.

    Yeah, despite being an emotional “tether’–Oncologists sure do get moved around often. Not always the best thing for the patient.

  • John Kay said:

    My Internist, whom I had for five years, quit effective 12/31/13, probably because of Obamacare. I heard today that my beloved MM oncologist is retiring.

  • Nancy Shamanna said:

    I am glad that you were able to re-connect with your family physician again! Nice that your daughter is able to ‘speed read’ on the freeway for the both of you also!

    I have had at least four different family doctors over the years. One moved away, one had to retire young due to a life threatening illness, one was the sister of my first doctor and was filling in, and then my family doctor of the last several years left family practice and went to work as a doctor for the police department. So I had to seek out a new family doctor, and I do really like her and hope she doesn’t retire for awhile yet!

    Luckily I have had the same oncologist all along since my myeloma diagnosis. He is also my age, but doctors don’t tend to retire very young. So hopefully he will still be working for some years to come also (if he chooses to).

  • Tabitha Burns said:

    Great article Karen! I always appreciate your humor! It’s odd how these physicians, nurses and specialists become the face of myeloma to patients and their caregivers. They are almost like family. We laugh about things, share our fears and concerns, and they listen and express their support for us on our journey. They know so much about us, and in most cases, we know relatively little about them, but they are the life raft for my husband (the patient) and me. I can’t imagine this process without them! I hope we don’t get any break-up letters anytime soon.

    Keep “strong like bull” folks!

  • Susan C. Parrott said:

    I have been on both sides of this story. I miss the pediatricians who cared for my children when they were small. Especially I miss the nurse practitioner I saw during graduate school. And I miss past patients. As a nurse research coordinator, I spend a fair amount of time with patients while they are in the study. But then the study ends and, often, they are gone. Back to a PCP, back to the specialist closer to home. I miss them. They were a part of my life, as I was of theirs. So — to all of you — I wish you well, and remember you can always stop in to say “HI”.

  • Joyce E, said:

    Karen, I know how you feel. I had an internist I thought I really liked who moved. The next one I went to left after 2 years and I decided to go to his partner. As it turns out serendipity still works. My current internist is really great and I look forward to going to his office. I have told him I am teaching him about myeloma and not the opposite. He works very well to coordinate all the information from all my doctors. After my stem cell transplant I found out that I had to get revaccinated and my PCP does that for me. He calls me his oldest pediatric patient. I hope he does not retire before I decided to call it quits. I don’t think I could find another like him. I also really like my oncologist and hematologist.

  • Holt said:

    Sometimes our medical break-ups result from alienation of affection. My break-up moment occurred when I saw my hard-working, well-respected hem/onc at a multiple myeloma conference. He said that he remembered I had been his patient and asked me who I was seeing now. I tearfully explained that I was still his patient and saw him every month. After that I played the field until I found another hem/onc that I could settle down with. I sent my original doc a note saying that I was moving on and thanking him for the good times we’d had. I never heard back.

    Thanks for the great article Karen!

  • Jan Stafl MD said:

    Great column, Karen! I am always amazed at how many different subjects various contributors write about so eloquently on the Beacon.

    As an OB/GYN physician for over 30 years, I have developed many long term patient relationships with the women I have seen over the years. In some cases, there are things we talk about which have not been shared with any other, as they trust and feel safe in the confidentiality of the doctor-patient relationship.

    On my own path as a patient with MM for almost three years, I have had several colleagues ask me why I am still working. Although I no longer do surgeries or deliver babies (after attending about 4000 deliveries over the years), I really do enjoy part time office work, mostly annual exams with an emphasis on holistic medicine. It truly is mutually beneficial, since I practice holistic medicine on myself, and feel I can give useful advice by example and experience. Since I have a disability policy, I do not need the income, and the kind words, letters, and little gifts I receive are much more meaningful.

    Last week I announced that after June I will take a sabbatical, or leave of absence of indefinite duration, due to another recurrence and side effects of treatment. I do not want to retire, and if I can control my MM by the fall, I hope to be able to return to part time practice. But that is not in my control. I know some of my patients will find that difficult, but most are very understanding and supportive.

    So I write this to let our readers know that we physicians often truly care for our patients, and are sorry when we have to uproot long term patient relationships. It really is a two way street, and I for one am very thankful for that. Namasté! Jan

  • Steve Mohr said:

    Karen – I really enjoy (and envy) your ability to inject humor into your myeloma experiences! I cannot imagine going through a break up with my myeloma doctor, but reading your column has at least prepared me somewhat for that possibility should it ever, heaven forbid, occur.