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My appt. w/ the Radiation Onc.


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Usually when I mention my oncologist, I am referring to my medical oncologist (chemo doc). But this time I have an interesting story about my radiation oncologist visit.

Let me just preface this by saying that my MEDICAL oncologist is a younger doctor who is pretty open-minded and seems to have a positive outlook on things. My RADIATION oncologist would be the exact opposite. An older doctor (close to retirement), extremely knowledgable (I think he has seen a lot in his years) but not what you would call "positive". I wouldn't describe him as negative....but the word "blunt" comes to mind. He tells it like it is and doesn't candy-coat things. As harsh at it can be at times, I do appreciate his candor. He has never spouted off statistics at me or told me my chances of making it, but he does say "well, this IS lung cancer we are talking about", and my personal favorite "we don't measure success in lung cancer in months, we measure it in years and it is too soon to tell if we have been successful with you".

So I usually have to put on my extra set of armor before my 3 month check-in with him and yesterday morning he greeted me with his typical "Hello Heather -- any headaches or double vision?". (gee doc, I'm fine, how are you...)

But then he threw me for a loop. He commented that I ended treatment a year ago, with surgery being 15 months ago. He said that 50% of all patients have a recurrence in the first 12 months and that passing that mark put me in good shape. Then he commented that after 18 months, the chance of recurrence dropped even more. By the comments he continued to make during the conversation, it became clear to me that he was VERY surprised that I was doing so well. He hadn't expected it. And while his comments were positive, they actually had the opposite effect on me. I felt completely freaked out when I realized that he hadn't expected me to make it this far. When I was leaving, he said he wanted to see me in 4 months, and commented to his resident to make sure I made the appointment because he "wanted to follow this one" (my case). I felt like a circus freak! :roll: I left the hospital with a very uneasy feeling that I couldn't shake all day.

My point in this long winded story is this. A doctor's attitude can make all the difference. I met with my MEDICAL oncologist last week and he was nothing but positive, and even gave me the go-ahead to get pregnant (not sure I am ready for that mentally), saying that he was "totally comfortable" with that. He put some of my constant anxiety at ease and I felt better than I have in a long time. But now my RADIATION oncologist has put out there that the 18-month mark (August) is a big thing and it is just out there looming in front of me and making me feel sick. I cancelled my shrink appt. this week because I was feeling so good.....but after yesterday, I am ready to schedule the shrink again ASAP :roll:

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Hebbie in our local group we have a women like yourself that has had a baby boy since her diagnosis, he's adorable . Now his big sister has a sibbling. I bet if a young person like yourself goes on with her life , that is something a radiation doctor would want to follow, that would make his work even more worthwhile. There are many sad stories so the successful ones are something to cherish. Donna G

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Hi Heather,

Don't let your Doctor spoil what has been a very successful outcome....You are doing all the right things, and although he seems surprised... he's not taking into account your age, non smoking history, and current extremely healthy lifestyle...

You will make the 18 month mark and well beyond, and I think you already know it.


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Donna -- I think I know the woman in your group -- Michelle? If so, she was my first ALCASE phone buddy and did a lot to put my mind at ease. Please pass along my "hello!"

Joe -- I can always count on you for some uplifting support and I trust that you are doing great these days as well! It's nice to see you around -- haven't caught you here in awhile :wink:

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First of all, let me say congratulations! It sounds like you're doing just great, Heather!!

Now, as for the doctor's attitude.....well sure, that can have an impact. But reading your post....something really struck me. I'm about halfway thru Lance Armstrong's book right now....and at one point he said that when chemo ended....emotionally it all became even more difficult in ways. He felt like he was no longer doing anything to fight the cancer and so it left him feeling vulnerable until he got to a certain point where he was pretty sure he was cancer free and staying that way!

In a way, I think that's exactly how the rad. onc's demeanor affected you. You were doing just fine until his apparent "surprise" that you're doing so well sort of brought you up short, made you feel odd or maybe just hyperalert all over again to what you've gone thru to GET to where you are now! A 15 month survivor and still counting!!

I'm just starting this journey. I was dx'd not two weeks ago and am still undergoing tests to make sure this is limited stage. So I sure can't speak to you with any real "authority"....only as someone who believes in hanging on to the positives, over the negatives.

You know....that radiation doc could have been surprised to see you yesterday, simply for the fact that you likely got in your car and maybe even drove a busy freeway to get to that appointment, right? I mean, he might have greeted you with, "Hi Heather, I see you made it thru traffic safely!" and been no more or less suprised by THAT....huh? :wink:

Don't let the demeanor of one doctor rattle your confidence, your positive attitude OR the sure knowledge of what you've already surpassed....how far you've come....and your intention to make that 18 month mark and then SURPASS THAT TOO and keep on going strong!

I'm starting to learn, even at this very early stage of the game....that a diagnosis of cancer is something that probably lingers in our subconscious for a long time....even when it seems we're beating it! The words or reactions of others can tap us right back into that fear sometimes....and it's much more palpable than the more SURE knowledge that every time we get in our car to drive somewhere, we're ALSO taking our life in our hands....eh? And yet we drive every day without that fear controlling us.

Try to shake that uneasy feeling by reminding yourself that your oncologist is openly positive AND while he might have a funny way of showing it, even the rad. oncologist is impressed by you...by how well you're doing. He wants to follow up because you are inspiring! Don't let that tap you back into the fear.....let it support the positives for you!

Okay, my little "speech" is over here :wink: ...but I find you very inspiring. You faced a big challenge and are doing great. Whether or not this surprises anyone else doesn't matter near as much as YOU continuing to beat the odds with confidence and a positive attitude! I think you've got a lot of people here willing to support you in that, to make up for any doctor who lacks a bit in the "positive attitude" department!

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I often wonder if any dr.'s come and view our site. If they dont I think they should... From my own expierence, I feel dr.s are just plainly "not aware" of how their comments or additudes come off to patients. I also wonder if sometimes we as patients and caregivers look to much into what or rather "how" they are saying something. My dad met with his surgeon last week, and really nothing he said bothered him...just the way he said it. I dont know if this is the greatest thing to do but... my Dad is very outspoken, and plans to go to the surgeon and tell him personally what he thinks about this guys additude. Not rudely, just said he wonders if hes aware of how he comes off to patients. I wouldnt be scared if I were you. You seem to be doing GREAT!

Just a few thoughts


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My physical therapist told me after 18 months that I had exceeded her expectations for recovering use of my left arm/shoulder by 300 per cent. I was stunned, and VERY glad I didn't know what her expectations were at the time.

I also had a consult once with an orthopedic doctor about the bones in my shoulder, and he looked at me after seeing my original and post surgical CT scans like I was a pinned moth under glass.-- or a ghost. THAT was fun.

Point is -- never mind them!. Glad you're doing so well!

Don -- you said Lucie was perking and I smelled coffee.... lol...


Prayers, always


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