I’m sure many of you are familiar with the cancer hospital and treatment center commercials on T.V., radio and in print. You know, the ones with smiling patients playing basketball or cycling along the beach with their grandchildren. I didn’t pay too much attention to these ads until I became a cancer patient and then started to really listen to them. One of the features heavily advertised is the concept of integrative team care. There would be a nutritionist, a surgeon, a psychologist, an acupuncturist even and beyond. An entire safety net to cater to your every current and potential need. My reality is that none of that presented itself to me, at least not in the way I expected. (I’ve been told I have high expectations. I also anticipated soft music and gurgling waterfalls when I walked into the infusion center the first time). I often wondered “Where is my team?”.
I asked my oncologist early on if he consulted with other oncologists on my case. His response was clear. “No, I’m a lone ranger on this”. (He has an interestingly blunt way with words). I didn’t like this one bit. I didn’t say it or even realize what I was expecting to be true but my retort could’ve been something like “You mean you don’t sit in a room for hours several times a week with several other highly paid doctors and researchers and discuss each and every patient’s case ad nauseam to find the one right and best solution?!?!?”
Some background is required to explain my expectations. I’ve worked in a corporate environment my entire career. Absolutely no decision of any weight (much less life or death) is made independently. In my professional experience, at least half a dozen decision makers and/or the ever inclusive and expanding stakeholders are consulted. Meetings are held to cuss and discuss the pros and cons. One meeting usually leading to discovery of more stakeholders and subsequent larger meetings. So when I compare my professional experience with that of, say, a doctor I am glad the decision structure is different! Oncologists must keep the treatment train running non-stop for their patients. Imagine the delays in treatment decisions if the medical oncology practice worked as corporate America does? Don’t get me wrong, I am not being critical of the effectiveness and efficiency of corporate culture (wink-wink).
But yes, I actually do have a pretty darn robust team. I am the leader of that team, no one else. And I’ve built my team over time based on
need just-in-time need. After all, if you try to build an entire support team in advance of knowing what and when they are needed, well then you have…corporate culture. (think waste and inefficiency). I’ve used a nutritionist that was made available to me in my cancer center when I needed a nutritionist. I have a gyn-onc surgeon that did my original surgery that I see periodically for his consult. I, of course, have my right hand man – medical oncologist. I have a psychologist that I found through recommendation from a friend that is integral to my team now. I have a support group that I stumbled into when I needed it most and I even have a general surgeon that knows my health situation that I rely on for all surgery needs, non-cancer. I found him through my local ER and have had to avail myself of his services twice now. I like my team. Some I chose and some just happened on me, but I am happy with my support team and I nurture it. And of course I bring in and keep close my friends and family as important team members, each providing different kinds of support for different situations.
My team is not what is advertised by the big fancy-schmancy cancer centers (names withheld to avoid backlash), but I would venture that my team, for me, is the best and I recommend to anyone in a similar health situation to build their own team too. Make your team fit your needs as you discover them. No one else knows or can predict what your needs are and will be down the road.
Many thanks to my team!