Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Finding an Oncologist, an Homage to Samuel Bobrow

I've been thinking a lot about oncologists lately...and especially one I was privelidged to call mine in Connecticut.  When you choose an oncologist, you need to have one who you can work with.  You are going to be with them during some very difficult times and it is best that you find one who isn't all gloom and doom or who somehow has x-ray vision to see your expiration date somewhere inside your body....I assure you....it isn't there.

When I was first diagnosed, the surgeon recommended a different oncologist. One who was about my age (in my early 30s) and who worked in the same town I lived in.  I went to my appointment which I thought was just a consult to lay out what was going to happen.  I walked in the door and the first thing they did was drew my blood.  Why? I was new to this.  When my husband I and I were finally able to see her, she was brusk.  I mentioned to her that I would like to have children after treatment...she just about went ballistic.  I actually felt worse after seeing her than I did when they told me that the lump was cancer.

The next day, I had my Bosom Buddies support group meeting and I told them what had happened.  They encouraged me to find a new oncologist.  But how to do it without insulting my surgeon who had suggested her?  They suggested that I tell the surgeon that our personalities just didn't match and that I needed to find someone I was comfortable with.  Which I did....and my surgeon recommended Dr. Samuel Bobrow who at the time was working at the Father McGivney Cancer Center at the Hospital of St. Raphaels in New Haven.  True, I would have to travel 30 minutes, but it was worth every minute.

Sam is a guy who works with you.  You are part of a team.  He listens and if you think there's a problem, he looked into it.  While you sometimes had to wait a long time (one time almost two hours after my appointment time....he burst in and say "WHY did you wait for me? I would have gone home! This is ridiculous."   I laughed at him and told him that he often spent more than the allotted 15 minutes with a patient because they needed it...and I wanted to know that if I needed it, he would do the same for me), because he did listen.

His staff was great, empathetic and willing to do what they could to make your visit better or to solve the problem you had.  Linda who worked as the receptionist and kept things rolling could be an absolute bulldog for her patients.

Sam was a good doctor the first go around in 1994.  When I was diagnosed as stage IV in 1998, his wife was also getting treatment and we got treatment together a couple of times until she felt it was too much to be in the treatment room with the rest of us.  After living with cancer, Sam became an even better doc....he knew what we were going through.

Unfortunately, his wife passed away.  After several years, he re-married.  He had grandchildren who were a little younger than my daughter...and he delighted in them.

I wasn't happy when I had to leave him to move to Ohio....In fact, several times I have considered going back to him for a second opinion, especially during the last three years with this rather nasty flare-up I have been fighting.

Last week, I was calling to find out where my preserved tissue sample was....since Ohio State University had lost all my mammograms and not returned them to the originating institution, I was afraid they had done the same with my specimen.  When I called, I found out that one of my nurses was still there, but that Sam was retiring...he left in December but he was having his party either this week or next.   So..I've lost my chance.  It doesn't surprise me....he has a new wife and all those grandkids to play with....and I'm sure he wants to get a chance to perfect his golf game.

So here's to Sam Bobrow.  I hope that all of you are able to find a doc like him....and to have the courage to switch when things don't fit.  Remember, you might not find different information, protocols or drugs, but I hope you will find someone who delivers the information and listens to you as well as Sam did....

Have fun, Sam!  You deserve the best!

Oh yeah....and I stole the thumbshot of Sam from the Yale-New Haven website (Yale merged with St. Raphaels)

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