You’ve just been diagnosed ....your head is spinning...you’re in a state of shock/denial/grief and you have to harness all your emotions to meet with your oncologist. Thought I’d share some survivor thoughts on what you might expect, and what you should REQUIRE of your oncologist. For the sake of this piece, let’s refer to the oncologist as female.
First Meeting - Please write down all your questions and bring them with you. You might want to bring a tape recorder and ask the onc’s permission to record her answers. She should understand that remembering everything being said to you at such a difficult and emotional time is impossible. A recording would help. Also, please bring a friend/spouse/relative with you to this meeting. You’ll need someone to provide support and to serve as your feedback check after the meeting.
Some questions you might have...actual diagnosis - what type of cancer do you have? Has your onc treated this type before? How many cases? If available, ask to see and to have explained your pathology report. If not available at first meeting, ask onc to be sure to have it at your second meeting.
Your pathology report and ALL your test results are yours. You have the right to see them and to have copies made for you. Insist upon it.
Ask about your treatment plan. What’s the first, second, third step, etc. In my case, we did chemo, surgery, radiation, and more chemo. Which chemo/s will you be receiving? What side effects can you expect? How soon might you expect to see whether that particular chemo is working?
Speaking of side effects, find out at that first meeting if your onc has a 24/7 person on staff to answer your questions. What’s a 24/7 person? A designated nurse who is assigned to be on call after hours until the onc’s office opens in the morning. If you wake up at 2 AM and you’re so sick that you don’t know what to do...you need to be able to reach a nurse immediately. She may tell you to go to the ER, she might call in a prescription to an all night pharmacy, or she may just need to calm you down. You have cancer 24 hours a day - you need to be able to rely on care 24 hours a day.
This first meeting will give you insight into what kind of PERSON your onc is. You need to have a doctor who will LISTEN to you, answer all your questions, encourage you to remain involved in your care, and will not patronize you with a philosophy that reeks of “Don’t worry, honey, you just keep a great attitude, and I’ll take care of you”. You’re a cancer patient, not an idiot, and you need a doctor who will respect your intelligence.