I can’t stress this enough—it is crucial to find the right doctor. ‘Right’ meaning a doctor who satisfies ALL of the following conditions:
- An known expert, a specialist a.k.a. studied additional years in medical school, have those other letters in addition to M.D. in their title making them certified to treat your specific condition or illness
- Referred by someone you trust, could be a friend (or a friend of a friend) who was or is currently under this doctor’s care , or referred by another doctor you already know
- Very important: sincerely emphatic, skillfully honest (knows how to deliver “breaking news”), strict but kind, encouraging, thorough (forget about the first point if he/she doesn’t possess these qualities)
- Educates you about your condition, and explains/translates/breaks down medical jargon for you to understand instead of assuming that you know the terms like ABC
- You are at ease with him/her
- You get your money’s worth with their kind and brand of patient service
My husband has been under the care of an endocrinologist for a couple of years now because he has Type 2 Diabetes. I’ve met and seen his doctor several times because I usually accompany my hubby during his checkups. During my husband’s first visit, I was impressed to see this doctor’s numerous certifications from abroad which were displayed in her clinic, so I definitely had high expectations. She was nice, soft-spoken, doesn’t talk much. She typed on the computer as she interviewed my husband and checked his test results. After about 10 minutes since we started (she was looking at the computer screen almost the entire time), she calls her secretary to have something printed then voila, the prescription was printed out. She read it to us and told us the date for the next appointment. That was already 800 pesos. I honestly expected way more for the cost of that checkup considering the kind of training and education she supposedly had.
Since she’s the only endocrinologist I knew, I reluctantly went to see her after I got my thyroid ultrasound and thyroid function test results. Prior to that, I was already searching for an alternate doctor as backup in case ‘it doesn’t work out’ with her. As always, there she was quietly typing away after checking my neck, taking my blood pressure and asking a few questions. I was out of her clinic after about five minutes with a request for an ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration biopsy in hand plus the date for my next appointment (and her secretary makes it a point to really pencil in your next appointment). She didn’t explain the test results and just said that a biopsy had to be done because the goiter seems to be big. So basically, I’ll only know what’s exactly happening to me after the biopsy.
I saw her immediately after I got my biopsy results and my husband was with me because he also had an appointment with her. After my husband’s checkup (which lasted for about 5 minutes), it was my turn. She read and commented about the other lab results first (all the results have been forwarded to her clinic prior to our visit but she’s reading them for the first time in front of us). When she got to the part about the biopsy, she was so surprised and audibly gasped, while I calmly watched her reaction (I have temporarily composed myself and reined in my emotions by then). My hubby finally found out the news at that point. After collecting herself, she merely read out loud exactly what was on the paper (which I too have already seen and read). No further explanation; she went straight to saying that she recommends surgery then quietly typed into her computer and asked for the printout from her secretary. She briefly told me what each request was, not what for, why nor how it will be done. I couldn’t help but ask some questions to better understand the diagnosis—what could’ve caused it, etc.—and what I got in return were very short, vague answers. That was the end of our appointment—the day I found out that I had cancer, and the time she spent with me was 10 minutes at most and around 5 minutes with my husband. That’s 800 pesos per person; 1600 pesos in all for barely 15 minutes with a doctor who didn’t emphatize, didn’t make me understand the major life change I’m faced with. It was good that I have done prior research so I understood why she requested for a chest x-ray—to find out if the cancer had spread to my lungs. Also, on the referral letter for the surgeon (which I only read on the paper as we were heading out), she wrote TOTAL thyroidectomy and that means I’m gonna live without my thyroid gland for the rest of my life. As soon as we stepped out of her clinic, I told my husband that I’m going to another doctor and I’m NEVER gonna see her again.
Thankfully, I visited a dear friend of mine the day before my checkup and found out that she recently changed doctors because of a horrible experience and she was very happy and satisfied with the new ones. Apparently, her new endocrinologist was the one I have been considering as an alternate so that all the more convinced me to go with this other endo for a second opinion the following day.
When I saw this other endocrinologist—what a breath of fresh air! She gave the same recommendation (which I already expected), yet she was very encouraging, informative and much, much friendlier. She told me and my husband that this kind of cancer had a good prognosis. It’s the most common type of thyroid cancer and had a high cure rate. She also told us that the cause was genetic, except in cases where people have been previously exposed to a high level of radiation (which I haven’t), not caused by anything dietary nor a certain habit or activity. I really felt instantly comfortable and at ease with her. She even recommended a surgeon who’s also accredited by the health insurance (the other doctor left it up to me to ask the insurance company for a surgeon).
The next day, my husband and I met with the surgeon who thoroughly explained the procedure complete with visuals (it really helped!), along with the possible risks and complications and what to expect post surgery, yet she was very assuring and said that she’ll avoid any complication at all costs. She too was very encouraging and even told us some success stories of her previous patients who had the same condition. She also mentioned some worse cases due to late detection, and told us that it’s good that we found out early because that makes the prognosis very good.
Both my surgeon and endocrinologist recommended the same nuclear medicine doctor who’ll administer the radioactive iodine (RAI) therapy. Since I trust them both, of course I went and met with this specialist they recommend and my first visit with her went very well—I really like her!
And that kind of feeling you have is your gauge whether or not this is the right doctor for you. Especially if your illness is something that entails regular and long term monitoring, you’ll be visiting your doctor often (and shelling out hard-earned money) so it better be someone you trust with your life and like working with as well. Otherwise, look for someone else ASAP. It’s your life, your future (and your family’s too) at stake here. Never apologize for being choosy until you find ‘Doctor Right’.
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