I am the first to admit that I have a huge crush on my surgeon. It isn’t surprising really, considering our path together. When you are thrown into cancer you have to make a lot of decisions. Big decisions, life altering, and fast and with very little understanding of the disease itself. So it seems natural that the person who got to know me so he could give me good advice, answered my 10 million questions, talked through all the options very patiently, respected my decisions and delicately cut me open numerous times, is permanently in my circle of VIPs. I also just like him and have a feeling I may need him again. It isn’t really odd, this crush, and it is part of the reason my experience with my medical providers has been exceptional. But that medical exceptionality didn’t really start with cancer.
A couple weeks ago I was sitting in a hospital board room (at a sister hospital) describing my cancer experience with a bunch of administrators and docs. I talked about the specifics of my BC but also about the care I received, because that is what they really wanted to hear: what made my experience extraordinary. But when I told my cancer story in front of this group another story emerged. My cancer care was exceptional but the bigger story was how I got to the cancer chapter.
For most women my age their OBGYN is their main health provider. I am no different except I don’t see my actual OB, I see a nurse practitioner in the same office. She helped me through both pregnancies, she knows I struggle with 2 points on my BMI, and she knows I have an annoying left knee. I know her daughter just got married, that she had BC, and that she loves her job. I only see her once a year but we have had that standing date for many years and I know her and her nurse pretty well. We work my maintenance plan together, she explains things, I ask questions, and we have a solid working relationship. I like her.
The important thing is that when I was diagnosed with cancer the relationship with my NP made it really easy to add on to my medical team. I trusted her so why wouldn’t I trust other care givers at the same institution? I had a level of comfort going into a new situation that wouldn’t have been there if I didn’t have a prior relationship. I never thought twice to look elsewhere for my cancer care and that level of confidence is important when you are facing a huge health issue. That trust got me to my surgeon quickly and got a plan in place fast.
The main point to all this is that I have a health care home. I go to one place for all my health care needs, for my whole family. They know us and I trust them and we have a partnership. Having relationships with people who are interested in your health is important. They are another set of eyes looking out for you and trying their best to keep you well and to do that well, they need a relationship with you. I would like to think that this relationship is good for all those doctors and nurses too. When you have a patient partnership, care giving must become more pleasurable, and that must translate to the high level of service they provide and level of commitment they have to patients. I am pretty sure that’s why I have a crush on my surgeon and why I look forward to my annual dates with my NP. They are my trusted partners on a very important journey to keep me healthy.