Imagine two oncologists starting a practice, then imagine the same two oncologists having a falling out two years later. Welcome to the Onco Wars, raging now at the office where I have been receiving care for my chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
I'll call them Dr. Belle and Dr. Tower. You can think of them as Godzilla vs. Megalon, with all the attendant fire-breathing and foot-stomping that entails.
On January 23, Dr. Belle, my doctor, wrote a letter to her patients:
"It is with sadness and a heavy heart that I announce that, due to unforeseen circumstances, I will no longer be able to attend to you as your physician. This letter is to advise you that I will not provide professional medical services to you after January 30, 2012. Your current condition requires follow up and I encourage you to find a new physician promptly to continue this care . . . I suggest you contact your insurance plan representative for assistance in locating a new hematologist/oncologist to assume your care . . ."
And on January 27, Dr. Tower wrote to Dr. Belle's patients:
"Dr. Belle has recently informed us, and sent a letter to you, stating that she will be leaving the practice effective 1/30/12. Let me assure you that our office still remains committed to serving your needs and assisting in your care. I understand that Dr. Belle's departure may be upsetting to you, but I assure you that I am more than willing and able to assume your care, and would in fact be honored to do so . . ."
There is no doubt an interesting back-story here, which I don't imagine I will ever know. For me and for Dr. Belle's other patients, the big news is that we don't have a doctor anymore. Dr. Tower wants us to stay, but I hear through the grapevine that a number are choosing to go.
For me, all this comes at the worst possible time. With a lymphocyte count of about 260,000, hemoglobin of 9.4, and platelets finally having dropped to a Stage 4-level 85, the need for treatment is staring me squarely in the face, if not also socking me squarely in the jaw.
I have spun the wheel of fortune and picked a name from the measly list my health plan offers. I'll be seeing the new name soon, and hopefully I'll like this person enough to make them my new onc. Meanwhile, I won't rule out seeing Dr. Tower. But since insurance won't cover treatment at that practice, it may be time to cut the cord and go. Especially since it has been pretty much cut for me.
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