When I first learned I had to leave my long-time oncologist who has done such an excellent job keeping me alive and who I trusted literally with my life, I was naturally pretty upset. I waited until the last possible minute to switch, hoping that Blue Shield and UCLA would make up. But they didn't, so I had to make the move.
I was recommended to my new oncologist, Dr. McAndrew, by so many different people and doctors that I have lost count, so I was quite confident that she was the one to see. Same thing for my new radiation oncologist, Dr. Burnison. As a double bonus, the two of them speak on a near-daily basis about their in-common patients and work very well in tandem. They will have plenty to speak about where I am concerned!
The most striking difference between UCLA and Cedars-Sinai is the amenities and service. Private hospital vs. public hospital, I suppose. Both the cancer center (radiation) and my oncologist (systemic treatments like chemo) have valet parking free (or $2, depending) for patients. I paid $11 at UCLA to hike a mile to my treatments (until I got my handicapped placard which then reduced it to $4, but still). This is WAY, WAY better.
Then there is the food and beverage service. As I received my first treatment in the much-larger infusion room of my new oncologist on Monday, a candy-striper-type volunteer walked around with a big basket of snacks of all kinds and offered to bring us juices, coffee, ice water, whatever. She circled back around about every 20 minutes in case we needed refills. I confess, I loved this and enjoyed some cookies and coffee...and chips...and ice water. My last oncologist had the juice and snack basket but you had to help yourself on the way in. Again, this is a great improvement.
The radiation oncologist's office had giant bowls of beautiful fruit on every table in the waiting room and a cappuccino machine with no coins required. Again, I really enjoyed this detail. My last radiation oncologist had saltine crackers in a bowl. Nice if you are nauseous, I guess...
Don't worry, I understand that the quality of the medical care is more important than the perks, but I think I am in equally good hands medically speaking with my new doctors. Both of them are women, so it was a very different experience for me in terms of their questions about details of my life and quality of life. The male doctors I have had are more down to business and all about killing the cancer (which is not a bad thing). But imagine how surprised I was when one of them asked to see pictures of my kids and the other asked questions about where our ancestors were from. They were both very concerned about how I was feeling just as much as how the scans looked and that was very nice. They both also spent an hour or more with my during my first appointment to be sure they understood my long and complicated history. They explained the details, pros and cons of various treatment options in great detail, which I appreciated. I already feel very well taken care of.
My oncologist has some ideas about new things to try to help stop the bone mets in their tracks and keep me in remission. It is nice to have a fresh look at my situation while at the same time difficult to transmit all of my history. There is always good and bad in every situation, but happily this all seems to be mostly good.
While I was getting my treatment a marriage and family counselor came by to see how I was REALLY doing and offered to counsel me, my caregivers or children, all as part of the service of the office. Another very nice touch.
Next week I will be having a bone scan, and an ultrasound to check on the status of my DVT (blood clot). We will decide from there what to do about my spine which is currently the only active cancer we are dealing with.
I feel very, very fortunate to now have and to have had access to the very best care from the beginning of this adventure. (And, now, coffee and cookies to boot!).