I met with Dr. Toma about a month ago. I was on the hunt for a new oncologist, and her name kept popping up. As I said in my previous post, I felt pretty sold on her the second I spoke with Vicki in her office. Until you have left a trail of medical records over the course of two years, you can’t understand how nice it is to have someone help you like she did.
I really liked Dr. Toma right away. She has quite a presence and is self-admittedly opinionated. I respect that.
We talked about my history, my worries and her opinions on my treatment. It was good to get reassurance about the path I chose in regards to chemo. One of the most important things to me was annual scans. I did not like that MD Anderson does not do annual scans on survivors. I am at a higher risk of getting cancer again so why wouldn’t you do an annual screening?
Well, she echoed exactly what Dr. Moulder said. I am paraphrasing and not putting a pretty filter on this, but the reality is that if the cancer comes back, it will make no difference on if we catch really early vs if we wait for symptoms to present themselves. Chances of survival are not different. Morbid, but true, I guess.
I have to admit that any time someone mentions the word recurrence to me, I can be immediately brought to tears. So, it was only a matter of seconds before I was in tears. This prompted Dr. Toma to press me on the issue. Alan jumped in to explain that I’ve never had a scan that officially declares me cured. I added that I see so many people in my support group (on Facebook) celebrating a scan that shows No Evidence of Disease (NED). I never got this reassurance or celebration. That’s when she said something that sold me on having her as a doctor. She told me that I need to quit my support group.
“You don’t have cancer. You don’t need to be in that group.”
She told me she would recommend that I join a support group if I was Stage IV, but,
“You aren’t. You need to move on with your life now.”
She said that she doesn’t read or watch shows about cancer. She is around it all the time, and it would only bring her down, she said. I can see that. I’m still not sure I agree with her on all of that. I mean, I think I agree that it is hard to move on when you are constantly reminded that it might come back, but this group of amazing women has been such huge source of encouragement to me over the last two years. I feel like there is an obligation on my part to pass this along to others who are just starting the journey.
But, where I end up in my decision on this doesn’t really matter. I have time to think about that. More than anything, I feel like her being so direct and so firm about this took the place of that hole I had from not getting an end-of-treatment, you-are-cancer-free scan. She was so emphatic and so serious in telling me to “move on” that I felt, for the first time, confident that I am done. I just needed someone to give a swift kick in the rear to help me see that.
She did tell me that while she doesn’t do annual scans, if I have a weird symptom that presents itself, we will mark the calendar and wait for two weeks. If, in two weeks, the symptom has not gone away, we will do a scan. I can work with this plan.
Finally, she told me that if I am every worried about anything, I can ALWAYS get in to see her. She is always accessible. I think I have found a good oncology home for the next nine years.