Friday, February 13, 2009

Doctor Shopping

Not as fun as say shoe shopping, or even grocery shopping, but quite necessary nonetheless. And I've been successful. I've decided to use the doc's real names, I'm just posting the facts and my personal perceptions & experiences after all. Maybe some poor woman here in Dallas is finding herself in the same place I was a few weeks ago, frantically googling doctor names trying to find out any shred of info. There should be a way to doctor shop more easily, to get more personal opinions - so here's my 2 cents, world - one woman's real life experience with breast cancer in Dallas, Texas. Criminy - I can go on Amy's List and get peoples opinions on plumbers or painters or pet sitters - but I can't find a place to find real life experiences & opinions on something as important as those that care for your health and well-being? Pshaw, we should start one. I'll start here.

I started my week meeting my friends breast surgeon, Dr. David Euhus, UT Southwestern - my first appt. at UT. From the get-go when I originally called UT to sign up for "second opinions" from their docs, the whole process with them has been amazingly pleasant. EVERYONE has a direct phone number, from nurse assistants to schedulers - real phone numbers, no voicemail morass nightmare. Appointments are scheduled quickly - and flexibly. Very,very,very different than Baylor. We had to wait for a while to see Dr. Euhus (pronounced oy-huse), but once he walked in the room it was like we were the only people he had to see for the rest of the day. He went over my records meticulously, asked loads of questions - listened to my answers, and gave me ton's of detailed answers to everything I asked. He went thru all of the clinical trials he could think of pertaining to my particular cancer and told us about some that might match me. He recommended a bunch of further testing, explaining in detail why he wanted to do each test. If I asked him a question he did not know the exact answer to he looked it up, he even left the room to study my images and returned with answers. Again - the opposite of my experience with Dr. Grant at Baylor. He also had a recommendation of what UT oncologist he wanted me to see, again explaining why she was his preference. Dr. Grant had said to me "you know you'll need to meet with an oncologist next." and I asked "who do you prefer, who is the best in your opinion?" to which he answered "we have 4 here at Baylor, they're all good." LAME answer. Am I supposed to tack their names to the wall and throw a dart? Are they all absolutely, 100% equal in skill and temperament? Their specialty and experience is all the same and tailored to my particular cancer? Baloney. Cop out, lazy, I-don't-give-a-rat's-ass-who-you-choose answer. I left Dr. Euhus feeling so much better taken care of, much relieved to have met him. I also left with a hug - as we were leaving his assistant ran up to us in the hallway and gave me a great big hug, said what a pleasure it was to meet us. When we got to the elevator the hub looked at me with a big grin on his face and said "I don't think anyone at Baylor is going to give us hugs." It's the little things.....

Today I had appointments scheduled with 2 oncologists, the one at UT Dr. Euhus recommended, and one my internist had recommended when Dr. Grant wussied out of a recommendation. First we went to UT to meet with Dr. Amy Harker-Murray, Oncologist specializing in breast cancer. She's 36, Canadian, went to medical school, residency & internship at the Mayo Medical School - The Mayo Clinic, in Michigan. She's married & has 2 kids 2 yrs & 6 mo's - in her bio it says "Her clinical practice emphasizes patient and family-centered care". So far so good, she's smart & realizes that cancer care is generally going to involve a family - boy howdy does it ever. I'd been digging the whole atmosphere and care at UT so far I was practically praying that she was "the one". I said practically, people - no jabs!

We really, really liked her. Once again, you would have thought she had no other people for the rest of the day. She went thru my records, asked lots of questions, went over the tests, explained the most tried and true chemo option for my particular tumor, relating to my relative young age & general good health, as well as a couple of clinical trials that I qualify for. She was very interested in our lives, how we live, my responsibilities & preferences, my wants and wishes. She wrote out very plainly stated descriptions of my treatment options, the clinical trials - she did not try and push any particular thing, she simply stated facts, upsides and downsides to everything. When asked she would state her preference for things with very detailed whys to each thing. Nothing she said or did sounded flip, condescending or biased. The hub & I were so enamored of her, we both agreed I should cancel the meeting with the oncologist at Baylor for that afternoon, and proceed with my treatment - all facets of it - at UT Southwestern, my team looks like this: Dr. David Euhus, breast surgeon; Dr. Amy Harker-Murray, hematology oncologist; Dr. Ann Spangler, radiation oncologist. They are testing the bejebus out of me - this is what I have done/am having done: Full body bone scan, CT of all my organs, Chest X-ray, MUGA scan (heart), Breast MRI, Pelvic ultrasound, genetic testing, insertion of porta-cath in my chest for blood draws & chemo. PHEW. I haven't even met my radiation doc, she'll prolly come up with some tests/procedures as well.

I'll post later about the schedule of my further treatment, we've pretty much made some solid decisions. Right now I'm going to get ready and go see Dr. Euhus this afternoon. Yesterday Dr. Harker-Murray said the CT showed fluid accumulation around my surgical sites, again. She examined me and said yep, it's there. It is uncomfortable, and could get's up to me whether to have it drained again or not. Last night I studied it, thought about how it's been feeling, what it is feeling like.......I think I want to just get it over with. It's Friday, & the way Murphy's Law has been working for me, if I ignore it, come Saturday night it'll probably blow up like a balloon and start burning up with fever again. I'm going to stick with the better safe than sorry plan for now. I was SO EXCITED to have a day with no doctors appts or tests. OH WELL. Shouldn't have gotten so excited, huh? All those cliche sayings about taking it "a day at a time" when you have a crisis like this are very true. If you think to the future too much, try and ponder the entire scope of it all, you will crash and burn with the overwhelming hugeness of it all. So - one day at a time........


  1. Kelly, I was so happy to read this positive report on Dr. Euhus, even though it was more than two years ago. I was just diagnosed with invasive lobular breast cancer and have an appt. with him on Monday, Aug. 1, 2011. Yes, doctor shopping sucks!
    My blog is

  2. Thank you for posting this!! I will be seeing Dr. Euhus on Monday.


  3. Kelly,

    My experience with Dr. Harker-Murray was the same as yours, knowledgable, direct, yet sensitive to the impact of the situation. I wish you well... Battle on!!