Dear Primary Care Physician,
I’ve been meaning to write you for a while. I first had the urge to reach out in November of 2014 when I arrived home from the hospital after giving birth to a baby that wasn’t even mine, as I had been a gestational surrogate for a friend. After checking the mail, I found a letter from you that stated your concerns for my last weight check at my last doctor’s appointment and a suggestion that I reach out to your Nutritionist. Although, most women love to have their weight pointed out to them, after 10 months of steadily gaining weight in order to nourish the human growth inside me, I felt annoyed. The letter did not mention that I had actually been pregnant,it just said that my weight was up. Now-I get it-you probably have some automatic ticker that spits out letters of concern when patients at your practice meet certain…..milestones…..but, like, you didn’t even know that I was pregnant? And carrying someone else’s baby? Don’t you get the notes from my other doctor’s?
Speaking of notes from my other doctors….Remember that time that YOU referred me to see the “breast guru” in order to have those pesky little nodules on my breast looked at? Remember that? Even though I actually saw the Nurse Practitioner, she consulted with you because she just wasn’t sure-remember? Remember that? You both weren’t quite sure. I think you probably remember, but maybe not. Let me elaborate.
It turns out that those nodules were actually cancer. Cancer? Can you believe it? I know. I was shocked. I started having all of my doctor’s notes sent to you as well. Because they ask you at your appointments who you want your notes sent to. And you, my Primary Care Physician, you were one of those people I thought should have those notes. Because, in theory, you help manage my health. And did you know, that when you have Stage IV Breast Cancer you are supposed to take all of your illnesses pretty seriously. Like, for instance, if you feel sick, you need to go see a doctor because, of course, you want to make sure the cancer isn’t progressing or anything. You ARE a doctor so you probably DO know that, but I just wasn’t sure because you see, I haven’t heard from you. Like, at all.
I know you know because when my husband went to the same practice because he was sick and ultimately had pneumonia, the Nurse Practitioner mentioned to him that she heard I had breast cancer, so I know that somewhere in your computer system it’s mentioned. But still nothing. I’m wondering if maybe you should develop some sort of automatic ticker for when your patients get diagnosed with a terminal illness, kind of like the weight one mentioned above. I mean, it didn’t seem to take all that much effort to tell me you were concerned that I was getting fat, maybe something similar that says, “Hey sorry you got cancer”. Something simple.
Since you are actually a human being, I’m sure you can sense my frustration and can understand why your behavior is offensive. I found these Emily McDowell Cards for moments like these. They are literally the best cards ever and may offer an explanation for why you haven’t called or written. Except, as an actual Doctor of Medicine, I do hope that part of your education is centered around what to say in moments like these. But you’re old, maybe you forgot. See, I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. A little.
Now that it’s been over 5 months since my diagnosis, I’m worried that the moment has passed. So to save you from any further embarrassment and awkwardness, I’m going to go ahead and find a new primary care physician. You see, I am planning to be alive for quite some time, but I need someone who gets me. Who knows when to say something and when not to. Who sees me as a person and can talk to me about my diagnosis and my needs. So consider this my goodbye. I’m sure you are a great doctor for some people, but not for me.
Maggie Van Duyn