Tuesday, October 28, 2008

CANCER CHRONICLES - PART TWO

Before I left the hospital that Thursday Dr. Champagne had instructed me to contact her off to schedule the PET scan and the surgery. The next morning I called her office and spoke with a young lady and explained the reason I was calling and I felt she was a little annoyed that I was calling.

“We are trying to schedule those for you right now, sir,” she stated in her irritated manner.

“Well I am just doing what Dr Champagne asked”, I responded, and quickly got off the phone.

That was Friday and I didn’t hear back from her office the rest of that day.

Monday morning I received a call from Dr Champagne’s office stating that the request for the PET scan appointment had been sent to the hospital (Banner Good Samaritan) and I would be receiving a call from the hospital directly before the end of the day.

The call never came.

About 4:00 pm I contacted the hospital scheduling department and was informed that they had never received the paperwork. The very helpful young lady on the other end of the phone requested I contact Dr Champagne’s office and request she re-fax the request.

I called Dr. Champagne’s office and spoke with Mindy and explained why I calling.. She informed me that a few of her faxes hadn’t gone through that morning and requested I hold. A few minutes later someone else picked up the phone, “Mr. Willi, this is Terri, I’m sorry to inform you but we do not take your insurance.”

“Oh great,” I blurted out both is jest and frustration.

“We will be contacting you primary care physician and letting him know so he can find you a new surgeon,” she continued without hearing the dissatisfaction in my voice, “I’m very sorry.”

First thing the next morning I was on the phone leaving a message for my doctor’s assistant requesting a call and explaining what I been told the late afternoon before.

Sometime later in the day I received a call giving me the name of a new surgeon, Dr Luis Hashimoto, with an appointment to see him first thing in the morning the next day, and my PET scan was scheduled for 2:30 the following day as well.

I then received a call from Terri in Dr Champagne’s office informing me Dr. Champagne would perform the surgery for me out of network. Instead of jumping on that, which I should have, I informed Terri that Dr Johnson had found me a new surgeon.

That night my brother, Kevin, flew in to attend our upcoming Halloween party, and to attend my appointments with me as well. After freaking out all day I am feeling more relax and comfortable.

The next morning Kevin arrived at my house and we drive to Dr Hashimoto’s office where we sat for an hour before we spy him arriving through the back door. Fifteen minutes later we are shown an examination room.

Dr Hashimoto entered the room, introduced himself and starts going over the notes in my file. He asked me the typical family related questions, allergies, medical history and then, taking a cue from his notes, starts talking about my appendix.

In between receiving three phones in the course of 10 minutes, he talked endlessly talked about my appendix. He talked about the possibility of my problem being appendicitis and the treatment and surgeries available.

He then got to the second line in the notes and announced that I have a thickening of the colon wall and started to describe what it means and all the possibilities.

I finally had to stop him. He had been talking for 15 minutes without having a clue why I was there, so I finally said, “I know all of this. I have colon cancer.”

Squinting his eyes he asked, “How do you know this?”

“Because I had a colonoscopy last Thursday,” I replied.

Surprised, he looked at me and asked, “What were the results?”

“They found a five centimeter tumor in my colon, I have colon cancer,” I informed him, a little frustrated that he didn’t already know.

Dr Hashimoto then started laughing and pretended to hit me on the arm several times. “Why didn’t you tell me? You let me go on an on,” to which I replied, “I thought you knew and this was part of your show.”

“I don’t do a show, “ he demanded.

Believe me, he does a show. A nice man, and I am sure capable man, but there is a showman trapped inside him as his hands flail and he drew diagrams, and took phone call after phone call during our session.

Dr Hashimoto then talked about the surgery and the possibility of complications. He and I settle on Scottsdale Healthcare Thompson Peaks as the hospital to have the surgery performed. Although the furthest away, he let me know it is the best of those available for him to perform the surgery.

Kevin and I left the office and laughed about the comical episode in his office. From the moment he walked into the room to when we left his office the man had us laughing, or was it scratching our heads.

I felt comfortable with him although he had told me he would not be doing the surgery laparascopically. Without seeing a single report or film, he determined he would be opening me up. It perplexed me since Dr. Champagne, who had seen the results of the colonoscopy, had planned to do it laparascopically.

Later in the afternoon I had my PET scan.

I never heard from either Dr Johnson or Dr Hashimoto that afternoon or Thursday regarding the PET scan results so I called both of their offices late on Thursday afternoon and never heard back – not that day – not Friday.

More frustration.

Working with Dr Champagne I had felt a sense of urgency and comfort that I had not found since. She made me feel confident we were going to schedule the surgery and that it would probably be Monday, October 27th, I would get the PET scan and the results and on we would go.

Yesterday was October 27th, and I had not been scheduled for surgery and no one was calling me back with the results of my PET scan.

First thing in the morning I called the offices of both Drs. Hashimoto and Johnson again and inquired about my PET scan results.

A couple of hours later I received a call from Catherine, the assistant to another doctor in Dr. Hashimoto’s office. She called to inform me that my surgery had been scheduled for Thursday, October 30th. I need to arrive at 8:00 am and that surgery would be at 10:00 am.

She told me I could not eat anything past midnight and as she continued, I felt the need to interrupt.

“Has Dr Hashimoto received and reviewed the results from the colonoscopy and PET scan, “ I asked. Stumped, she reviewed my file which I assumed was in front of her and said, “No, I don’t see that they have been.”

Starting to get irritated again, I asked, “How is it possible for Dr Hashimoto to perform surgery on me when he hasn’t even seen the results of any of my tests? You can go on and give me all the information you were supposed to tell me but I am not feeling comfortable with this and will probably have to reschedule.”

This didn’t please Catherine. She asked “Do you know how difficult it is to schedule surgery?”

I informed her I did not, and I was thinking, “And I don’t care but something about this does not feel right.”

I could feel her displeasure with me over the phone as she ignored my concerns and continued on with her list of demands.

“You will need to bring someone with you because you will not be allowed to drive yourself home,” she stated rather matter-of-factly.

This time I snapped. “What? Dr Hashimoto is cutting me in half and you are telling me he is sending me home. He told me I would be in the hospital at least a week.”

I was pissed. I’m sure it was not Dr Hashimoto who believed I was being sent home, it was his colleague’s incompetent assistant.

“Oh, well, each doctor does things differently, “she cautiously replied.

I couldn’t get off the phone fast enough with her. The only useful information she had given me was the time and place of my surgery, and I wasn’t feeling too good about any of it.

I stewed for a few minutes and then Dr. Johnson called with the results of the PET scan. Everything had come back clean – although once I have recuperate from my surgery he wants me to get my prostate checked out because of my high PSA numbers.

He asked me about Dr Hashimoto and informed me he had called him several times and had never received a call back. I was thinking, but didn’t say, “I was surprised because he talked on his phone three times in the 20 minutes I was with him.”

I told Dr Johnson that Dr Champagne was planning to do the procedure laparascopically and that Dr Hashimoto was going to cut me open. I asked why the difference and what he told me didn’t alleviate my uneasiness.

For the remainder of the day I sat at my desk working, yet apprehensive with the chain of events that had lead me to surgery on Thursday.

I had an instant chemistry with Dr Champagne. When I first spoke with Dr. Johnson he had told me she was one of the two best surgeons in the state, and when I met her I felt confident I was in the hands of someone both capable and caring.

I do not have that comfort with Dr Hashimoto. I liked him and I am sure he is a good surgeon, definitely a busy one, but their approaches are too different for me to not feel uneasy.

Driving home I started thinking about contacting Dr. Champagne’s office and telling her I would take her up on her offer to see me out of network and then it hit me.

The day before, Kevin had visited Dad and Jane and they mentioned they would like me to see the surgeon who performed Dad’s surgery – Dr. Michael Buckmire. I would look to see if he was a provider in my network.

When I arrived home I immediately looked online and found that Dr. Buckmire was in my network so I texted my step-mother (back and forth several times) and they agreed to grease the wheel for me with Dr. Buckmire’s office.

Before going to sleep I left Dr Johnson a message informing him of my decision to cancel my surgery and go with Dr Buckmire, and I requested he have all my charts and reports faxed to his office.

This morning while showering I received a message from Dr. Johnson. He stated he understood my concern and thought it was a good idea that I seek out Dr. Buckmire. He even mentioned having a reservation or two about Dr. Hashimoto.

When I arrived at work today the first thing I did was call Dr. Hashimoto’s office and left a message that I needed to have my surgery cancelled and that I was going with a different surgeon. I called Dr Buckmire’s office and told them my name and that Dr Buckmire had performed my father’s surgery and that I am now going through the same thing and would like to make an appointment with him to have him perform mine as well.

I was told the first available date on Dr. Buckmire’s schedule would be November 7th. I asked that I be put on a list for any cancellations and accepted the appointment.

I am now feeling so much better. I am happy with my decision to postpone my surgery and wait for a doctor I am somewhat familiar with; however, I now just sit here stewing, wondering if waiting that long is a bad move. To alleviate some fear I left a message for Dr Johnson who promptly called me back and reassured me that he didn’t think I was jeopardizing anything by waiting for Dr Buckmire. He told me he had faxed over all of my information and even left a message for him.

Dr Johnson, whom I actually have never met, has been the constant in all of this and I am very appreciative. At no point has he passed me off to an assistant. He has always called me directly, alleviated any of my fears. I am just Hashimoto was just a hiccup, or bump in the road, and I am now back on track….

…to be continued….

5 comments:

Liz1971 said...

they sure don't make things easy for you! jeeeesh! all the back and forth and phone calls and such... but at least you are feeling good about your decision to see your dad's doctor. keeping you in my thoughts and prayers, chris...xo

Jyl said...

that's just terrible. you have to trust yourself on this though - you are your best advocate. it's a ton of work - but you are so right to manage the process and demand the respect you deserve in doing so.

Anonymous said...

Oh my God...I'm so glad you are such a smart cookie!!

In the end it's always best that we be the driver in our own destiny...until I got to the end I didn't realize that I was holding my breath....sigh. I can't imagine what you are experiencing, but I do hope you take some time to breathe...you know I'm the queen of breathing.....I see you are still 'the Queen' loved seeing those legs again!!!

I love you sweet brother!!
xoxoxooxxo
Denise

Sparroweye said...

I feel your anguish Chris. I am going through similar things with my throat. My ENT doctor took out the two growths telling me she was sure they were viral warts. Surgery went well. But the next week she shockingly tells me the biopsy said squamous. And she sets me up with Dr. Hayes an oncologist radiologist because she says that is the only treatment for this. And she sets me up for a CT/scan contrast. Which I have done. And then it seemed like she dropped me. By that I mean, no new appointment. Here I am a raw throat from her surgery and she passes me off to this radiologist. Maybe I want to find my own radiologist. But I will go Wed. and see what my CTscan said. Then I will be proactive and make my own decisions. The medical profession leaves a lot to be desired. I'm praying for a good outcome for you.

Sparroweye said...

And ps. I think it's your body. And taking your time with these decisions is the right way to go. My first boyfriend who I am in touch with now, a few years back had colon cancer and he is fine now. It can be treated. (this is what people tell me) (I know, it doesn't help much when it's you.)