After going to so many different specialists in my area I had grown weary of finding anyone who could tell me what was going on in my body. It wasn’t until I was sitting in a waiting room in Mount Auburn Hospital that I was finally given the gift of an accurate diagnosis so I would know what to expect and how to handle the symptoms and seasons that would come next. I remember the day of my diagnosis. I was in shock, denial, full of anxiety, nervousness, and fear. I didn’t understand why or what I had. I would need a whole year to finally accept it, but there was one person who made that day and that year the best experience I could have had during such a crazy time: the right doctor. Kathryn Wang was my superhero in a white lab coat. She was attentive to my every request, thorough in her examination and patient in my denial. She carried a comfort and compassion I couldn’t replace or replicate in any other office. She was my like partner in fighting Muscular Dystrophy.
Though I started with Dr. Wang, our time was short lived as she moved to another hospital and my insurance no longer covered her services. I was heartbroken, but I knew that I could still find the care I needed minus the one of a kind experience I had with her. Since then, I have found wonderful doctors, but few like Dr. Wang. They are not as warm, thorough or patient as she was and I have learned to deal with that…until I was able to reconnect with Dr. Wang.
One day, while scrolling online reviews of doctors in my area, I found a doctor with her exact name. Hopeful that there weren’t that many Kathryn Wang Had my doctor write the referral and scheduled the appointment. It made my day. I was uber excited just to see the doctor. With her, I always get a full examination. She doesn’t leave anything out. If I ask, she will do it. She showed me exercises to compliment what I learned at physical therapy. She just really cared. She gave me her email and let me contact her at any time.
I just feel so excited that we are able to reconnect. When she came in she said, “Keisha! I saw your name and couldn’t believe it.”
I share this story to help you identify a few key traits of a great doctor. Having the right support medically can be the difference in your quality of treatment, recovery, and experience. I recommend looking for the following when evaluating a potential doctor:
- First, are they thorough? What I loved about Dr. Wang from day one was her insisting that we do every possible test to figure out what was happening with my body. Not every doctor will go through the trouble to do that.
- Second, do you have a connection with them? This doesn’t happen with every doctor, but I what I missed the most about having Dr. Wang as my doctor was our connection. I always had the feeling that she truly cared about me as a person and not just as another patient. That connection may look or feel different for every person, but we all know when we click with another person. Identify those things you need to see (compassion, patience, consideration, thoroughness etc.) and make sure you’re comfortable with your choice.
- Lastly, are they willing to direct you to others when necessary? This isn’t something you will necessarily be able to ask or know about until something requires the conversation, but what I loved about Dr. Wang was that after she diagnosed me, she sent me for a second opinion to her mentor. Her mentor (the doctor who trained her) ended up becoming my doctor as Dr. Wang moved, and I couldn’t have been more grateful for her humility and consideration to make sure I was in very good hands when she left.
All this to say, I’m not a medical professional and this is not an exhaustive list of what to look for, but these are traits that I have been blessed to experience while working with Dr. Wang and other doctors. I hope that you can use these qualities to find the right doctor to help you navigate chronic illness one day at a time.
October symbolizes a number of pressing issues that everyone needs to be actively engaged in understanding, addressing, preventing to include domestic violence awareness, bullying prevention and breast cancer awareness month. Being aware is one side of the story, but having a loved one go through breast cancer is what gave me a new motivation for advocating and staying informed in the month of October and throughout the year.
2013, was the year it all happened.
My mom went to get a routine mammogram, saw a small lump and out of precaution, her doctor recommended she get a biopsy just to make sure it was nothing more than a cyst. It was that test to led to a few more that told us what no woman, mother or daughter wants to hear: it was stage 1 cancer. That year really rocked my world as my mom would now be fighting something neither of us could have imagined. Luckily, the cancer was just stage 1 meaning that it had not spread to other parts of her body. Even though it was a treatable stage of cancer, it still had me on pins and needles as any daughter would be – especially when your mom is your best friend. I just wanted her cancer to be gone. Thankfully, because her cancer was caught early on, she had the option of chemo or radiation at a hospital here in Boston. I went with her every day Monday through Friday early in the mornings to complete her treatments. I remembered how she looked tired afterward, but we both knew that each day of treatment meant another day of beating cancer.
On top of that, my mom had a kidney disease at the time of her cancer diagnosis. Thankfully, it came and went. She later got a kidney transplant. It was just a scary time, waking up crying, going online researching every stage, always worried. Cancer in different forms runs in my family, but every diagnosis has been its own journey. The thought of not having my mother made me question my own existence. I wouldn’t know how to exist. I’m a mommy’s girl at 33. The bond that we have is super strong. I wouldn’t know how to function without her. We talk every day morning or evening. She wants to make sure she hears my voice every day. That year was one of our most difficult seasons.
As a daughter, all I could do was be her biggest ally. I was made every effort to be as supportive, comforting, and distracted her with every chance I could get. I found that laughter and intentionally keeping her preoccupied helped to keep and my mind off of the diagnosis on more on fighting back by living life to the fullest while getting the treatment that she needed. It now seems like a dream almost. It was the Cancer that came and went so fast that I have to think hard about what year it was, how long it’s been and what day it all happened.
As you support those you may know who are battling or have battled cancer in the past, rally around them. Let them know you care. Call them, visit them and remind them that they are not fighting this battle for healing and recovery alone.
I couldn’t be more thrilled that my mom made it through her diagnosis, treatment, and recovery from breast cancer. One day I was the supporter, the nurse, the ally, and now, as my MD develops, I need her more than ever.