Fact: primary care providers are essential in the life of the cancer survivor.
Fact: medical education does not speak to the potential late effects of cancer treatment and appropriate screenings across time.
Fact: we, survivors, have a tendency to feel safe [and] secure under the umbrella of our oncologists; however, our oncologists have a tendency to focus solely on our cancer at the expense of our primary healthcare needs as we age.
If your cancer treatment summary is the little black dress of your survivorship wardrobe, then a primary care provider is the string of pearls around your neck.
Truth: I have not seen an oncologist in 35 years which was 2 years after I was given my last dose of chemotherapy. I grew up as [a well child, a well teenager, a well young adult, a well individual], and I believe, I am ALL the better for it as I never viewed myself as chronically ill.
Truth: I find myself reluctant to step out from under my PCP’s care unless it is absolutely necessary which, to be quite candid it, usually isn’t. I will admit to you that my internist is second to none.
She is the head coach of my healthcare team [and] we utilize our special teams [if/when] we need to do so. Forgive the football analogy, but I LOVE football (Gator Nation; Steelers Nation).
She knows me.
She knows my history.
She knows my risk factors.
She respects that I know my body.
She not only cares for me, but she also cares about me.
She approaches my care with an attitude of humility and grace that allows her to know the limits of her expertise.
She is my advocate [and] we are truly partners with regard to my health and wellbeing.
Like I said, she is second to none.
Survivors, we need PCP’s who are focused on prevention with a healthy respect of the potential late effects we are at risk for across our lives.
Again, you want a PCP who will partner with you on the screening for late effects; a PCP who will be responsible without being overly vigilant; a PCP who cares for you [and] about you. A PCP who knows the limits of his/her expertise. A PCP who is invested in your wellness.
I live a life-full [and] I am hope-full with a vision for my future.
I fully intend to watch my grandchildren grow up: BOOM!
It is possible to find such doctors and nurse practitioners; they are out there though it may take some time in interviewing.
Further Reading: Creating a Multidisciplinary Healthcare Dream Team.