There’s no Zagat rating for Cancer treatment centers, oh no! After you swallow the big “I have cancer” gulp, choosing where to go for treatment is your biggest hurdle. Not a high jumper, you are about to become one. My best advice is to cast a wide net, but where do you start?
A dear friend gave me great advice. She said, ”make appointments everywhere, call, call, call, and then cancel the ones you don’t want later”. So, I did just that.
First, determine what you are looking for. Is your cancer common and treatable just about anywhere (lucky you)? Is an experienced surgeon key to your survival? If yes, ideally, get a doctor that only does this procedure. If there are several treatment options, go to someone with knowledge about chemo alone, chemo with immunotherapy, immunotherapy alone or something completely unique. I called teaching hospitals (affiliated with a university), regular hospitals and for-profit treatment centers that advertise on TV.
Second, start asking questions. You should be able to speak to a nurse or a patient representative who can answer some of your questions. When I say make appointments everywhere, that’s because most places want you to come see the doctor, rather than speaking over the phone. Honestly, I just told them that I needed to make my decision within 2 weeks and it was impossible to fly all over the USA going to appointments when we can just do a preliminary chat on the phone. In addition, I got on the hospital’s website and emailed doctors and nurses directly.
You will be happy to see the pieces of your puzzle starting to come together naturally. If the center does not take your type of insurance, they may not be a fit. If they can’t get you in for an appointment and won’t talk to you on the phone, they may not be a fit. If they say they don’t really specialize in your condition, they may not be a fit. If you cannot easily travel there or pick up and move there temporarily, they may not be a fit.
Pick the appointments you want to keep and cancel the others. Go meet these doctors and their team. They are your new best friends and you need to feel comfortable with them. Together with you, they will save your life.