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Life at the intersection of health and mental health: My best care experiences

March 4, 2014
by Sue Bergeson
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My best care experiences in my cancer journey so far have been in my gynecological cancer doctor’s office and with my oncological radiologist’s office.  Let me tell you a little bit about these wonderful people and systems…

My uterine cancer doctor’s office welcomed me warmly and each time I retuned, they remembered my name and greeted me. Their office was not as plush and relaxing as some (it looked a little ragged and careworn, actually) but it was friendly. When I met with my doctor for the first time he was overwhelmingly nice, gentle, sweet, and concerned. He connected with me as a person and asked me about myself. He told me about himself, reassured me, and promised me he would do his very best. Ironically I had been warmed by other doctors that he was brusque and that I had to ignore his bedside manner. What I actually saw in his interaction with patients was nothing but kindness. His interactions with healthcare professionals were not as gentle (I heard him interact with many of them as we went into surgery and during my hospital stay afterwards).

That day, I met with a nurse educator who gave me a range of information about uterine cancer and a detailed checklist about how to prepare for surgery and what to expect afterwards. She spent at least 45 minutes with me and provided me with a detailed set of written materials along with additional written suggestions that she tucked into the folder. I walked away feeling very reassured and ready for this – my first ever surgery.

My oncological radiologist was also wonderful. She was funny and down to earth. She spoke to me as if I were an intelligent person and not a slightly stupid child (that slightly stupid child communication is what I am used to in most healthcare situations. I never understand that tone and presentation – do I look or act stupid?). We talked about the procedure in detail; she talked about side effects, diet, and a whole range of things. They took my photograph and added it to my file.

When I showed up for treatment, her staff knew who I was and greeted me by name. I did not have to sign in, they just waved at me and noted in the system that I was there. I was shown to an amazingly comfortable room and told to change, was offered fresh coffee, books, and magazines. There were hand-knitted hats in a basket we could take home as needed for those of us who had lost our hair to chemo before the radiation. When the tech came to get me for treatment he looked right at me and called me by name – he knew who I was.

During the first part of the treatment, the tech (and they always assigned me to the same person) had me in a large room with an enormous piece of equipment. He moved me around in awkward and uncomfortable ways but throughout this period he asked me about myself, shared pieces of his life, made jokes, and really treated me like a human being.

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Sue Bergeson

Serves as the Vice President of Consumer and Family Affairs for a large managed care company

@@BergesonSue

Sue Bergeson is a behavioral health consumer and a family member of behavioral health consumers...