BY YOLANDA BRUNSON-SARRABO Managing your myeloma diagnosis can be one of the most stressful day-to-day experience to deal with, whether the treatment appointments, follow-up, and labs; it can be trying. To get a grip on everything it’s always a good idea to have a datebook to chart and recall what must be done in managing your situation. On top of focusing on myeloma have you thought about meeting your other health needs? It’s funny but sometimes no one stresses the importance of still working with your other doctors that maintain the other aspects of your health. You would think one goes hand in hand, but it does not. Some people adopt their oncologist as their one and only healthcare provider, which is not the case. It’s so easy to get stuck with this misconception of just dealing with an oncologist, but the fact of the matter is your oncologist may not hold all the answers to other things that may be happening to you besides multiple myeloma. Oftentimes, we think that because we see a team daily or weekly that they can diagnose or prescribe meds for other ailments. What I’ve learned is that it takes a village of doctors to walk you through a full and productive health checklist. It’s very important to be on point and be fully active in getting your full check-ups, as well as informing everyone that you are dealing with that you have multiple myeloma. Here’s a list of doctors that are a must in your myeloma checklist journey:
- General Practitioner
- Gynecologist (female patients)
The GP is very needed as the go to for general problems that may arise. When you are afflicted with a cold or flu, which is a norm for those with chronic conditions, it's important to have a relationship in place. While they won't treat your disease, they are definitely part of this structured team in calling things out and being a strong extension of your team. When I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, it was actually my GP that zoned in that something was wrong based on protein levels of my blood work. Dentist Keeping up with the care of your teeth and gums is a given. The medicines that are part of your treatment cocktail for myeloma may affect your teeth, and having a dentist in your network that will work with you along the way on how to avoid specific situations while on treatment is a necessity. If you’re taking the bone strengthener Zometa, it can detrimental for those who need major dental work while on treatment. Once you find a dentist you’re comfortable with it is very important to mention you’re a myeloma patient with a list of medications you’re taking. I had my first root canal last year, and the process of treatment took a few left turns, yet if I’d been on Zometa my story may have been even dire. A good dentist is a must! Ophthalmologist An Ophthalmologist is key when ensuring your vision is normal, or if there are any changes when taking the steroids that are key in treatment. The meds such as Dexamethasone may change your vision. Once your Ophthalmologist is aware of the meds you take, they’ll work with your further to stay on top of any future left turns. I see my Ophthalmologist twice a year, and he tests my eyes fully. We both record and discuss any major or minor noticeable changes since being treated with myeloma. Podiatrist Myeloma treatment affects the feet and legs for many people; whether its neuropathy, changes with the bottom of your feet or other call outs – having a podiatrist who can pinpoint any other important issues when it comes to your feet is important. Otolaryngologist A good ear, nose, throat doctor is definitely part of this village, having these pointers properly observed is necessary. The thyroid in most people may be affected and working with this type of specialist is very necessary. Dermatologist There may be visible changes that affect the skin. Usually Velcade shots leave a circular stain from treatment that goes away in time once Velcade is stopped. Acyclovir is normally prescribed for shingles or offset the possibility. There may be visible changes to the skin that occur from treatment, reviewing any skin changes is a good idea when working with your dermatologist. Gynecologist (Ladies) A gynecologist is still an important care provider for women .Although you worry about myeloma, we must not lose sight in being on top of other exams – especially mammograms. Also, many women who have chemo or Carfilzomib as their treatment may be affected with early menopause, and this is something you may want to discuss with your Gynecologist - what is the norm and what is not? Cardiologist Some of the medications used to treat multiple myeloma can stress the heart. Carfilzomib has a positive outcome for most people, yet it can raise one's blood pressure. Treatment usually requires hydration before the medication is applied to prepare the heart accordingly. My cardiologist is a key component in my village of doctors. I want to make sure if we can foresee problems it’s done early rather later with the help of stress test, echocardiogram, and whatever else is needed to be on top of any possible problems. There may be other doctors not mentioned that are just as important, but these are the top to have in your back pocket as you prepare for your new life; you need more than your myeloma oncologist to properly assess your situation.
about the author
Myeloma survivor, patient advocate, wife, mom of 6. Believer that patients can help accelerate a cure by weighing in and participating in clinical research. Founder of HealthTree Foundation (formerly Myeloma Crowd).