Distraught woman sitting on doctors examination room while the doctor leaves the room after telling her that they're retiring.

It's Hard to Say Goodbye

During my last appointment with my rheumatologist, I received some bad and shocking news. Well, I wasn't that shocked, since I've been dreading this in the back of my mind for the past few years. Still, it was upsetting and knocked me completely off-guard: my rheumatologist of 12 years is retiring.

Getting the news of his retirement

I sat next to Dr. B. in the exam room as he began to break the news to me, and my heart sank as I heard the words come out of his mouth: "I need to let you know that I'll be retiring next month." I threw my head back and cried a high-pitched, "NOOOOOOOO!!!" It was a gut reaction, and I tried to disguise the drama of it by laughing and making it out to be a joke.

This was hard news to receive

But in reality, I really did want to yell and cry and throw a little tantrum. Losing this wonderfully patient, kind, intelligent, knowledgeable, and respectful partner who's been a crucial member of my RAcare team for over a decade is a major blow. It's also exhausting and depressing to think about starting over again with someone new.

I think I exclaimed a pitiful "Nooo!" a couple more times, accompanied by a sad, pained look on my face as he continued to give me the "retirement talk." No, no, no, no! I kept thinking as I listened to him say that he was glad he got to see me one more time before he left. I felt tears begin to prick my eyes. 

My rheumatologist was always there for me

Sitting there on that hard plastic chair, waves of emotion washed over me as I thought about all we had been through together during those 12 years. All of the flare-ups, medications, infusions, injections, surgeries, tests, X-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds, physical therapy, side effects, office visits, lab work, successes, failures, and questions that he always patiently answered. All of the hopes and goals and worries and tears. All of the pain.

For several years during that time span, I contacted him more than I did my primary care doctor. He was my main go-to, the provider I could always count on. But Dr. B wasn't just a doctor. He was a source of support and stability in my life when everything else felt like chaos.

Processing my rheumatologist's retirement

The "retirement talk" came at the very end of my appointment and, after he shook my hand and I tried my best to thank him for everything he's done for me, he left the room. As soon as the door closed, fat wet tears rolled down my cheeks. Then the nurse came back in and I really lost it, cry-talking and stammering about how upset I was.

Grateful to have been under the care of my rheumatologist

Feeling silly and ridiculous, I tried to laugh off my heightened emotional state, but the tears kept coming. Someone who knows me and my RA for so many years is leaving. It's yet another loss to cope with, although I am incredibly grateful that I was lucky to be his patient and receive his care. He also "saved" me, in a sense, from the horrible rheumatologist I got stuck with during the first 10 years of having the disease. I've always been grateful for this, too.

It's hard to say goodbye

After the nurse finished up and left me with a box of Kleenex to compose myself, I suddenly felt like I needed to say goodbye one more time. Dr. B. has always been extremely respectful and the utmost professional with me; he's not one of those affectionate, gregarious types of doctors. So I worried a little that he would think I was nuts if I tried to track him down. But then I decided, who cares?!

I stood up, opened the door, and peered into the hallway hoping to catch a glimpse of him. I stood there uncertainly for a few moments and then BINGO! There he was, stepping out of a different exam room. He saw me as I waved my hand and called out, "Oh! Sorry! One more thing..."

"Yes, sure, what is it?" Dr. B. asked, as he walked toward me.

"Um...can I give you a hug?"

We hugged goodbye, I thanked him again, and I said that I'll miss him.

"I'll miss you, too," he said.

I squeaked out another "goodbye!" as we parted. Then I quickly left the clinic, with red eyes and a blotchy face, and sat in my car and cried a little more. When you have a chronic illness such as RA, finding a kind, patient doctor who works with you and truly listens is a rare and invaluable thing.

Dr. Bryant, I will really miss you.

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