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

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 RA care 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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • nstott
    2 months ago

    I am so sorry, Angela. About 8 years ago the wonderful rheumatologist who had treated me since my diagnosis 32 years before that retired. I had been one of his first patients and we had a great relationship. When he retired he referred me to one of his partners – someone he said he felt I would like and get along with well. He was right. I am lucky to have another great rheumatologist to listens and cares and is available to me. Is it possible your retiring rheumatologist could do this for you?

  • Connie11
    3 months ago

    I don’t wish to sound negative, but was your Rheumatologist still a fairly young person and his retirement was then more of a shock to you?
    My first visit cost AU$400. I can only imagine earning this in an hour would definitely help furnish an early retirement.
    To be honest, Ive gone back to a GP, because I found he gave me more support and trialled the exact same drugs. To which Ive experienced some awful side effects. GPS and Rheumatologists and labyrinth of testing aside, you can only alleviate pain and neither a rheumatologist or a Doctor prescribed the ONLY medicine that has worked for pain; CBD oil (without THC).
    Your rheumatologist retired because he made a fortune out of your and others RA misery and it’s accompanying pain.

  • Angela Lundberg author
    3 months ago

    Hi Connie,

    Thank you for reading my article and for your comment. No, my rheumatologist is NOT still fairly young. I have no idea his age, but I’d guess 60-something?

    I don’t think Dr. B greedily fleecing his patients for money is what hastened his retirement. Or making a “fortune” on my RA misery. Also, Rick is right (in his comment on this thread) and GPs cannot prescribe rheumatology medications here.You need a rheumatologist to do that. As far as I know, anyway. You really need to go to a specialist for care if you have RA or other chronic diseases. I see specialists for: my RA, endocrinology (I have thyroid nodules), dermatology, pain management (pain clinic), physical therapy, women’s health (ob/gyn). I’m probably missing some, actually (brain fog!).

    During the 12 years I was fortunate to see Dr. B for my RA care, I know that he was constantly over-worked, over-booked, and super BUSY. Yet despite this, he was ALWAYS patient and kind and caring towards me and took all the time in world with me if I needed it. As a doctor, he was an incredibly HARD WORKER who genuinely cared for his patients. He’s also well-known and respected in his field for being an excellent physician.

    I do understand where you’re coming from, I think, based on your comments. Living and struggling with RA and chronic pain for 22 years hasn’t been easy, and I’ve gotten into more “fights” with insurance companies and our broken healthcare system during these years than I care to admit. While I try hard to stay positive, I’m definitely a realist and a bit of a cynic and I think that in general healthcare costs here in the US are WAY TOO HIGH. And sometimes I do wonder and worry about the “motives” of some medical providers. Are they really in this line of work to help people or is it just about the money at the end of the day?

    Dr. B retiring was/is a shock to me because I guess I just naively assumed that he’d be with me forever (hello denial!). I didn’t even want to THINK about the possibility of needing to find a new rheumatologist. But…now I must! Life goes on, doctors retire or move on, yet my RA continues to stubbornly hang on, too.

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    3 months ago

    Connie,

    In the US, it is different. In a typical Rheumatologist practice in my area, the doctor makes about $40.00 per office visit. The medications are seldom prescribed by general practitioners. The specialty practices tend to operate in their own silos. It is rare that a GP in the US would prescribe highly specialized immunosuppressants. The fact is that most GP practices are very busy and while they may stray into diabetes a high cholesterol, it is very rare they have time or inclination to learn the ins and outs of the most complicated immunosuppressants.

    These are some of the biggest reasons that we have such a shortage of Rheumatologists in the US.

    rick -moderator

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    3 months ago

    Angela,

    I am sorry I thought I responded to your post. I apologize.

    My rheumatologist tells me his day is coming and despite the fact he has cut back on patients and is down to 3 1/2 days per week, I will be his last patient out the door. He is also a great guy and I will miss him the day he decides enough.

    We must remember we have to encourage more Rheumatologists, better pay from medicare and even our grateful appreciation.

  • Angela Lundberg author
    3 months ago

    Hi Rick!

    Thank you for your comments, as always. 🙂

    Yes yes…very true. We need MORE excellent rheumatologists to join the field of rheumatology and help those of us who are struggling from this miserable disease. Good rheumatologists are priceless!!

  • Kay
    3 months ago

    This made me cry, both for you and thinking that’s exactly how I’d be if my wonderful kind and caring doctor left or retired. It’s funny, until now I felt he’d be there forever. I really do hope you can find someone who can fill his shoes.

  • Angela Lundberg author
    3 months ago

    Aww, thank you Kay. Appreciate it! 🙂

  • andic
    3 months ago

    I dread ever losong my rheumatologist! I have hrad hom for 13 years and he’s the man! The rheumatologist that oversaw his fellowship is my daughter’s rheumstologist at present; so we were both fortuate.
    My rheumy is cool. We not only discuss my RA/RD, we also talk about sports-a lot! We commisurate on our teams’ ups and downs (he’s a Pittsburgh sports fan, I’m Boston & NY fan). He got me on Xeljanz when my insurance woulldn’t pay for any injectibles and infusions would be a nighrmare because of my veins. My daughter said I was lucky for that. I can see hom when I need to in either of his offices in a pinch, which can come in handy.
    He’s just a nice human being who happens to be my “rheumy”!
    Love you Bob!
    BTW, my daughter’s rheumatologist said he’d take me if my present one messes up. Don’t hold your breath, Dr. K.! He’s doing just fine!

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator
    3 months ago

    That’s awesome, @andic! A good rheumatologist makes all the difference.

    I also have the best rheumatologist and I am so thankful he is my doctor. No one will ever fill his shoes if he chooses to retire.

    I thought you might like this article about a contributor’s great relationship with her rheumatologist: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/trials-finding-rheumatologist/

    Best, Monica

  • Kathi Brill
    3 months ago

    We just lost our Doctor 3 months ago. I wanted to die she was the one I trusted who listened I could tell her anything bam gone… Now who?? I cried I felt alone. Then the office called and told me to come inI met the new Doc who has all sorts of talent and including Our medicine and Eastern medicine. She understands RA and Lupus… OMG I got a Better Doctor!!! I hope you do to!

  • Angela Lundberg author
    3 months ago

    Hi Kathi,

    Thank you for your comments. I’m so glad that your new doctor is working out well for you! HOORAY! 🙂

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator
    3 months ago

    That’s awesome, Kathi @kathi758! I am so glad you found another awesome rheumatologist.

    I don’t even want to imagine the stress of losing a beloved doctor.

    You mentioned Eastern medicine. If you want ot share the forum is a great place to start a conversation on it. I am sure many community members are also interested in it. If you scroll all the way down you can start a new thread/topic: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/forum/natural-remedies-alternative-therapies/

    All the best, Monica

  • Cynthia Ventura moderator
    3 months ago

    My heart breaks for you Angela. I would react the same way if my wonderful rheumatologist retired. I remember back a number of years back when The Affordable Care Act first came out my terrific rheumatologist spoke about leaving the field. He was already seeing more than 30 patients a day and knew he could not take on more. I recall how just his mention of leaving had me stressed out and anxious, in tears. So I know your response is not overly dramatic or overblown but instead perfectly normal.

    Most of us have known a cold, uncaring, uncommitted or just plain terrible rheumy before experiencing the miracle of finding a dedicated, knowledgeable, caring and committed one. I know I have so the fear of searching for someone equal to him would be a devastating blow. Another loss as you describe.

    Our rheumatologists are more than just any other caregiver, they are very much like family. They know us sometimes better than our own biological family members. They share in the good, bad and ugly of our worst moments and the joy and celebration of our victories. They never give up on us despite weeks and often years of extreme health difficulties. They are in our corners when it seems everyone else has deserted us.

    Can Dr. Bryant recommend another rheumatologist? Are there other comparable rheumys in his practice? Perhaps if you post whereabouts you live someone on the forum can recommend someone.

    Once more Angela my heartfelt sorrow for your loss and prayers and best wishes that you quickly find another wonderful rheumatologist. One that is just as great as Dr. Bryant. Gentle hugs.

  • andic
    3 months ago

    I dread ever losong my rheumatologist! I have hrad hom for 13 years and he’s the man! The rheumatologist that oversaw his fellowship is my daughter’s rheumatologist at present; so we were both fortunate.
    My rheumy is cool. We not only discuss my RA/RD, we also talk about sports-a lot! We commisurate on our teams’ ups and downs (he’s a Pittsburgh sports fan, I’m Boston & NY fan). He got me on Xeljanz when my insurance woulldn’t pay for any injectibles and infusions would be a nighrmare because of my veins. My daughter said I was lucky for that. I can see hom when I need to in either of his offices in a pinch, which can come in handy.
    He’s just a nice human being who happens to be my “rheumy”!
    Love you Bob!
    BTW, my daughter’s rheumatologist said he’d take me if my present one messes up. Don’t hold your breath, Dr. K.! He’s doing just fine

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    3 months ago

    Mine is about to retire as well. I hate the thought that Dr. Neucks might leave his practice. Thankfully he is holding on for the moment though on a reduced schedule.

    I feel for you Angela.

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