With every diagnosis, there’s a team…

…of specialist practitioners that come together and integrate their expertise. And there is a period after the diagnosis when you helplessly wonder, “Where do I start? What do I need? How do I find the best people who will get me through this?” and so on. Then you start soliciting your doctors, friends and acquaintances for references to find anyone who can “fix this”. You spend hours online looking up doctor names, methods, remedies, terminology, facilities, on and on. You hear tons of stories of other peoples’ experiences, call and schedule appointments, get second opinions, research more, learn more, and decide on the team. Then you put your head down and go!


In 2012, was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Matt and I in LA, and my parents in Portland mined our resources and came up with a team at St. John’s Hospital in California. There was:

1)   A gastroenterologist who did the diagnoses and referrals to the other diagnostic exams and to the medical team

2)   A surgeon who would remove the cancer

3)   The radiology oncologist who formulated the radiation treatment and calibrated the Big Machine

4)   The medical oncologist who formulated the chemotherapy and monitored the blood readings.


So, that’s at least four individuals who would get me from diagnosis to remission.


The team, in my opinion, was excellent. Their offices were in the same hospital, they knew each other and worked together all the time, they all knew where their part ended and the others’ began, each great people with highly expert credentials in their field – just what I wanted! It was very secure structure for me, a first-time cancer patient who was caught off guard in an unfamiliar town. I felt very lucky.


Fast forward a few years to the recent liver metastases diagnosis. I had not bothered to change oncologists when Matt and I relocated to Portland because I only needed someone who could analyze and keep track of quarterly blood test results and alert me if anything alarming appeared in them. I was on a 5-year plan to maintain quarterly blood tests, annual colonoscopies and CT scans. I found a GI doctor who would perform the colonoscopies and order my scans.


The medical oncologist in California dropped the ball and did not keep track of me or my tests. I missed an early warning four months ago in May, and was very alarmed with the August test results. Again a cancer diagnosis caught me off guard. Matt and I find ourselves in a very similar place as two years ago, scrambling to find the qualified and capable team of specialists for this particular cancer.


The dream team for the current liver cancer episode would include:

1)   A gastroenterologist who diagnosed and ordered the other diagnostic exams

2)   A naturopathic physician who referred me to:

3)   A naturopathic oncologist who is expert in helping my body’s strength and pluck during the chemo and surgical treatments, and ongoing needs afterward

4)   A medical oncologist who will formulate and direct the chemotherapy regimen

5)   A surgeon specializing in the liver who will remove the cancer


Tomorrow morning Matt and I will meet with the first of two surgeons for strategies to remove the liver nodules. The second opinion will be next Wednesday. Way too long to wait, in my humble opinion! Hopefully a surgery date will come up within the next two weeks. I’ve met with one medical oncologist, one naturopathic oncologist, and will meet a second medical oncologist later in September.


Each day has its ups and downs. We are staying very busy and taking it easy when we need. Although it’s been a lot of work, I feel good about what I’ve accomplished so far.


Thank you to everyone for the lovely thoughts and offers of help.

Leave a comment


  1. Mary

     /  September 13, 2014

    How were you able to find a naturopathic oncologist that your chemo oncologist worked well with? My fiancé’s story is similar to yours and our chemo oncologist has said he can’t take any supplements during treatment. I would appreciate any advice you have! I hope you are healthy again!

    • cancer4me

       /  September 13, 2014

      Boy, I’m working on that part, Mary! Thanks for asking, and I’ve heard similar cautions in the past. One of my requirements is that the naturopathic oncologist will be working *with* the team, and therefore the team will need to have an open attitude, as much as possible so that they will communicate without any difficulty. That’s why I am interviewing 2-3 different medical oncologists. Dr Panutich is very familiar with all the standard chemotherapies and cancer treatments. She has specifically studied complementary treatments for before, during and after surgery and chemotherapies, to help the body with tolerance and recovery. Please feel free to email me directly michelle.dennis@me.com so we can keep in touch. I’m sorry to hear about your fiance’s illness. Matt & I were 3 years into dating when the first diagnosis happened.

  2. Raizie Axman

     /  September 10, 2014

    Michelle, Michael and are really bummed to hear you are dealing with another cancer challenge! Considering how difficult this must be for you and Matt it is obvious that you are on top of things and know the steps to take to get the ‘machinery’ of medicine moving. You already found out that you have a lot of perseverance and courage. From your blog you seem to also know how to find humor in the situation Between those 3 traits we believe you will dominate this threat. Let me know when it’s time for the Chicken soup and Matza Balls!

    • cancer4me

       /  September 13, 2014

      Hi Raizie! Oh Matza Balls soup sounds wonderful! I know that will have some super regenerating power! Please let me know if this will work for you!

  3. Im so glad you are taking a systematic approach, using western and complimentary medicine, and getting second opinions. You remain in my thoughts and prayers xo

    • cancer4me

       /  September 13, 2014

      Thanks Jana! Yeah! It’s a long-time, deeply entrenched philosophy. Take care of your body and it will take care of you. 🙂


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