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A Patient’s Guide to Managing Your Care When Moving Cities

PocketHealth's Marissa Myers, Patient Experience Representative with dog

By Marissa Myers

Marissa is a Patient Experience Representative at PocketHealth with a patient experience of her own.

Ever since surviving childhood cancer survivor, Marissa has made her health a priority well into adulthood. But when she moved from Toronto to Vancouver, her demanding care added an additional layer of stress to an already stressful life event, but she learned some essential tips along the way. She shares her story and offers advice to those going through the same challenges.

As a child, you don’t think cancer will ever affect you, but then you receive a diagnosis that changes your young life and your future. As a childhood cancer survivor, I received this diagnosis not once but twice, resulting in multiple stays in the hospital and multiple treatments during my childhood. Since I underwent chemotherapy and full body radiation, I am at a high risk of developing other types of cancers and health issues. 

Recently, I moved to BC, where I continue to make annual visits to my specialists. While my experience moving from a children’s hospital to an adult hospital was rocky, it was surprisingly less stressful than moving from Ontario to BC. Marissa as a childhood cancer patient in the hospital with toys

From my experience, I learned that moving goes well beyond the physical labor, the logistics and admin work are just as challenging in their own ways. First, you have to find a home or apartment, schedule movers, pack, coordinate installations of utilities such as wifi and much more. The biggest and most important task was finding doctors and medical specialists. For me, I can’t live just anywhere. There needs to be nearby hematologists/oncologists who specialize in my condition, which limits me to cities and large metropolitan areas with well-established research hospitals.

If you’re like me and your health condition requires frequent monitoring or you’re undergoing treatment, here are some tips I have when moving to a different city:

#1: Ask your current specialists/doctors if they can refer you to someone. 

When I told my Ontario doctors I was moving to BC, they immediately referred me to their colleagues. I also found specialists through the LEAF (Late Effects, Assessment & Follow-Up) program which is a resource I found through the BC Cancer Agency. Before I finalized my decision, I researched different specialists and programs in Vancouver to give me an idea of all the services available in the area.

When you’re doing your own research, make sure to list down the names of facilities and doctors, then ask your current providers if they have heard of them. 

#2: Ensure all your records are sent to your new physicians.

When I moved from a children’s hospital to an adult cancer center, it was an adjustment. I saw the same specialists for almost ten years and they knew every little detail about my health history. When I showed up for my first appointment at the cancer center, it was like the first day at a new school- trying to figure out where to go, introducing myself and giving my whole story to people I just met. 

Then, I had to really backtrack and recount what occurred after my bone marrow transplant because they had no record of that on file. 

To be safe, I recommend having all your records stored in one place, just in case your doctor’s office does not receive all your info. That way, you can easily share your records and ensure they’re up-to-date. 

I found PocketHealth most useful in situations where there were gaps in my history. You can upload Health Records (blood work results, doctor’s notes, list of prescriptions, etc.) on your account to keep them stored in one place. If you wrote your own notes during an appointment, you can also upload them under Health Records. 

#3: Show up prepared for your first appointment with your new specialist.

Before my appointments, I made sure to list everything they would need to know, just in case they did not have the information with them. When I met with them virtually, however, I immediately felt relieved by how much of my history they already had on file. They also discussed all of the future tests that I will be having and how often. 

My anxiety regarding my health decreased tremendously after the doctors took the time to not only explain the facets of my condition, but also take careful consideration of my whole history. They were being thorough and in terms of my physical health, no stone was left unturned.

Have your PocketHealth account open with your records/notes (whether on your phone during an in-person visit or on your computer during a Telehealth call), have questions ready and take a deep breath. First appointments with new doctors can be nerve wracking, however, it is the first step to building your new relationship with your doctor and making a plan for your health. The ability to store imaging records and to upload other health records will not only be helpful in the future, but will cause you less stress during your move!

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