Cancer Lessons from a Five-Time Survivor: How to Pick Your Cancer Care Team

Kim Potts shares some advice based on her experience as a spouse of a five-time cancer survivor.

By Bill C. Potts

Once diagnosed with cancer, picking the cancer care team is one of the most important decisions you will make in your cancer journey. You must find your cancer’s experts. You must pick your care team. It is a big team. Picking the team is a big step in owning your cancer journey.

Assembling the Medical Care Team

You will need to decide where to go for the management and treatment of your cancer. First, ask for recommendations from your Primary Care Physician. Then, do your homework. As stated in the previous article, a great first start is visiting NCI Designated Cancer Centers and searching for National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Centers. These are high-volume cancer centers. 

The benefits of a high-volume cancer center include expertise in your type of cancer, access to clinical trials, doctors who specialize in your type and sub-type of cancer, more treatment options, the best equipment, and speed in providing second opinions. The high-volume cancer centers also have a wide range of support services, including financial, housing, travel, and social worker support. An NCI-Designated Cancer Center treated five of my six cancers. My only mistake was not going to a high-volume cancer center with my first cancer, as the small, for-profit local oncologist I used misdiagnosed the return of that cancer.   

I traveled once from Tampa to Houston’s NCI-Designated Cancer Center, MD Anderson, twenty-three times in twenty-four months. As MD Anderson is an expert in my version of lymphoma, the travel was worth the effort, as I was in a clinical trial using immunotherapy. A treatment that saved my life three times! 

In addition to your oncologist, your care team will include another set of medical professionals to assist in managing the side effects of treatments. My team consists of an eye doctor, a cardiologist, a dermatologist, a nutritionist, a dietician, and a Primary Care Physician. While coordinating information between them is challenging, I utilize the online portals of each of these teams to update them on my health issues.

Selecting Your Non-Medical Care Team

An outside support team is critical, too, and will make a massive difference in the cancer fight. Non-medical care team members include professional non-medical in-home caregivers. One of my mistakes has been not using services like SYNERGY HomeCare for cancers #1-5. For my future cancer battles, I will and here’s why.   

  • SYNERGY HomeCare can help me get to and from appointments and treatments and sit with me during many of them. 
  • SYNERGY HomeCare can help me at home by providing companion or respite care and giving my wife a break so that she can live a life outside of caring for me. 
  • SYNERGY HomeCare can coach me on how to keep my home safe. A safety audit would have prevented me from falling down the stairs twice during my last rounds of chemotherapy. 
  • SYNERGY HomeCare can assist with meal preparation, even ensuring I take my meds.

The mental part of treatment can be as challenging as the physical part, so it is vital to line up mental health support from professional therapists, faith leaders and support groups.

A lawyer is another part of the cancer team. Wills, living wills, and medical power of attorney are documents to complete before treatment starts. I have created a “just in case” file for my family, full of information like social media passwords, access to bank accounts, what to do with my belongings, and other information they will need – “just in case.”

Building a relationship with your health insurance provider will vastly improve your journey. Most health insurance companies will provide a nurse or other staff member to assist you in navigating this part of the business of cancer. Upon diagnosis, call them and ask for this support. My health insurance team has provided valuable assistance, including getting scans approved. 

Your non-medical care team also includes family and friends, who are significantly impacted by your cancer diagnosis. The following article will advise how to support others during the cancer journey. 

Bill C. Potts is the author of “Up for the Fight: How to Advocate For Yourself as You Battle Cancer, from a Five-Time Survivor.” Bill has a wife, Kim, and three kids, Nicholas, Anna and Sarah. His dog, Pippa, is constantly by his side. Bill is an entrepreneur, IRONMAN athlete, motivational speaker, and author—more on Bill at


For more information on caring for a loved one, download SYNERGY HomeCare’s free Cancer Care guide for family caregivers.

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