A couple days ago, I wrote about a diagnosis I recently received from my doctor. After reading this and talking to some coworkers today, I realized that my story is much longer than just the past month.
Two of my coworkers and I were discussing doctors not listening to us when we talk about symptoms we are having. One of their uncles was just diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, mainly because he ignored his symptoms until he couldn’t any longer. The other was saying that she had gone to several doctors before her cancer was properly diagnosed. One doctor she went to listened to her symptoms and then had the nerve to take her hands in his, stroke them gently, and tell her that she was just so stressed out and needed to relax more.
This all took me back to all the years between my teen years and now. Every doctor I’ve been to for physicals (and there have been a few since I’ve lived in quite a few different areas over the years) has heard my symptoms and has known that there were “issues” with my health. Because no one ever said anything about the symptoms I gave, I assumed I was just normally abnormal or something and gave it no further thought. I am now 30 years old, and I’ve more than likely had this issue since my early teen years (12 or 13), given the symptoms I have. Think about how long it is that I’ve seen doctor after doctor through the years and not one has ever discussed my symptoms with me. Not one.
“I think some doctors don’t really listen to women when they feel something is wrong,” I said to my coworkers.
They both nodded.
“Okay, but listen to this,” I replied. I then told them about this new doctor I was going to. She was recommended to me by one of our school nurses (who goes to her), and I immediately set up an appointment to establish with her as soon as our insurance switched over to include her (which is why I had to wait until January).
I walked into her office and said, “Here I am. Here is my medical history. Here is my family’s medical history. Here are the things definitely wrong with me. Here are some symptoms I’ve had for years. Here are…”
“Wait a minute.” My doctor made me pause in my list of things that doctors have always asked and I’ve always answered. “These are your symptoms?”
“Ummmm…yeah. These are my symptoms.”
“Well, that’s not normal or right. I don’t like that. Let’s do something about it. Based on what you’ve told me, it could be this or this or this or this. Let’s do blood tests to see if it is any of those. I think, personally, that it is this#4, so I’m also going to order an ultrasound for you. Here’s what will happen at that appointment. If it is that, we really need to get your weight down, but it will be hard to lose weight. Here are some things you can do to work on that.”
“What about my feet?”
“That’s next on my list. Here is a doctor you can go see for your feet. He’s here on Tuesdays, so you’ll get in next Tuesday to see him. We’ll get your feet better and then you can get to work on exercising more.”
“Yay!” I yelled. (Not really, but my insides yelled, “Yay,” for me. I’m ready to get out and do things again.)
“Okay, when will I know more?” I really said.
“We’ll get back to you as soon as we have the ultrasound results.”
“If it is this#4, which I really think it is, then we’ll need to do treatment for it. Are you planning to have children, or have you been trying to get pregnant?”
“No. We don’t want children,” I assured her.
“Okay, that makes treatment a bit easier on you. Here are your options: Options, options, options, options…”
“Hmmm…I don’t really like one of those options.”
“Well, we’ll discuss that more if we need to. I just want you to know what might be coming up and think about it, okay?”
I left, made all the appointments, did the blood tests, had the ultrasounds done (have you ever drunk 36 oz of water in just about 10 minutes? If not, I don’t recommend it. You’ll be going to the bathroom for the rest of the day, and five minutes later, you’ll still feel as though you have to return to the facilities to pee again), and waited.
Two days after the ultrasound, someone from the doctor’s office called me.
“We have your test results. As the doctor suggested, it is this diagnosis. This blood test was high and the ultrasound showed what she figured it would. Combined with the other symptoms you’ve been having, here are your treatment options for the diagnosis: Options, options, options, options…,” the nurse said.
“Well…what about this last option? Here are a bunch of questions about it that I don’t understand. I don’t like any of the other options, but I’d like to know more about this one.”
“Hmmmmm…,” she said, “I’m not sure about that. Let me look it up. Ummmm…I can’t find it. Those are all very good questions, but I can’t find the information to give you. Hmmmm… Uhh… Oh! Look! The doctor is standing right here. She wants to talk to you!”
“Oh! Okay!” I am bewildered. I’ve never talked to my doctor on the phone before. I’ve worked with a lot of medical facilities with my jobs, and I can tell you freaking hard it is to talk to a doctor when you have legitimate business with them, let alone just to get your own freaking doctor on the phone for a question. Usually you ask for the doctor’s nurse and leave a message, praying that they really do ask the doctor your question and get back to you.
“Hello, jess!” my doctor said. “Did the nurse give you the test results?”
“Yes, she did.”
“I’d like to go over them again in case you have questions. Here are all of your result again. Here are your options again as well. Why didn’t you like the other options?”
“Well, here are the reasons for that.”
“Have you tried this or this or this or this?”
“Yes, yes, yes, and yes.”
“Hmmm…okay, let’s not go with that option then. Here is the best other option.”
“Yes, I had questions about that. Question, question, question?” I ask her.
“Oh, those are great questions to ask. Here are the answers. How do you feel about this option now?”
“I feel much better about it. How about we try this one and see how it goes?”
“Certainly, I’ll get that called over for you. I also want to see you in six months, no later, to check in with you and to see how you’re doing. We’ll also just see how the weight loss is going, just to keep track and keep accountability on that. You’ll have seen the other doctor by then, so hopefully you’ll be gaining ground on that, too, with your feet better,” she said.
“Okay, then. Thank you!”
“Don’t forget to come see me again in six months!”
(Don’t you love how specific I’m being? heheh)
I have never had a doctor who listened to my symptoms so closely and immediately zoned in on things that were happening. I’ve never had a hint that I had this disorder from any other doctor, even though I’ve had the symptoms most of my life. I’ve been told in the past that some of the symptoms were just due to stress from this or that or the other, or that they weren’t really symptoms of anything.
I’ve had doctors I’ve liked in the past, but I’ve never had a doctor I trusted this much or one that I truly felt really wanted me to be in the best health I can be in. Even the sports medicine doctor she sent me to was similar in that he listened to my symptoms, what I’d already done to alleviate the pain at all, and then gave me my options and told me what he thought about each. No nonsense and with a “let’s get this taken care of!” attitude.
One of my coworkers asked me for my doctor’s name and her practice location, because she wants to establish with her as well. I immediately wrote down her information and passed it on. I’m paying it forward, I guess, since another coworker suggested my doctor to me. Since this kind seems to be rare, I’m willing to pass patients on to her, because I know she’ll listen to them and actually take care of their health.
Doctors like this shouldn’t be so rare. Women shouldn’t be patted on the hand or the back or the head and told that their symptoms aren’t really symptoms of anything, so don’t worry your pretty little head, lady. Medical care shouldn’t be such a crap shoot.