Health and Fitness

Sometimes it’s time to wake up and break up: ‘dating’ doctors and a proactive healthcare approach

They should really write an “It’s called a break up because it’s broken” book about doctors. Sometimes all the signs are there and for some reason we stick around. This guy clearly doesn’t care about me. He never returns my calls. Is he even listening to me right now?! Is he FACEBOOKING?! You don’t have to be in a romantic relationship to visit quits-ville with someone. And just like getting rid of an old, tired ex,  breaking up with a not-so-great doctor has the potential to completely change your life.

It always blows my mind when doctors get frustrated with me for asking questions and having done my own research. Granted, I can understand ego and I absolutely GET that I’m not a colleague or a medical expert. But, as I often explain to medical professionals as graciously and humbly as possible, I am an expert at THIS body and when the lights go out in this medical office, I am the one who has to go home and live with the result of the visit.

Most doctors get it. They respect me. I mean, they DO get that look of realization like, “This is not one of those people who is just going to smile and take the prescription sheet from my hand and go away.” And then I get that look like, “ You’re right so you’d better grab a snickers because this is going to be a while.”

In my mind, doctors should be glad when people take their health seriously. They should appreciate when patients don’t come strolling into doctor’s offices expecting to find Jesus or some other miraculous, healing angel from heaven. It is completely unrealistic to put all of our medical hopes and dreams onto someone we just met and expect them to know what would be the best course of action for our specific situation 100 percent of the time. Seriously, in what other area of your life do you just agree to the first thing someone tells you and accept it as your new personal truth? We aren’t even that nonchalant about buying a friggin used car.

“Well ma’am, we can only give you $200 for your trade in BUT we CAN give you this slightly used El Camino that has only been in ONE rollover accident for a measly $18k. Sign here.

You’re joking.

If you were to take that deal, people would look at you like you were a real moron. But somehow if you get a bum deal from your doctor everyone wants to jump on the “health care in this country is a sham” bandwagon. Well, you know, they may be correct up there on that particular bandwagon. But, how dumb are you if you stand in the middle of the road and allow yourself to get run over by it?

We share the responsibility here. It’s time to stand up for ourselves in this very important arena and here are some ways to do so:

  1. Be respectful: Doctors are dealing with a lot right now. The Affordable Care Act is no pleasure cruise for providers, nurses and pretty much anyone who works in the health care industry. Like it or not, the ACA is making life really hard for our medical professionals. Doctors are also human beings who have good hearts. I truly believe that. Even the doctors who have done me wrong were just people doing their best. That doesn’t mean I have to settle for their best, but it does mean I can respect that they are doing all they can to help me. All of those factors mean it’s only right to approach them with respect. After all, if I’m walking in to a doctor’s office with the intent to be arguably the most opinionated, well read and therefore most difficult patient of their day, the least I can do is be nice about it. It’s that old “Golden Rule” thing. It completely applies here.
  2. Be well read: Reading something on Facebook or knowing that your hair dresser’s uncle’s mother-in-law had a similar diagnosis and got completely different medication isn’t enough to bring to your doctor. It IS enough, however, to prompt you to find out more. WebMD is not the best source so try some peer-reviewed medical journals, discussion boards or Google Scholar searches to narrow things down. Keep in mind that you would spend at least this much time researching options when purchasing a new fridge so you should give the same thought to your body. Write down what you want to talk about with your doctor and then go boldly (but respectfully) into your next appointment armed with questions and thoughts about your own health.
  3. Listen to yourself: I have thus far fired three doctors on my road to the right person to oversee my thyroid issues. The first one misdiagnosed my CANCER and called me “vein” for wanting to have a biopsy (he also had a medical assistant who announced my weight like a bingo number every time I visited the office) NO THANKS. The second one kept forgetting why I was seeing him, never called me back when I called with questions and told me that my recent cancer diagnosis and subsequent, complete thyroidectomy was “no big deal.” With all due respect sir, you’re fired. The third one overlooked the fact that one of my thyroid hormones was at the level most often detected in corpses (not a good sign) and tried to prescribe me meds on top of meds for my resulting hypothyroid symptoms instead of addressing the actual problem. See ya! Can you imagine where I’d be if I had stuck with bachelor number one? Maybe dead. Seriously. This all goes to show that you have to listen to yourself. Filling out medical forms is not the same as signing a marriage license. You can leave any time you want. Go on to greener pastures. I mean, be sure it’s for a good reason but don’t stay in a bad relationship just because this person has a PhD. There are plenty of fish in the sea, my friend. Use your intuition and be sure everything you hear sits right with you before you choose to stay.
  4. Use the 3 day rule: Seeing a doctor can be a lot like going on a blind date. If your doctor suggests making some huge change in your life or suggests abandoning something you feel strongly about for what he or she thinks is better, give it some time to sink in before you make the move. It’s ok to wait a few days before calling back with a final decision. Use this time to research things, ask someone with a similar issue, or even get a second opinion from another doc. It will cost you another co-pay but it could save your life, or at least make it a lot less miserable in the long run.
  5. If you have a question, ask it: You don’t have to take anything at face value. You can ask for reasoning, research and background for everything that is suggested to you. Ask why your doctor disagrees with alternative approaches, why he or she is prescribing a certain medicine over others and what the side effects are. Don’t assume these things are unimportant. I have found many holes in reasoning here, seen doctors shrug and say things like “I don’t know why, I just do” and even watched doctors shift nervously in their chairs as if they never expected to have to produce any reasoning behind their decisions. Asking questions of your doctor is acceptable. These people work for you, so ask away. If you doctor isn’t ok with a Q&A during every visit, you may want to re-read no.3 above.
  6. Move on with class: If you do decide to fire a doctor, don’t burn bridges. The next doctor you have will likely need to get information and records from the doctor you just left. Also, none of this is personal. It’s just business. I use that old, tired breakup line a lot, “It’s not you … it’s me.” I often admit to being hard to handle. In my particular case, I require someone who is open to non-western and alternative treatment options. Sometimes doctors are not a good “fit” for me. No matter what, if I choose to move on I call and leave a message thanking them for their time and care and informing them that I am moving on. Leaving a message in this case is acceptable since talking directly to a doctor can be difficult. Either way, it’s a nice way to move on without leaving a path of destruction in your wake. You have to figure that these people talk to each other. You don’t want to become “that” patient who no one wants to treat. Be confidant in your decision but be gracious in the way you handle yourself.
  7. Don’t give up: There have definitely been a lot of tears along the way for me. I have felt victimized by some doctors, personally attacked by others and just plain failed by a few. The bottom line is, I will find the right one. To be honest, I think I recently did find her! I had to kiss a lot of toads first but I think this one is a winner! However, even if she isn’t, I won’t let myself get discouraged. Onward and upward, as they say!

All in all, we have got to take more ownership of our own health. We have to stop nodding our heads and start cracking a book from time to time to be sure things are on the up and up. Have you ever looked up the side effects of your medication to see if you display any? Have you ever researched your family history of diseases or researched best practices for a condition or procedure you have had? It’s time to come to the health-and-wellness party! Being an active member in the discussion about your life is the only way to go. A little self-advocacy goes a very long way.


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