In my journey through chronic illness I have heard the same story again and again, patients going to see a doctor with symptoms, only to be told it is all in their head. They may also quite simply just not be believed. Chronic pain doesn’t typically show up in standard diagnostic tests, and what isn’t seen can be hard to believe for many in the medical profession. I have been fortunate in getting my diagnosis’ of both fibromyalgia, and interstitial cystitis quickly, from the doctor’s I originally saw for them (a family doctor and a urologist back up in OH). But that doesn’t mean I have been happy with all of the medical professionals I have come in contact with, and, well, those I haven’t been happy with, I have fired. My health and wellbeing is too important to trust to a second rate doctor.
Two days ago, I had my one year follow up ultrasound for surgery I had last year for an ovarian cyst and a uterine fibroid. And I was reminded that I really like this doctor and that I only found her because I fired my previous OB/Gyn. After taking stock of her way of dealing with my pain (my cyst “shouldn’t have” caused as much pain as it did because it was so small), I decided to get a second opinion. I liked this new second opinion doctor so much I subsequently stayed with her and also referred two other friends to her, both of whom really liked her as well. When I think of what I want in a doctor, and perhaps the type of doctor that is good for patients with varying chronic illnesses, she fits the bill. So what is it about her that I respect and value so much?
1) She takes the time to get to know her patients HERSELF. Not the nurse. Not the check in person. Herself. She has a real conversation with the patient.
2) She takes the TIME a patient needs to discuss their individual concerns and it is not a rushed visit. She does not overbook. The waiting room is typically empty or only one other person waiting, often someone who got there early. She books enough time with each patient that she can listen to them and give them the time they need.
3) She BELIEVES the patient. Even though my ovarian cyst was “too small” to be causing the amount of discomfort it would for most patients, she did not discount the fact that for me, it was a problem. She believed me, and did not think we should take a wait and see approach after it had already been 6 months trying the pill to shrink the cyst (the fibroid was discovered during surgery). First we tried bio-identical progesterone and when that did not do it, she suggested the surgery. I have felt better ever since.
4) She engages in a DIALOGUE with the patient with the understanding that she knows the medicine and I know health condition and my body. I have a health sciences background and am interested in human physiology. I have read up on my conditions: current theory on what causes them, research, treatment – both what science research and patient anecdotes say works and doesn’t work. I know my body is super sensitive to side effects of meds, and will get strange ones to boot. But sometimes meds just work. This doctor appreciates that in me as a patient and we talk about what could help. If something doesn’t work, or works in an atypical way she says: “Well, that’s just you.” For example, the 100 mg of bio identical progesterone (Prometrium) bothers my bladder a lot, but the 200 mg one doesn’t (we think it is dyes). A compounded variation made me really wonky. So I just take the 200 mg every other day or every 3rd day, between 14-7 days before my period begins, but only some of the time. And this works for me. And she is ok with it.
This doctor is a keeper. So are my family doctor and the physician’s assistant who works with her. They both have the qualities mentioned above.
All this to say, if you can, take stock of your doc. Some people, especially those living under a national health care system, on Medicaid/Medicare, or who live in a rural area, may not have the option to just switch doctors. But if you can, think about what is important to you in a doctor. Then ask yourself if your current doctors are up to snuff. If they aren’t, fire them. Your health is too important to trust to the wrong one. And there are some truly excellent ones out there.