I had been having a nagging pain in my abdomen for sometime and when painkillers couldn't keep it at bay, I had to finally go see a doctor.
My regular doctor was on leave so I had to go see a new doctor, and that made me kind of nervous because I have known some doctors to be very dismissive and unkind.
So the 20-something-year-old-me albeit my health concern was more worried about what kind of doctor it would be - because it mattered to me!
I had a hundred questions about my illness that I was concerned about, and my old doctor had always taken the time to explain it all to me in a way that I was able to fathom.
At the familiar hospital I was in the waiting area with my appointment token in my hand. It was an ordinary day at the hospital, nurses and doctors and patients buzzing around hospital traffic.
Sitting there waiting for my turn - my anxiety heightened, I thought it could be anything - what if it's cancer, cysts or tumours?
Numerous fatal possibilities were looming large in my imagination and seeing all the sick patients all around didn't help me at all!
I heard my name being called - my turn was up.
I walked in, nervous as hell, into the doctor's room. The doctor was busy at his computer, he was rather distracted and didn't even look my way when I greeted him.
As he asked for my hospital memo he still didn't glance at me.
I passed him the memo, it was filled out by the nurse's station - the doctor squinted his eyes at the long list of my anxious concerns!
Well it contained some of my concerns and there was a lot more and I was wise enough this time not to google all my worries because it only made me go crazy.
He heaved a long breath and asked in a condescending tone "So what is it all about?"
Seeing his agitation made me feel more nervous and I babbled on.
"I've been having this acute pain on the side of my abdomen for sometime now - but I've never been to a doctor about it - and my usual doctor, Doctor Samadh is on leave and so coz it comes and goes and lately it's been bothering me more frequently - do you think this is related to smoking...yes I was a heavy smoker but I've quit it 2 months back and I used to drink occasionally...."
He started pinching the bridge of his nose and asked "how long has this been going on - the pain I mean?"
He then gestured to the bed and I gathered he needed to examine me.
When I laid down on the hospital bed, he asked in a most brusque manner to expose my abdomen because he needed to examine the area.
I was cold and tense and my gulp must've been heard by all the patients waiting outside. It took forever for my cold fumbling fingers to unbutton my jeans.
Maybe he thought I should know about it - you know, how a doctor examines a patient. Or maybe being a doctor is a hard job? Or maybe he was just an asshole!
I showed him where it hurt and he nodded. As he pressed his fingers into my side and released - he asked me if it hurt!
Of course it did, I winced and groaned when he pressed the area where the pain radiated from, it was tender.
He moved over to his table, snapped off his latex gloves and sanitized his hand. While stupid me, still laid there, thinking there was more examining to do.
The doctor signaled at the chair I had vacated earlier and only then I knew the examining was over.
Feeling sheepish and flushed, I pulled up my jeans and scurried over to sit down.
God! I hated this man!
He was furiously typing something - a diagnosis maybe?!?
"Er - doctor I have a few questions that I..."
He nodded without looking and said "Give me a sec!"
Well I never really bothered to find out. I knew what was coming and sitting here with this cold man made it worse.
All in a rage I got up and walked off.
I heard the doctor talk to me "Are you alright?" in his clipped tone but I just went out the door.
I was feeling faint from anxiety - I broke out in a cold sweat and was found it hard to breathe. I was dead sure it was something fatal - just like Kate Hudson did, in the movie "a little bit of heaven"
My throat was so dry and I needed to drink water. I searched for a fountain, all in a haze and as I kept on walking and I felt like I was about to pass out.
I sat down on a chair and cried. A nurse had found me and she just held my hand and let me weep.
During the following month I was in a lot of pain, underwent a horde of tests and eventually got bedridden.
I was told that the Stage I colon cancer, I had, was curable. With a record 90% of patients, cured with surgery alone, without cancer recurrence.
I was lucky to have a very kind, caring and supportive family to hold my hand through it all. My friends were found to be a blessing just as well.
Everyday the doctor walked into my room, (the same doctor who diagnosed me) he was my gastroenterologist. Whatever fancy title he carried, he was not my doctor.
Without looking at me, he would consult my chart and talk bossily with his morning round doctors and interns, then leave abruptly.
He was a great surgeon. He was going to operate on me. He was God. But still he wasn't my doctor.
A team of doctors operated on me, all led by him.
I survived and I was so grateful and we all celebrated.
I thanked the doctor and his team for their excellence.
The doctor told my family that my colon cancer may have been related to stress and anxiety. He recommended me to go see a psychiatrist and to follow it up with him.
There was no getting away from him. And soon I was sent to see a psychiatrist.
He looked so young, maybe in his early thirties, his kindness and compassion, shone in his eyes, were evident in his words and actions.
Only now I understood why it was so easy for Kate Hudson to fall in love with her handsome doctor.
Pun aside, after each visit, I found it more and more easy to trust him. I believed he was genuinely concerned about my health and well-being. He was helping me get through all this, that I finally counted on him with my life.
He is my Doctor.
But unfortunately this is not a romantic story.
He highly valued and respected our doctor-patient relationship.
After I related to him how dismissively I was treated by my gastroenterologist, he was the one who finally found me a doctor who wouldn't aggravate my anxiety.
For people like me, with anxiety, the patient-doctor relationship matters, a great deal.
I believe that doctors need to know that not all of us are born and bred with inherent abilities to know, understand and elaborate on our illnesses and health issues.
Some of us are just not eloquent or self-introspective enough to relay what's happening inside of us.
And most of the time we are afraid to ask too many questions - but that doesn't mean we are not scared - of course we are! We need answers!
Simply dismissing our fears and concerns doesn't help them disappear.
This checklist of questions is one that I've kept for years. Getting answers to these questions have been really helpful for me.
- What are the bad side effects?
- Is this long term thing (chronic) or short term?
- the specific types of preventive care measures, such as breast cancer screening or a vaccination, fit for you?
- Did the doctor understand what I just said?
- If it was your mother, sister or wife would you still recommend this treatment for them?
- Doctors hate it when we tell them that we read something somewhere on the internet - instead why not recommend trustworthy sources?
- How important is it to discuss our family medical history with our doctor?
- Do we have a right to question about the prescribed medicine? Like what, why & how it can help my illness?
- Can we ask about a doctor's experience with similar cases?
- When do I need to schedule my next appointment or checkup?
- Do I need to change my lifestyle, eating habits and what else?
From my experience, I believe, we should ask these questions in order to save precious time and confusion.
Furthermore it will help build a better, more understanding doctor-patient relationship.
Just make sure that you to get the best out of your medical treatments.
Wishing you all a happy & healthy life.