Thursday, October 4, 2012

Use your MOM voice!

I am a medical mystery.

"Oh the medical mystery tour, they're trying to make me okay... trying to make me okay..."

You ever feel glad when the doctors tell you bad news?  Like when finally someone says "Oh yeah, your thyroid is completely screwed," there's this weird release of stress with the bad news?  Kind of fucked, huh? Like when my doc looked at my blood results that showed my antibodies were WAY past normal all I could think was, THANK FREAKING GOD!  At least there's proof that I'm not normal - it's not just in my head!  Because even though I knew that I was messed up - there was no tangible EVIDENCE to support that.  And doctors tend to treat you like you're a hypochondriac when the regular lab work doesn't give you evidence to back up your claims.  There's a lot of There, there-ing and Don't you worry your pretty head-ing - the kind of language that can make a woman see every colour within the red spectrum.

And yet, most women don't advocate for their own health.  We would step in front of a bus for our  our children, our partners, our parents - but when it comes to us?  We become little skittish wallflowers; don't want to make too much fuss. I was like that for YEARS with my GP.  He was an asshole.  Truly.  Ex-military.  Terrible bedside manner, treated me like I was a total hypochondriac and made me feel about this big.  Some might say, get a new doctor.  But the thing is, when you live in Canada, in a small town and you already HAVE a doctor - it's nigh on impossible to switch to a different, less assholey doctor.  There's a lot of politicking that goes on.  You're not supposed to poach other doctors' patients.  So I made do.  I complained to everyone (except the Doc), made do and I put up with the bullshit.  Until I didn't.

I had a breast cancer scare.  (I'm FINE.  Honest.)  I was living out of the country when some issues came up so I went to a private clinic and after they saw my previous mammogram results sent down from my Dr. in Canada, they recommended an MRI.  We cut our trip short to come back for the scan.  I made an appointment with the Dr's office and got the requisition and was assured that things would be done.  Three weeks later,  still no appt, and when I called the MRI dept to see when it would be, they told me that I needed a further breast workup first and that my Dr's office should have contacted me a couple of weeks earlier about scheduling and that until they had a request from my Dr, their hands were tied.  So I called the Dr's office and they didn't know what the hell I was talking about - not a clue as to what had been going on.  "We sent files where?  There's a request from which dept.?"

I LOST it.  Barely holding it together, tears clogging my voice,  I said to the receptionist, "THIS IS SERIOUS.  This is serious to ME.  Perhaps I need to find a Dr,  and a clinic, who thinks that my possibly having breast cancer is something to be concerned about."  Sensing my next step would involve picketing their office and possible phone calls to every news media outlet in Canada, they immediately booked my breast workup and I had a consultation the VERY NEXT MORNING with my Dr.

I went in and he gave me Dr. speak about how the clinic and he personally had served me well over the years.... yadda, yadda, yadda... and every time I tried to voice my concerns, he just talked over me.  For a few minutes I let him do it, before I dug deep down inside and pretended that the patient I was concerned about... was my daughter.  Using my actor's voice, I interrupted him.  I said very calmly, "You are not HEARING me.  You need to  LISTEN to what I am saying.  The level of care that I am receiving as your patient is unacceptable and if we cannot fix this I need to find a new Dr who will take me seriously."

And then a miracle occurred.  From that point on, this guy morphed into the best Dr in the world for me.  There must be a great big frickin' RED ASTERISK and a label on my files that says "THIS LADY WILL CUT YOU AND THEN GO TO NEWSWORLD" because now he calls me personally with results, good or bad, he discusses treatment with me, makes suggestions and listens to my concerns.  He LISTENS now.  And from the first time he changed his tune, I have gone out of my way to thank him.  Every single time he treats me with respect and professionalism, I thank him.  He listened to what I was saying and he changed, because I asked him to.  And shit like that?  It needs to be acknowledged. 

So ladies.  Please, please, PLEASE - speak up.  Fight.  Fight for you.  Go to the mat for you, the same way you would for your child, your partner, your parent.  Be your own health advocate.  Take care of YOU.

Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. 

-Ferris Bueller

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