Speak Up

Nobody who knows me would believe that I ever hesitate to say exactly what I think, but around doctors I’ve always been tongue-tied.  Partly, it could be the situation:  shivering in a paper gown in front of a relative stranger doesn’t provide optimal conditions for a friendly conversation.  Another aspect is that I tend to believe that if you hire an expert, you should follow their recommendations without causing them a lot of grief.  Then there’s the “just do what you’re told and don’t question authorities” phenomenon (again, those who know me are laughing at the suggestion that I might think such a thing).

If there’s any advantage to being diagnosed with a chronic disease, it’s that I’m learning to talk to medical people instead of silently accepting everything they say.  Medblogs are a big part of that.  I discovered writings by doctors who don’t seem above it all; they seem like nice people who listen to patients and use the stories they hear to make people’s lives better.  Musings of a Distractible Mind is the first blog I found, followed by Notes From the Country Doctor, A Country Doctor Writes, and Whitecoat’s Call Room.

Before medblogs, I hadn’t know that there are people who became doctors to help people.  I thought the profession was selected based on prestige and potential income.  Before reading medblogs, it hadn’t occurred to me before that a doctor might want more than the bare-bones information written on a questionnaire.  The things I’ve discovered could fill a book, but the point pertinent to this post (before I get even farther off track) is that based on the medblogs I read (those cited above, plus a number of others), I’ve discovered that it’s okay to speak up.

Example #1

The first rheumy just wasn’t working out for me (details of which I won’t go into again here).  I dreaded every appointment.  Finally I told my PCP that I was thinking of looking for a new rheumatologist.  That probably sounds like a small thing, but for me, it was huge.  In less than a minute my PCP had written a new referral – and this doctor is a much better fit for me.  All I had to do was speak up.

Example #2

When my (new) rheumy was reviewing my meds last fall, pondering my response and whether it was time to try something different, she said, “It looks like you’ve been taking this since May…”  I spoke up – new concept!  Actually, I’d been taking it for almost two years.  Knowing that made a difference in her treatment plan.

Example #3

PT, not MD.  Most of my exercises are supposed to be done with 20-30 reps.  One of them is extremely difficult (I’m lucky to do ten), and another is super easy (I’m still going strong at sixty but stop because it’s so boring).  Before RA I would have just done 20 reps of each and gone on to the next thing.  Now, I dare speak. 

Me: How many did you want me to do of these?
PT:  20 or stop sooner if you get tired.
Me: I could do these all day.

I never would have said anything before.  I would’ve gone home, checked what it says on the printed exercise list he gave me, and followed instructions to the letter (persisting in an exercise that was useless).  However, given my feedback, the therapist modified the exercise so that it actually helped.

I’ve been pondering…  Have I had doctors do things that make it harder/easier to talk to them? 

Next post will answer that question.