If it doesn’t go away or it just doesn’t feel right, don’t settle! Find the right doctor.
My journey started years ago. There are so many things along the way that I could refer to, but I want to focus on my ‘now’ and on the knowledge that comes with age. I almost said the knowledge that only comes with age, but that doesn’t have to be.
When it comes to making decisions, we would all agree that the more information you have, the better your decision will be. Well, shouldn’t decisions about your health and the health of your family be a top priority and involve the most research? Part of the problem is that we are trained early on to listen to the experts with no real understanding of who they actually are.
So, let me get specific. I had surgery, a hysterectomy to be precise, approximately four years ago, but this isn’t about that particular surgery. This is about how important it is to advocate for yourself and trust your instincts. As an example I am referencing the stomach and digestive issues that have been haunting me for years.
I should mention that I’ve always been very proactive when it comes to medical issues. That means that if something is bothering me, I tend to have it checked out sooner rather than later.
I’ve had digestive issues on and off for at least the past two years. I think we all realize at this stage just how important gut health is. Once I had exhausted the obvious tests and scans (MRI, CT, endoscopy etc), the open question was left for a doctor’s interpretation. In my opinion, that is where the lack of knowledge becomes a problem.
So, I had a couple of doctors label me as lactose-intolerant and insist I do an elimination diet because they said it must be a food issue, and then of course there were the doctors that felt that pain medicine would be the only answer. Honestly, none of these answers were good enough or acceptable to me.
In this case, I was very lucky. I found a doctor who had alternative ideas (not Alternative Medicine). He suggested that there were other medical tests that might be beneficial to me and that would rule out even more than the scans did.
There is a test (and keep in mind, this is only one of several that are offered) known as the hydrogen/methane breath test. It is uses the measurement of hydrogen in the breath to diagnose several conditions that cause gastrointestinal symptoms. So, without getting into unnecessary details, this was the test I needed – non-invasive and done in my new doctor’s office. When I tested positive, I was given a round of specific antibiotics for two weeks and now – no more issues!
Simple right? So why were other doctors willing to label me, give me unnecessary drugs and create more anxiety which only intensified the symptoms? That is exactly my point, because either they are uninformed, do not offer the tests and/or just can’t be bothered.
This blog post is not about bad doctors, nor is it really about the good ones. It’s more about the fact that, if you don’t advocate for yourself, keep your own records and stay proactive, unfortunately you and/or your family will be the ones to suffer the most.
This realization became a reality to me about fourteen years ago when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer as the result of a catch by my gynecologist of all people. He ran my blood because I was feeling tired a lot, and he thought I might be borderline anemic. Well, the bloodwork came out fine but he noticed that my TSH levels were slightly off. He recommended that I see an endocrinologist just to be checked. Do you know, at that time I didn’t even know what an endocrinologist was.
My first reaction (after the initial shock) was “why didn’t someone tell me to check this out? What about my GP, shouldn’t he have told me?” The truth is, it was up to me to know. It wasn’t anyone else’s job, and to think that someone else was going to watch over me and my family was completely wrong. The best you can do is surround yourself with the best people possible, and even then, keep it all in check.
Your own records, your own files, copies of every test, get on the portals, even though they can be a pain in the neck.
Back to my thyroid and, to make a long story short, yes – I had my thyroid removed, all is well, and I don’t look back very often, only as a reminder to myself once in a while.
Unfortunately, I can give at least three more instances that could have proved to be very dangerous had I not gone with my gut feeling (excuse the pun!).
Bottom line, just educate yourself. I know most doctors will say it is inadvisable to Google symptoms and diagnoses, and I know from doing so that they are probably right, but Google has its advantages, unlike having to look through encyclopedias. Yes I am showing my age; the information is right there. You can read seventeen scary things that probably don’t even apply to you, but that one article in a tiny font in the corner of the page may just be the one you need.
One more tip. As I mentioned above, keep your own records. If you have a scan, ask for a copy to be sent to you. Get it off the portal or go back and pick it up. Even if you can’t read it, trust me, there will be a moment when you or your doctor will need to refer to it and it is so helpful to have it. I keep binders for myself, my two kids and my husband. Every copy to date is in those books – blood work, x-rays, scans, so that if any doctor needs that information, I have it to hand.
And I will add one more thing. One of my greatest worries, since I advocate for my family members and they have become very used to me having all that is needed, is who will advocate for me if and when necessary? I keep one piece of paper with me at all times, with basic medical history, blood-type, my age and current medications. It is so easy just to hand that to someone when needed. It also saves on all of the paperwork you have to fill out when you go to a doctor’s office, especially a new one. I simply hand them the paper, (yes, I bring my own copy), and the nurse usually staples it to the forms and writes “see attached”.
So, the take-away: don’t stop looking for the answer, even if it may not be one you like. At least you will be able to deal with it and move on. You want a doctor who will actually give you the information you need so that you are able to make an informed decision.
I find these books particularly helpful and reference quite often.
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