#497 – Dear Doctor

paper and envelope

Image courtesy of SXC.

Last year, someone I know went to the hospital with symptoms of shortness of breath and extreme fatigue. An x-ray revealed that there was fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion). One of the emergency room doctors wondered if the fluid could be caused by cancer. Another emergency doctor, a different diagnosis. Even though the second doctor disputed the first one’s theory, the C-word was out there; those words were not as easily erased as words on a chalkboard.

Thoracentesis was performed. Approximately a litre of fluid was removed and sent to the lab for analysis. Thankfully, cancer cells were not to be found in the sample.

How a doctor handles this stage of the appointment/visit can make a huge difference in how much stress the patient—and the family—feels – alarm or calm/er. Some doctors do a better job at this than others, perhaps due to their training, and/or their personality. Their stress level also makes a difference.

“We’ll run some tests to uncover what is creating these symptoms.”

That’s what I would prefer hearing from the doctor when s/he doesn’t yet know what is causing my symptoms. Since I’ve likely visited Dr. Google, I have a whole web page full of possible diagnoses, which may or may not be correct. Obviously, when the tests are requisitioned, I ask what they are for. It’s at this point that the doctor can do some damage control.

However, if the doctor proposes an as-of-yet unconfirmed diagnosis, and speaks with authority and certainty, those words then carry a lot more weight. It becomes that much more difficult to silence the voice of worry, which does not help when you are already feeling ill.

One of the ways that I like to approach situations that are less than positive is to ask myself what I learned from that particular experience. In the above-mentioned scenario, it might be helpful to get a second opinion, and to give serious consideration to that opinion. Also, it’s important to not give up – look for options. Perhaps there is another treatment plan that would be more beneficial? Equally important is to trust the quiet voice of your intuition. (One of the benefits of undressing your stress is that your intuition improves.)

On the plus side, I am extremely grateful that most of the tests I’ve had have often proven the postulated theory wrong, such as the case with this one.

Does your doctor present you with all the possibilities of what could be wrong, prior to testing? What is your reaction? Would you prefer that s/he held off until there was something conclusive to report?

I just came across this article, which addresses bedside manner: Why Compassion Is So Important in Healthcare (And What it Looks Like).

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One Comment to “#497 – Dear Doctor”

  1. My GP is a personal friend and my Ortho surgeon too has become one having operated on me on three occasions. They treat me like an intelligent adult and I am always grateful for them for that. I have given special thanks to them on many occasions on my blog. When my late wife and I used to call on her cardiologist for her regular check ups he too would be like that and he was responsible for managing her condition for 8 years at the end of which she died without any discomfort. Such doctors are treasures but I gather, all too rare now in the materialistic environment.

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