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How to talk to your doctor



And when your father determines the course of life of persons (this was before obligatory guidelines for sentencing), and your mother cross-examines witnesses to live, yes, you must defend yourself with facts and reason if you will ever leave the house to go other than the library.

Today, I often draw on the lessons my parents have taught me because – as is the case for many disabled or cancer patients or in my case both – I regularly speak for myself in the doctor’s office and draw on facts and science to correct them when they make a significant mistake to best protect my health

I have been disabled with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME and sometimes called chronic fatigue syndrome) for 29 years and have had thyroid cancer for the better part of the last three years (it spread to my lymph nodes, even after my thyroid electomy and radiation), so I have been treated by many doctors. Some people make mistakes ̵

1; especially if you are like me and your symptoms tend to be atypical, or if you are struggling with two diseases at once.

So when you are physically ill, emotionally vulnerable and draped in a dress that seems designed to stay open, how do you discuss individuals whose schooling and training have taught them that they know more than the patient, even when the patient can easily demonstrate that the doctor has made a significant mistake?

How do you proceed in what feels like a David and Goliath scenario when all you really want to do is stay alive, get as healthy as possible and not engage in a knockdown, pull-out discussion with someone , whose diplomas dot the walls like bubbles in champagne?

As I learned from my parents: Stick to the facts, do not do it personally and show respect, but never let yourself be intimidated. All this can sound harsh when you e.g. Just got several blood vessels or maybe a vital organ removed.

It helps to remember that the best doctors really appreciate both your awareness and participation in your health. It sounds paradoxical, but the smarter the doctor is, the more comfortable he or she learns new information from the patient.

For example, last year I had to explain to one of my endocrinologists that ME significantly impairs the immune system and that there is a burgeoning field of research on ME and cancer.

I read her the relevant part of a study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information. At first she did not seem very excited that I had read the study, and she did not know that it existed, but when she saw how it promotes my treatment, she was thrilled. I saw her again recently and we continue to work well together. I trust her and it is invaluable.

On the flip side, one of my first oncologists wanted me to adjust my pain medication before surgery because she repeatedly repeated, “I do not want you to end up like Michael Jackson.” When I asked for clarification because “Michael Jackson” is a rather stressful reference in this era, she repeated it once more, and when I remained confused, she jumped out, “I do not want you to go to heaven!”

I admit that it was hard not to make this exchange personal because she had already determined my fate in a potential afterlife and also brought her religious beliefs into my consultation, which is a clear breach of ethics.

When I explained that she did not provide medical or legal specificity in a situation that required both, she said, “You are a terrible patient who says terrible things.” I threw my purse on my walker and rolled on from there.

Later, I reported her to the clinic’s chief physician. It is reasonable to go over a doctor’s head if safety is an issue.

I realize that not everyone learns at the family dinner table how to best tell themselves. Although I do not seek confrontation, I feel good if it occurs and it is a good gift from my parents.

But if the thought of discussing a doctor still leaves you uneasy, don’t beat yourself up. They are members of an honorable profession that gets you with hammers and needles and wooden sticks, and as such, a balance of power arises. Some seem to revel in it, but most will help you get better.

Even the doctor who claimed my death did not want me to actually die. It’s worth remembering the next time you get it wrong.


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