Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the day “May 5, 2013”

Being In Charge Of Your Care

We trust our doctors to make the right decisions.  In the old days, doctors were able to take their time and offer empathy which is critical to a patient.  A lot more time could be spent with a patient because the patient relies on the doctor, trusts the doctor to hear, listen, and treat.    But over the years something has changed.  Insurance companies.  Attorneys.  Pharmaceutical reps.  A doctor’s days appear to be split between patient and business.  I am sure there is much more that goes on behind the scenes that I do  not know.

Which leaves us with no choice, we have to speak up for ourselves.  The problem is that most of us do not know how to do that.  We do not even know the first step.  The two main players on your treatment team – you and your doctor.  Without having a doctor’s degree, we need to have things explained to us on a level that we understand.  We need to know what is about to be done to us.  Why are we being asked to take prescription drugs and what are the side effects going to be?  What was going to be the prognosis?

An oncologist with a personality less charming than a Fleet enema kit, in spite of his skills and ability, will not be my doctor if he cannot handle my emotional needs or is not willing to talk to me about the things that he is planning on doing to me.  I fired, yes fired, three cardiologists following my open heart surgery because once it had been determined by my lead doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering that the heart surgery was made necessary due to past cancer treatments, and those terminated cardiologists refused to acknowledge that fact which would be critical in follow up exams and studies.

I would never look back or second guess myself.  If I could not understand what the doctor was trying to tell me, then the good doctor was going to take the time to explain it to me. 

My father was faced with that same position.  Being diagnosed with cancer is one of the scariest things we can be told.  It comes even more as a shock, when we do not expect to be told we have cancer.  But as I tried to explain to my father, just as had been explained to me decades ago, these  types of doctors deal with a lot of death.  They are very confident in what they do, but they cannot afford to be emotionally attached to each and every one of their patients.  Do doctors like that exist?  I am sure that they do.

But I told my dad, that since he had time on his side, reach out for a second opinion.  I also told my dad, not to be surprised if he ended up with someone else, from the same practice, which is what happened for him.  And this doctor met my dad’s emotional needs.  That gave my father the opportunity to pursue his options with clear thought, instead of being consumed with the thoughts of his dislike for a doctor’s bedside manner.

If you do not have time to get a second opinion, your doctor will and should tell you.  But if you do have that option at your availability, then by all means, when you are having something major done to your body, get that second opinion.  And if it ends up different than the first opinion, get a third opinion.  But it has to be our mouths, our minds, our decisions.

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