I’ve lived with chronic illnesses for 30+ years. So many illnesses, big and small, and more doctors than I could possibly remember. I’ve coached and written about communicating with your doctors. I thought that I had talking to my doctors down. I thought I knew what to ask and how to get the information I’d need.
Wrong. Last week, after 10 years of periodic sinusitis that has progressively gotten worse, I saw an ear,nose and throat (ENT) specialist. I left with some medicine but no plan.
I’d been collaborating on taking care of this with my internist and acupuncturist. I developed a planful response when a sinus headache would set in. Since this seems to be from “seasonal” allergies, I regularly took a decongestant and Nasalchrome. With headache onset, I did a saline drain twice a day with a netti pot. The last resort was a steroid spray.
But the frequency and duration has been worse the past year. Pain and fatigue since early October that never let up and was interfering with my life. I needed bigger guns.
The good news was that the doctor gave me nasal sprays that helped (at least for a few days). The bad news is that I was clueless about what’s next. I like a clear plan to feel comfortable with chronic health problems.
So, what happened that got in my way? I allowed myself to be passive rather than driving the bus.
Example: He said, “You’re a good candidate for surgery regardless of whether we see abnormality on the CAT scan because of the pain you describe.” A few minutes later I said, “If I understand you, since the CAT scan is normal, surgery won’t help.”
Small wonder he asked me if I was listening. Yes – but I wasn’t hearing!
This leads me to think about a factor that we often overlook when we see any health care practitioner but particularly doctors. Doctors, especially specialists, have so much content to deliver that it’s usually overwhelming for us patients to properly what is actually said.
Then there’s another issue. I went to this office wanting to a solution — rather than possibilities. I wanted to be healed – to get better. I’d read about surgery as a good option and a big part of me wanted to hear that would be the next step.
He said, “It’s only been this bad for a few months. Which might seem like a long time to you but it really isn’t.” How does anyone determine what’s a “long” time? Why bother saying that? But it was enough to shut me up and stop me from asking more questions.
So what did I learn from this? That I can still be intimidated by new information, that I can feel embarrassed about wanting to get better quickly and that I have to work harder to take good notes and slow down the process.
After 5 pain free days, the headache is back (low barometric pressure?) I’ll call his office and ask the receptionist the best way for me to communicate my questions. I’m not going to just be a passenger on this trip. I have to get out of the passenger seat and drive this bus.
P.S. — Check out this month’s November pain-blog carnival, on Thankfulness!
Rosalind aka cicoach.com