About a month ago I went to visit my Doctor for the first time in about 5 years. I found after a certain age my primary physician was replaced by my gynecologist.
In general I think I’m healthy other than once a year getting the common cold or flu. Since the beginning of this semester I hadn’t been feeling my normal self. I had been suffering from stomachaches constantly, feeling exhausted even after a full night rest and suffering from headaches daily.
A friend had noted that I seemed to be losing weight and sure enough I had. In a matter of 2 months I had lost 30 lbs. I had done nothing different in the amount of physical activity I participated in or in the foods I ate. This combined with my other symptoms was enough to send me to the doctor.
When I explained my symptoms to the nurse on the phone she insisted I come in as soon as possible concerned it was something serious and wanting to be safe. Of course the only appointment they had available for the next two weeks was during one of my classes (sorry Dr. Kate!)
Once I arrived, the medical assistant went through the usual song and dance of weighing me, taking my blood pressure and asking me 51 questions as to why I was visiting. I explained my symptoms and awaited the doctor.
Side note: now my usual primary at this family practice was not available so another doctor ended up filling in her place. A doctor I had never met with before. Let’s just refer to her as Doctor Hyde.
She came in and introduced herself then proceeded to ask me the same 51 questions that I had previously answered.
I am fully aware it is her job to ask me these questions again to make sure the answers match up with the answers the medical assistant inputted. This does not make it any less frustrating.
Dr. Hyde: So you’re here because of your headaches, you’re tired and because you’ve lost weight? What’s the problem? You in fact are almost at an ideal weight for your height and it wouldn’t hurt to lose a few more pounds. You probably are not getting enough sleep and if you take Advil the headaches should go away.
Me: ARE YOU NOT LISTENING TO ME? I do not feel well. Something is wrong. Can you just look at me?
After snapping at her she finally stepped away from the computer screen that explained what was wrong with me and actually took a look at me- the real me. Pressing my stomach, feeling my thyroid glands and pressing my shoulders.
Only after finally interacting with me, the human being that was in pain, did she find that I had a very swollen thyroid and pulled muscles in my back from being a waitress. I was sent to get blood work, an ultra sound and given a referral for a chiropractor.
Since this visit I have been on a gluten free diet and continued to visit the chiropractor twice a week.
Chiropractor: “Because of the pain in your shoulders combined with your undiagnosed gluten intolerance your body is reacting i.e. headaches, stomachaches, and lethargy. In other words you have been in pain for so long you forgot what it felt like to not be in pain until your body started to act out in other ways.”
I started to cry. Yes she was right. After just one month of making these changes in my life I have more energy than I thought I could ever have. I feel alive. I also cried because I knew I wasn’t crazy and someone actually BELIEVED me and in my invisible pain.
The real question is: if I was in so much pain, why did I carry it for so long and not say anything?
It took me so long to blog about this because I couldn’t answer this question. After pondering it over break I think I have the answer: as a woman I am not expected to complain. Women are perceived to have a body weaker than men. That is why you know if a man goes to the doctor ‘ something must REALLY be wrong.’ Perhaps I am wrong. I can only hope so.
If you have too many complaints you are a hypochondriac and if you have none you are healthy. Oh you’re tired? Take these pills you’re probably depressed. Oh your back aches? Lose weight you’re obese. I’m sorry you said you’re legs ache? It’s not because you need new shoes so you can get through your 12 hour serving shift, it’s because you are too heavy. Do something about it.
I’m here to tell you that none of this is true. Ladies and gentlemen alike please always do this one thing: LISTEN to your body.
No one knows yourself better than you do. Feel your skin so you know what you feel like, look in the mirror so you know your face, and when faced with a medical decision do not hesitate to get a second opinion.
What frightens me most is the though that if I had not spoken up, I would still be in pain. Our doctors diagnose us based on a chart. Imagine all of the people who just walked out the doctors’ office with a bottle of Advil?