After several weeks of waiting for an appointment that was delayed by rain, snow, and my cardiologist receiving all of his new patients in January, I finally dragged myself into the cardiology office this past week. I was the youngest person in the entire building. I could tell I was getting stares from some of the other patients, none of whom seemed to be below fifty years of age. A few of them ever whispered as I walked past and signed in with the receptionist.
The receptionist was sympathetic and curious- I could tell she was trying to figure out why I see two different cardiologists, with entirely different specialties, on a regular basis. Until a few weeks ago, I was too, so I didn’t blame her. The nurse called me after only a few moments, which seemed to irritate a few of the other waiting room occupants, but they didn’t know I was only seeing a physician’s assistant. After an uneventful EKG and a bit of joking around with the nurse, I was seated in a cold room and my carefree facade began to crumble.
You don’t know the low points of chronic illness until you almost start crying on the arm of a physician’s assistant you’ve only met a handful of times. She was understanding, but not unnecessarily sympathetic, when she delivered the news that had kept me out of the doctor’s office for longer than it should have. Time to start the pacemaker process.
This whole visit would hardly be worth blogging about, but one thing stood out to me. One thing that never, ever happens to me at doctor’s appointments.
Everyone at the office was totally, 100% convinced that I was sick.
Most appointments I go to are marred by the “but you don’t look sick,” or the “have you tried therapy?” Others are ruined by “but if you just lost weight,” or “I’ve heard good things about yoga.” I’m always trying to convince my doctors that I’m sick. That they need to listen to me. That they need to trust me, because I know my body better than anyone else could.
This time, it was my doctors trying to convince me that I was sick. After years of being told my fainting spells, dizziness, blacking out, and headaches were all in my head, caused by anxiety, or simply undiagnosable, all the negativity started to sink in. It was hard to believe it when I first saw my cardiologist, and before he even introduced himself, he told me that I was finally in the right place. Before my cardiologist even told me his name the first time I saw him, he told me that my fainting spells weren’t all in my head, and that I had a real medical problem that we would work together to solve.
There are horrible doctors out there. They will try to tell you that you aren’t sick, or you aren’t sick enough. They will try to belittle you and demean you. But there are also excellent doctors out there, that want to help you. It’s hard to remember sometimes, especially when you seem to be seeing bad doctor after bad doctor. Luckily, I have finally found a good team of doctors who are trying their hardest for me. And with some luck, eventually the number of doctors who are good for people with chronic illnesses will grow. That’s why I advocate. I advocate to change the way that doctors look at patients with mysterious symptoms, or uncommon symptoms. I advocate so that other people can find great doctors like I did.