Doctors have a very noble profession. There are many career paths out there, but doctors are devoted to saving lives. They are smart, highly educated, and they seem to know everything to those of us who didn’t study medicine for an eternity. I think this has lulled the rest of us into a false sense of security when our health is left in their hands. I want to use this post to share some of my memorable experiences with doctors that were less than enjoyable in the hopes that those of you reading this become better advocates for your health.
During my senior year of high school I started to get strange symptoms. The first few symptoms I ignored (I don’t like to admit when I am wrong or when something is wrong with me). During my annual checkup I told my doctor about my symptoms and she assured me that I had nothing to worry about. She suggested that I was stressed out and that my symptoms were simply how my body coped with stress. She said all I needed to do was relax more and my symptoms would go away. I felt relieved. Nothing was wrong with me and I wasn’t about to question it. But deep down I knew she was wrong. I was a second semester senior who had already been accepted to my first choice college and had very little to stress over. After my appointment, not only did my symptoms get worse, but new ones appeared as well. These ones I couldn’t ignore. I went back to my doctor, and again she assured me I was a perfectly healthy teenager. A few short weeks later, however, I found myself in the emergency room. I was not a perfectly healthy teenager, in fact I was far from it. Looking back at all my symptoms and everything I have learned about my condition since the whole fiasco, my doctor should have noticed there was something wrong. She should have at least acknowledged what I said and ran some tests. I cannot place the blame entirely on her though. I should have demanded testing be done. I knew something felt wrong inside and I let someone else’s experience and status override my instinct. Luckily I turned out okay and most of my symptoms went away. I should have advocated for myself though. I should have at least learned my lesson.
In my sophomore year of college I had what I thought was a very bad cold. It was finals week and I actually was feeling stressed this time around. I assumed that stress, sleep deprivation, lack of a healthy diet, and being around a bunch of other sick college students left me susceptible to getting sick. I could barely swallow solid food by the end of the week, so after my last final I decided to see a doctor (a different one from when I was in high school). She took one quick look in my mouth before announcing I had strep throat. She said she had seen it thousands of times before, and that I certainly had it. I knew it was worse than the common cold, so I gladly took the amoxicillin prescribed to me and set out determined to enjoy my winter break. About a week later, I found myself in the emergency room for the second time in my life. This time I had an intense rash and it appeared as if I was having some sort of bad allergic reaction. It turned out that my strep diagnosis had been incorrect. What I actually had was mono. Doctors don’t prescribe amoxicillin for patients with mono because it often results in a bad full body rash. The very same one I had. The very same one that could have been prevented if a throat culture test or mono test had been done. Again, I partially blame myself. I should have demanded a test to confirm my diagnosis.
I hope that all of you out there can learn a lesson from my mistakes. I spend every day in my body and know it better than anyone else. If I think something is wrong with my health, I now fight to be heard. Doctors can be wonderful, they have helped me many times and overall have done more good than harm. I have lots of family and friends who are doctors or are studying to become doctors, and know they do have the best interest of their patients at heart. Just because doctors can be amazing doesn’t mean we can leave everything up to them. We also have to take responsibility over our health, it is much too important to give up control of it and let somebody else determine our fate.