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We’ve all watched House and got this far-fetched idea that the diagnosis process is a team of health professionals dedicated to you for days-on-end. After all your symptoms present them self in an oddly well-timed fashion, your self-righteous health care provider gives you some meds, and you’re cured.
Unfortunately, the healthcare system is far too strained to work like that. You’re more than likely to experience months or even years of back and forth with your primary care physician. They’ll give you the most common superficial diagnosis and prescribe you some medication. When your symptoms don’t improve, they’ll move on to the next most-common superficial diagnosis. This will continue until you end up in the Emergency Room.
At least that’s what happened with me during my Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis, an Autoimmune Disease that effects the joints, as well as other organs including the heart and lungs. My symptoms presented them self after my mother passed away. Without any testing, my primary care physician passed them off as grief and anxiety. After requesting x-rays that showed inflammation in my heart and lungs, came the coincidental diagnosis of both pneumonia and pericarditis. Eventually my chest pain was so bad, I landed in the ER. It wasn’t until then that I was taken seriously.
The Importance of Advocating for your Health
This is why being an advocate for your own health is so important. Yes, you are dealing with medically trained professionals, but they do not know what you are feeling and how severe it is unless you tell them. If you have a feeling in your gut that there is something bigger going on, you need to find a second and third opinion until you are satisfied. If you feel you’re being rushed, and your questions are not being answered, you need to stand up for yourself.
It’s not easy, but leaving an appointment feeling hopeless, helpless and discouraged is not okay. You have control over how people treat you, and if you want to be treated with respect and be made a priority, it is your responsibility to ensure that happens. This is tough pill to swallow, and even tougher to implement. Here are my tips for getting what you need out of a Doctor’s appointment:
Come prepared with questions that you want answered.
Write them down! Whether that be in your phone, or on a physical piece of paper. Ensure you reference these during your appointment. Don’t be scared to pull them out, it shows you take your health seriously, and demands others to do the same.
Bring someone into the appointment with you.
There is no rule against this! Sometimes appointments can be overwhelming, and there may be information you miss. Have a second set of ears taking notes for you. This person can also be your accountability buddy, tell them the questions you want answered so you leave with the information you need.
Speak their language and be detailed
Let them know how much your symptoms interfere with your daily life. This is the most communicable way to judge the severity. Track your symptoms on a daily basis. I recommend including other factors that may play a role in your health including the foods you eat, how much exercise your getting and keeping track of your mood. This way you can pick up on patterns.
Do your research.
Don’t walk in blind to an appointment, especially one with a specialist. Understand what medical tests can help you, and request them. At the same time, remember to keep in mind that Google is not your doctor, and that the information you find may not be true.
Understand that it is okay to speak up for yourself.
This is an important mindset to maintain when you have a chronic illness. Nobody knows your body better than yourself, and nobody can tell you how you feel. You deserve to be respected and heard, and if you don’t feel that way you need to address it. Your doctor can not read your mind, tell them you feel you are not being taken seriously in a respectful manner.
I hope you are able to take these five tips in to your next appointment.
And I hope that your diagnosis process goes smoother than mine! Keeping in mind that life is not an hour long television show with a beginning, middle, and end. There is not just one climax and resolution, but many. This quality is what makes life joyous, and difficult, and everything in between.