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The Doctor Dilemma…

As I spent roughly four weeks waiting to go to my doctors appointment in early November, I was left with a lot of time to think. Some of it I spent productively, researching different types of arthritis, their diagnostic process, their symptoms, their treatments and any co-relation they might have with cerebral palsy. Some of it, though, I totally wasted. As I sat and waited, it occurred to me that “all doctors” had to come in one of two flavors:

(a) Doctors are highly intelligent people who have chosen to dedicate their lives to the comfort and wellness of their fellow human beings.

or

(b) Doctors are the grown up version of those creepy kids in biology class who were actually excited about dissecting a frog and a cat.

While I am sure that both of these statements are true about some doctors, I’m also quite sure that these two statements are far too broad to actually have a snowball’s chance in hell of covering every doctor I have or will ever meet. More important, it was (and is) a silly set of generalizations that would do me no good at the appointment that I was gearing up to attend.

For the record: I was worried about absolutely nothing. But the amount of time I spent on research? That was very helpful and totally paid off.

On the “down” side, I most pressing fear did come true: I needed a blood test for us to be able to gather information that will help rule the likelyhood of different types of arthritis. On the plus side, I had that blood test on Thursday. and it went fine. (I’ll be writing more about it and needle fear / phobia in the near future, while my thoughts are still fresh.)

But in contrast to that part of the appointment, which I was afraid of, I actually gained several very valuable things. For anyone who might be reading this post who has a fear of doctors, here they are:

(1) I have finally met my new GP after 18 years of avoiding going to the doctor. I actually like this man. He is smart and compassionate. I wish I had made an appointment sooner–there is no doubt in my mind that many things could have been better faster had I done this.

(2) I finally have an accessible parking pass after 32 years of living with cerebral palsy. This will drastically reduce my chance of hurting myself on ice in the winter, and it will also help tremendously with helping to reduce pain from arthritis by conserving some of my energy but also encouraging me to go out despite how my body has changed.

(3) He set me up to receive both occupational (mainly for my arthritis) and physio (mostly for my cerebral palsy) therapy. The fact that he knew -anything- about the challenges I face in life as an adult with cerebral palsy, and that he actually flat out asked me whether I had received any help since childhood, was extremely impressive. My research had told me that most GPs don’t know a thing about my condition once someone is no longer a child. (And quite frankly, not all are aware enough to recognize a child might have it in the first place. But let’s just not go there today, hm?) Further, the fact that he actually wanted me to get both physio and occupational therapy (PT and OT) was great, too. Apparently there are too many doctors out there that aren’t aware of the value of OT. Having had my first OT appointment on Friday, I can already tell you it has been a tremendous help.

(4) He made certain I knew how to take my medicines properly and safely, and corrected the dosage that I was using so that they would work better. We were definitely on the same page–by the time I got to see him my issue was milder pain and stiffness, not the more extreme pain I’d had earlier. We discussed making sure my medicines were safe and using complimentary things like heat cream (a535), a heating pad, etc. rather than bulking up on more pills than I actually needed.

(5) When we discussed the need for me to have a blood test, he set it up so that I would come to his office for that rather then going to a standard lab. He made sure that I was aware that I could get EMLA (numbing) cream if I felt it would help me and checked to make sure my veins were large enough that it wouldn’t cause an issue. He also assured me that we would use a butterfly (smaller & less painful!) needle, made sure I’d met the nurse who would do the draw, and advised me that many people who have the anxiety I do over needles find it helpful to bring music to listen to during the draw and a small snack to eat after it.

I think the two most important things I can say about this first appointment with my new GP are:

(1) I left his office feeling both relieved and hopeful about the future. I knew I was no longer alone with regard to either of the conditions that were or that had become a part of my life. Further, I felt that I had found valuable allies in both the doctor and the nurse.

(2) I actually felt a sense of power, both about what was happening to me and what I (and those helping me) were going to do about it. For someone who went through a lot of procedures as a small child, this has been a very uplifting and enlightening experience.

I know the road ahead won’t always be easy, but at least it is starting to look somewhat manageable. That’s far more than I dared to hope for going into this.