In March of 2015, I wrote “8 Pet Peeves about Doctors.” Since then, I’ve had some good experiences with doctors. Sad to say, though, I’ve also had my share of frustrating experiences—frustrating enough that I’ve picked up seven more pet peeves. I present them with the caveat that I recognize that many doctors are overbooked and overworked. In addition, they have life problems of their own that can affect their attentiveness on any given day.
Even though it can be hard on me physically, I don’t mind if a doctor is running late; I know that some patients need more time and I don’t want the doctor to rush them. That said, when the doctor finally gets to me, I don’t want to be rushed so that he or she can get back on schedule.
This is my newest pet peeve. The connection between side-effects and studies dawned on me one day like a light bulb going on in my brain. It happened because I’d recently started a new medication to prevent the recurrence of the breast cancer I had in 2014. Almost immediately, I experienced a terrible flare-up in a neurological condition I suffer from called Restless Leg Syndrome or RLS. (I write about RLS in my book, How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness.) When I contacted the doctor, I was told in no uncertain terms that RLS was not a side-effect of this medication.
This is not the first time I’ve been told that a symptom that comes on right after starting a medication can’t possibly be a side-effect.
In the case of RLS, though, I’d already checked the online breast cancer forums, and so I knew that many woman on this medication experience a flare in RLS or even develop it for the first time. I’d skimmed about 50 forum posts on the subject, and every single woman, save one, said that her doctor told her what my doctor told me.
Who was the lone dissenter? A doctor who said: “It’s possible. We don’t know because there haven’t been any studies on the effects of this medication on Restless Leg Syndrome.” Bing: RIGHT ANSWER!
My take away from this is that unless studies show that there’s no connection between a medication and a particular side-effect, the doctor should be saying, “We don’t know.” Unfortunately, in my experience, unless studies prove that a medication can cause a particular side-effect, we’re going to be told that the medication cannot. A pet peeve, that’s for sure.
I was given an IV infusion of a medication to treat osteoporosis even though I don’t have it. I had a serious reaction to the medication. For two days, I couldn’t move my neck, my arms, or my hands without excruciating pain. The doctor ordered the infusion because I was on a medication that increased the risk of osteoporosis.
I tried to ask him why he thought the infusion was necessary when I didn’t actually have osteoporosis, but he shrugged me off and said that I needed to have it. Because he was one of the senior medical oncologists on staff and he had a supremely confident demeanor, I went along with it even though, since the infusion, further research has convinced me that I never should have had it in the first place.
As I described in #3, I tried to discuss my concerns with the doctor, but he wouldn’t listen. I will not be seeing him again. Contrast this experience to one I had with the very first medical oncologist I was assigned to. She was a “Fellow,” meaning that she was already a practicing physician but was training to change specialties.
At first, I thought I’d been assigned a “second tier” doctor, but she turned out to be a gem because she was a genuine listener. She didn’t come into the exam room with set protocols in mind. She wanted to hear from me. What did I think of the various treatment options? Did I have concerns about how they’d affect me, given my ongoing chronic illness?
It was a pleasure to have her as my doctor, and I’m sorry that that relationship had to come to an end once her training was complete.
I mentioned this in the first Pet Peeves article, but it bears repeating because it’s continued to be a problem. I’m used to having specialists ignore my 15-year diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) even though it may be relevant to the care they’re about to give me. Now I’ve learned that the same thing can happen regarding other medical problems, even cancer.
For example, I was referred to an orthopedist because of joint pain and stiffness. I assumed she’d ask me if I had any other medical problems and, if so, what medications I was taking for them. Without this inquiry, how would she know that I happened to be on a medication (given to me by an oncologist, not an orthopedist) that tends to cause pain and stiffness in the joints?
It seems like such an obvious inquiry for doctors to make, but I’ve learned that, more often than not, they don’t ask. Instead, I have to be proactive and be sure to go over my medical history with any new doctor. Even so, I can often tell that what I’m saying isn’t really registering because the doctor is focused on the standard treatment protocols that are within his or her particular area of specialization.
I’m not asking a doctor to rely on my internet research, but I’d appreciate not being given a disdainful look when I share information I’ve found there. After all, it might be helpful.
I mentioned that I suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome. I have for over 20 years. The past dozen years or so, it’s been mostly under control due to a medication I learned about on the internet and brought to the attention of my open-minded primary care doctor. He did some research and put me on it as an “off-label use.” Now, this same medication has been approved by the FDA as a treatment for RLS. Without the internet, I’d have continued to suffer nightly from this sleep-robbing condition.
And lastly, a pet peeve that’s half lighthearted and half serious:
Why is it freezing in most doctors’ offices? If there’s a good reason for these frigid temperatures, can they at least give me a gown that’s warmer than wearing tissue paper?
If you have any pet peeves, I hope you’ll share them in the comments section below.
© 2016 Toni Bernhard. Thank you for reading my work. I’m the author of three books:
All of my books are available in audio format from Amazon, audible.com, and iTunes.
Visit www.tonibernhard.com for more information.
You might also like “How to Cope with Side-Effects of Medications.”