I promise to believe that doctors are inherently good people, who want to do their best for me, and all patients.
This can be hard to do, when they don’t always behave that way. This can be especially hard to do when they give me the side-eye in emergency rooms for mentioning what they deem “questionable” drugs in my history, because CNN told them these drugs are used by naughty people. This too shall pass, when next week it’s not Fentanyl or Oxy that’s questionable, but it’s back to bath salts, or gluten. I miss when it was gluten. Still, I shall decide that they are trying to give me the best care, covering their bases, and attempting to protect me; even though it feels like they are treating me like a crazed lunatic, who only wants just enough of a fix to eat their faces off.
I promise not to do Google research for days, before taking a new medicine, seeing a new doctor, or being diagnosed (or after, for that matter).
Even though it’s tempting. I promise to Google only answers to specific questions, and then to ask my doctor for clarification. If my doctor’s advice differs from Google, I promise to defer to the doctor. This also means I promise not to self-diagnose, or therefore, misdiagnose. You know, because I’m not sure where Google went to college; but my doctors hang their degrees on the wall.
I promise not to go down the dark hole of Internet support groups.
Oh, how alluring they can be. Everyone agrees with you!
“Do your toes look like this when you get out of a hot shower?
“Omg, me too!”
“I think you have red-toe-disease! You should badger your doctor for a diagnosis, because you may be dying!”
You are suffering; they are suffering. They are like a warm hug. Of bees. Everyone is co-dependent. They aren’t all this way, of course, but many are. There’s self-diagnosing of co-morbid conditions, self-aggrandizing, gossiping, back-biting, and insults aplenty. For sick people, it can be a toxic environment. Dabble if you must, to gain some “knowledge;” but be wary of the source.
I promise to take my medications, as directed.
I’m such a rule-follower that I’ve never had a problem with addiction. Dependency, yes. Addiction, no. The doctor told me: every six hours, as needed. So, why would I take more? My pain management doctor says I’m the easiest patient he has for these issues. This means I’m the easiest patient to wean down. I do EXACTLY what he says. Literally.
On my last withdrawal cycle, I thought I was going to die, it was so bad. When I told him how awful it was, he asked why I didn’t call and tell him, because he could’ve prescribed more medications to make it smoother. I said, “because you’d given me X, Y, and Z, and told me to do X, Y, and Z; you didn’t say that I could also call.” I follow directions. Apparently, I should be slightly less literal.
See side-eye accusations above. The last time I went to the ER, I should’ve told her to call my pain management doctor to ease her suspicions about what she thought was drug abuse and seeking. He probably would’ve laughed her off the phone. Instead, she called UCLA, to verify that I was actually a patient with a brain/skull condition. Apparently, she thought I was a clever addict, who researched the names of top surgeons at UCLA, to trick her. The neurosurgeon resident on call told her that, indeed, I'm a patient, and that Tylenol should help. Fucking Tylenol. Who goes to the ER to get Tylenol? Surprise! It didn't help.
I promise not to brow-beat a doctor for care he/she doesn’t think I need.
I didn’t go to medical school. I know this because I don’t remember it. For verification, I also have my degrees on the wall, and neither say medical stuff. They indicate far more useful degrees, like English Literature. So, while others (people like members of Internet support groups) I know with my condition(s) tend to feel more knowledgeable than doctors, because of their Google research, and demand special MRIs, medications, or tests; I choose to believe my doctors’ educations are enough to qualify them to make decisions about my care.
Crazily enough, so far, I’m alive. I’m also doing okay-ish. Sure, I’m on my second brain surgery. Sure, I feel like crap, sometimes. But, I also think that the stress of worrying about it myself, and KNOWING that my knowledge can only half-match my doctors’, is unfair to me. It’s also unfair to them, to give them both an anxious, and obnoxious patient. Isn’t being sick stressful enough? Why would I add to it? Let the pilot fly the plane.
I promise to shower
I don’t promise to put on makeup, or do my hair. But, I do promise to shower before I see any doctor. Even the emergency room. That’s a big deal, because by the time I’ve made it to the ER, I’m pretty ripe, because I don’t go to the ER unless it’s been days of agony. That means I’ve been in bed, or on the couch, in the same pajamas (and underwear – don’t judge) for several days. So, I promise to shower.
I ask you to do the same. I ask you not to do it in cologne or perfume. Just common courtesy. I’m sure I speak for all your patients, staff, and the general public. Well, maybe I don’t speak for the perfume and cologne manufacturers, that you keep in business.
I promise to be honest with you, perhaps too honest
I will answer all your questions. I will answer questions you didn’t ask. I get white coat syndrome; so when you enter the room, I will unknowingly develop diarrhea of the mouth, and also high-blood pressure. You may take this as nervousness and evasiveness, as I tell you my life-story, as it relates to poop; instead, take it as me trying to recall every bowel movement I’ve ever had, because you asked me about how I’ve been pooping “lately.”
I promise to send new patients to you, if you don’t suck
I’ve recommended everyone I know to certain doctors: strangers, friends, grocery store clerks who didn’t ask. If you are a good doctor, I’ll shout your name from the rooftops. You deserve more patients. Doctors have gone from being the most respected members of our communities, to being questioned constantly, and martyred, thanks to our ability to research and review. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
However, if you are a bad doctor, I’ll quit your service; and, bad mouth you all over town
It takes a lot for me to violate rule #1; but, if I do, you are fired. I will also tell my friends to avoid you. I’ll tell all the people from rule #8 to avoid you. I left a neurologist, who was very good at a certain procedure, but every time I went to see him, he insulted me. I thought I was being self-conscious, so I took Bryon with me to see if I was being too sensitive. When we left, Bryon said, “you are never going back there again.”
I promise not to quit. Or, at the very least, I promise not to decide for sure on the day I really feel like it.
No one but Bryon has ever heard me say that I quit. No one but Bryon has ever heard me say, “Let me die.” But, I promise you, I’ve said it. And, I’ve meant it. The pain is that bad, that intense, and that long-lasting. A migraine doesn’t match it; I get to know that, having had both, at the same time. Nothing I’ve ever felt has. Not typical surgery pain, not childbirth, nothing. When I’m not in the throes of it, it’s easy to say that I won’t quit, that I will fight on. Sometimes, I make Bryon bring Collin in, or have him help me to his room, while he’s asleep, just so I remember why I am supposed to keep fighting. Because otherwise, I truly think I could will myself to close my eyes, and not open them again.
People say how selfish it is to want to let go, to not want to fight. Those people don’t know what they are talking about. I have a family; I have a son. I can’t leave him, or my husband; but there are days when it’s selfish to ask me to keep suffering too. I’m not sure who the selfish one is, who’s asking me; but it isn’t some power. If it is, it’s an awful one. I feel punished, abused, neglected and alone with that suffering. It’s a terrible feeling to be held by your family, supported and loved, but to wish for death to end it. To wish that when your eyes closed, they wouldn’t open again; that’s a terrible pain. I wish it on no one, but it’s a very real reality.
One day of suffering, for a lifetime, one might say. But, it’s not that simple. It never is. Of course, all days aren’t that bad; most are tolerable; some are good; some are great. But, it’s incredibly difficult to be sick and in pain, and know that tomorrow, you may wake up on the terrible side of sick again. It’s like an anvil over your head. All I can do is keep promising. Keep trying. Keep remembering that I promise not to quit until tomorrow.