If you’ve been following the drama that is my life, you’ll notice that we skipped Act One, Scene Two. Let me quickly summarize it:
Title: The Ravenous Lion Strikes Again, Or, The Absent-minded Professor
Setting: A university building.
Synopsis: Student knocks on professor’s door. After no response, she calls his second office. Finds out that even though the meeting was scheduled for the office she’s at, he wants her to come to his other office. Student sighs & throws the ravenous lion a biscuit before quickly exiting the stage.
Act One, Scene Three
Setting: similar physician’s office as scene one just bigger. More open space. Patient chair should be large enough to seat an XXXXL person. When scene opens, patient is on exam table; doctor is looking at patient’s eye through fancy medical device.
Doctor (incoherent): talking to patient about symptoms
Doctor: Hmmmmm. I really wish I knew what was wrong. We’ve already tried all the obvious things, and you’ve seen the specialist I’ve referred you to. I can refer you to another specialist for a second opinion or to a different type of specialist. (pause). I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong. Even though there’s nothing that I can tell that’s wrong, I know that it’s bothering you, so we need to do something about it.
Patient: Thank you.
Doctor (clearly caught off guard): For what? (pause) For listening?
As curtain closes, patient & doctor continue conversation (incoherent).
This is how my appointment with Dr. Mark played out this morning. How should I respond to Dr. Mark? How can I express how much it means to have a professional confirm the validity of my symptoms? What about the fact that he’s willing to be proactive and advocate for me even though he feels helpless and will have to venture into new territory? Last time, he mentioned that he wishes that he could really be superdoctor and solve whatever problem I have, but I never present with anything “normal”. How do I explain that this same scenario plays out with almost every physician I see and no one has ever responded this way? I value and commend the courage he has to admit his limitations and to not leave me in pain by the wayside. Other doctors have refused to take me as a patient or even suggested that another might have more experience; no one has ever risen up to the challenge of helping me navigate the medical system even though we both know he’s flying blind.
The chronic patient knows that his only option is to keep trying and to keep seeking advice; otherwise, symptoms only degenerate. It’s so rare that anyone, friend, relative, or doctor, steps up to the task of helping through the discouraging process of sifting through mounds of information. For me, Dr. Mark is a great doctor, not just because he knows how to treat his patients or because he’s willing to listen to their stories, but even more because he’s committed to walking alongside them as they strive for better health.