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Posts Tagged ‘doctor’

  1. I Need a Dentist Who’s Less Anxious Than Me

    November 22, 2015 by Diane

    funny cartoon tooth

    I had a pain in one of my upper teeth on the left side. Thinking I may have developed a cavity—or worse, dislodged one of my mercury fillings and swallowed it—I phoned my dentist for an appointment.

    “Doctor Lu’s office.”

    I recognized the voice; it was Doctor Lu herself. She never hired a receptionist, so she pretends to be the receptionist.

    “I may have lost a filling,” I said. “I need to make an appointment.”

    “Doctor Lu can see you on Wednesday at two o’clock.”

    Wait a minute. You’re Doctor Lu.

    “Two o’clock will be fine.”

    * * *

    When I arrived, Doctor Lu was waiting behind the reception desk. She shuttled me into the yellow room on the left. She hooked a paper bib around my neck. She asked if I had any new allergies, wanted to know how I was sleeping and if I was taking any new medications, and inquired about my blood pressure. She took two x-rays and blew cold air on my teeth and jabbed at my fillings with a sharp implement and asked me to bite down on a piece of rubber and when nothing revealed itself to be a problem, she searched for one.

    Starting with my neck.

    Her fingers probed under my jawline and along my windpipe and then froze.

    “Uh-oh,” she said. “You need to see a doctor ASAP.”

    She probed some more. Dread flooded my body.

    She motioned to her assistant. “How big is this?”

    “I don’t know,” the assistant said. “The size of a penny?”

    “That’s it! The size of a penny. Write that down.”

    Doctor Lu probed some more, then handed me a mirror. “I want you to see this.” She pointed to a bulge in my neck.

    “Oh, that!” I said. “That’s my carotid artery. I had it examined years ago. It’s just a weird part of my anatomy—“

    “Write that down,” she said to her assistant. “Weird part of anatomy.”

    “It’s nothing,” I babbled on, trying to reassure her. “I’m thinner now, so it’s more noticeable.”

    “Yes. You have lost a lot of weight.”

    “I wouldn’t say a lot—“

    She turned her back and consulted a laptop on the counter. “Look at these x-rays,” she said, waving me over. I peered at the screen. “These fillings are old. See how close they are to the nerve?”


    I knew what was coming. We’d had this discussion many times. Sure enough, “You need a mouth guard,” she said, her voice rising. “You’re grinding your teeth at night. If you lose one of these fillings, I don’t know what I’ll do. I won’t be able to FIX it. They’re too close to the NERVE!”

    “Okay, okay. I’ll get a mouth guard.”



    Total cost: $500 for the mouth guard, $10 for the visit.

    “And see your doctor. Report back to me.”

    I need a dentist who’s less of a hypochondriac than me.

    * * *

    I made an appointment with my doctor. Cost: $30. He felt the lump. He suggested that I get an ultrasound.

    “But I’ve had this thing for ten years,” I said. “It’s never gotten any bigger. Isn’t it possible—isn’t it likely—that it’s fine?”

    “That’s a good way to look at it,” he said. “But I want ENT to make that call. Schedule an appointment with ear-nose-throat. And schedule an ultrasound.”

    I need a doctor who’s less worried than me.

    * * *

    Member services informed me that the ultrasound would cost $371.

    “What’s the extra dollar for?” I wondered aloud.

    I canceled the appointment.

    * * *

    Online, I checked the profile of the ENT doctor I was scheduled to see. He had started as a psychologist, then studied to be a surgeon. He also made time to become a photographer, canoeist, rock climber, wilderness guide, sculptor, sailor, chef, and sword-swallower. Okay, not the last one, but he had an impressive list of activities to his credit, in addition to raising three children, which he claimed was the most challenging activity of all. I felt good about this doctor. Maybe I could squeeze in a free therapy session while he examined my neck.

    As the nurse led me down the hall to an exam room, we passed an open door. A man in a white lab coat sat at his desk wolfing down a sandwich, just shoving it in. God, I hope that’s not him, I thought.

    It was.

    Less than a minute later he strolled into the exam room where I sat perched on a giant leather chair. I wondered how he’d found time to chew.

    He offered his unwashed hand for me to shake.

    “So, you’ve got a lump in your neck,” he said. He placed his unwashed fingers on my throat. Felt the bulge. “That’s your carotid artery, “ he said. “Leave it alone.”

    He pulled up a stool.

    “Want a second opinion?” he asked.


    “Nice glasses.”

    Cost: $30.

    I need a specialist who’s less goofy than me.

    * * *

    I went to the dentist to get my teeth checked. They’re fine. But I’m $570 more in debt. It would have been $941 if I’d gone through with the ultrasound.

    I need a new dentist.

  2. Some Might Think You’re A Hypochondriac When…

    June 21, 2015 by Diane

    Shelf with books

    Some might think you’re a hypochondriac when you’re abnormally anxious about your health. But when does normal anxiety about one’s health become abnormal?

    A case in point…

    I became concerned about my cortisol levels. All of those adrenaline surges I’d suffered night after night after night had battered my adrenal glands to the point where they were shooting out cortisol like water from a busted fire hydrant. So obviously I needed to reset my adrenals, right?

    There’s a book on how to do that very thing.

    This book was written by a doctor who was on the Dr. Oz show. Not that I watch the Dr. Oz show (although if I was a hypochondriac, tuning in daily would be a tell-tale symptom). No, my mother watches the show, or she watched it this once—when the adrenal reset expert was on—and she recorded it and called me that evening and replayed the whole thing, repeating everything the doctor said about resetting your cortisol levels, which was this:

    “For breakfast, eat raw oats with berries, nuts and coconut milk.”

    I already did!

    So why was I still having those adrenaline surges?

    I looked up this expert online, and got his book, and in the book he clearly states the opposite: that it’s pure protein you should eat for breakfast, meaning MEAT, not carbs. Which is downright confusing! And I told him so in an email.

    Hey, on the Dr. Oz show you said to eat oats for breakfast, but in your book you said…

    Someone in his office emailed back, and gave me this explanation: there wasn’t much to choose from on the Dr. Oz set, so we went with what was available.


    Just who is this doctor?

    Dr. Christianson.

    Yeah, Dr. Christianson! That’s who.

    But I digress.

    In between adrenaline surges, I like to sleep with my left arm flung overhead. The result? When I wake up in the morning it’s numb, which in my book is a clear symptom of a heart attack. Is this the thought process of a hypochondriac? I think not. After all, my arm has gone numb many a time. For instance: one afternoon I set my laptop on the ironing board and stood and typed for an hour, my shoulders pressed into my earlobes, and sure enough, my left arm went numb. Now if that isn’t the start of a cardiovascular incident, I don’t know what is, right? Furthermore, if I was a hypochondriac–which I’m not–I might have called Dr. Oz himself, or even Dr. Christianson, for advice. If I had their numbers. But I didn’t. So I called the next best expert: my mother.

    “Um, my left arm is kinda numb, and it’s bugging me.”

    I was taking a walk when I called her, so it’s unlikely that I was having a cardiovascular incident, which her rational mind pointed out to me. Still, you can never be too sure.

    Now, some people might think that makes me a hypochondriac. And if they’ve read my blog, they might also think that I have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and insomnia (NO-ZZZ), all of which add up to an obvious case of Squirrels in the Doohickey (SITD).

    But is my concern abnormal?

    Oh, sure, I’m not above asking people if I can poke around their stomach to see if it feels like mine, since mine feels like a mine-field.

    “That’s your vertebrae you’re feeling,” my doctor claims.

    “That hard knot?”

    “It’s your spine.”

    “Through my stomach?”

    “You’re thin.”

    “Here…that thing?”


    “Can I feel yours?”

    I’m not above asking my boyfriend to offer his abdomen to my probing fingers.

    “Can I…”

    “Oh for God’s sake…”

    And with an audible sigh he’ll roll onto his back and offer his belly, like a dog does, but not as happily, and I’ll knead away, like a cat does, but not as peacefully, and his belly, every time, feels soft and warm and pliant and not at all like mine.

    Now I ask you…does that make me a hypochondriac? Or you, for that matter–if you found yourself nodding with recognition?

    Some might think so.

    Some might think you’re a hypochondriac because you have the urge to feel a stranger’s carotid artery in the elevator after surreptitiously feeling the odd shape of your own. “Excuse me…”

    Some might think you’re a hypochondriac because you count the number of coughs you have in one day (throat clearings don’t count), and by two o’clock in the afternoon you’re up to fifty and wonder if you’re being a tab obsessive.

    Some might think you’re a hypochondriac because one whole bookshelf in your bedroom is filled with medical tomes. Especially if it’s a paramedic looking at that shelf (the night you end up going to the hospital wearing your own pajamas and come home wearing someone else’s), and as he scans that row of medical titles, his eyes flash a warning to his buddy that says, “uh-oh, hypochondriac,” ….well, I’m here to tell you one thing: don’t believe it.

    Not for a second.

    Because in my mind…

    (that is, if we’re really talking about you in this scenario, and not me),

    …in my mind you’re perfectly normal.

  3. Doc, I’ve Got This Thing…

    December 14, 2014 by Diane

    Portrait of senior male doctor with documents in hospital

    “Can you eat apricots?” the doctor asked.

    This is the doctor who decided that I might have a tumor in my neck. That slight bulge under my carotid artery, “It might be a tumor,” he said. “But don’t worry about it.” And he leaned back in his chair, looking pensive. “Can you eat apricots?”

    Wait. A tumor?

    And he wanted to know if I could eat apricots?

    When I go to a doctor with a thing, I want to know exactly what that thing is. I don’t want to hear “could be,” or “maybe,” or “probably.” I want that expert in the white lab coat to utilize his vast knowledge of the human species, his years of medical training, to offer a solid scientific explanation for what’s occurring in my body. After all, I did my part: I dragged my body to his office, and paid large sums of money to keep him available on a moment’s notice to diagnose and treat whatever the heck that thing is.

    Doctor Apricot, though, seemed to be on the tail-end of his professional career. He looked like the kind of old-timey doc who happily carted a black leather bag from house to house in the countryside and sat around  kitchen tables discussing dried fruit. In his defense, he had felt my neck–which I, in my infinite number of hours on earth, had also felt, prodded, and poked, reaching the same dire conclusion on my own. Without medical school.

    A tumor.

    As I sat across from him, stunned, my head swimming, he turned his worries to my diet. I’d mentioned all of the foods that I avoid due to sensitivities, or allergies, or whatever response my body chooses to communicate, and this age-old doc, after examining my neck, propped his sagging face onto one finger and asked, can you eat apricots?


    I never saw him again.

    I did, however, schedule a scan of my carotid artery, a procedure that involved shooting me with a contrast solution which…oh…“could kill you,” the nurse said as she stood over me with a clipboard, “so will you please sign this paper first?” I blinked at the nurse, and called my stalwart protector into the room (my advocate whom I had dragged along with me), and my advocate suggested that I “suck it up” and get the scan.

    So I sucked it up.

    I got the scan.

    The nurse injected me, a radiology technician slid me into a cold, indifferent scanner, and my heart surged and raced. I mentioned the surging and racing afterwards, and the technician said, “Oh, that’s from the solution. We didn’t tell you.”

    We didn’t tell you.

    And the tumor? There was none.

    Unless they’re not telling me about that, too.

    “So what’s the bulge?” I asked my new doctor, who shrugged. “Probably the weird way you’re made.” An expert diagnosis if ever I’ve heard one. I wanted to ask: “Did they teach you that in medical school?”

    Because really, what do they teach?

    Certainly not good hygiene. I can’t tell you how many doctors insist on shaking my hand before washing theirs. One doctor had mustard under his fingernails. Mustard! Or what looked like mustard. For most of the appointment he sat in the next room conversing with another doctor on the phone while I lay sweating on the exam table. As I listened to his muted voice, I was thankful that at least he wasn’t examining me with mustard fingers.

    And what about examinations? I had one doctor who must have skipped that lecture, because he didn’t examine me at all. I sat on the thin crackly paper while he asked a series of questions and then pulled a medical tome from his shelf, ran his finger down several entries, paused to read, snapped it shut, and told me I probably had an infection. Probably. The spiderwebs in his waiting room, and the lack of a receptionist, should have tipped me off: this guy was not rich with patients.

    Do they teach bedside manner in medical school? Evidently not. I had a consultation with a surgeon who was overweight, reeked of cigarettes, and had a nasty attitude. He strode into the exam room wearing scrubs that he must have dug up from the bottom of the laundry basket. And he was going to slice open my body? Uh…no. Obviously, he missed the lecture on healthy habits.

    So what do they teach in medical school?

    My guess, based on my vast experience in doctor’s offices, is this:  do not, under any circumstances, admit to a patient that you’re clueless. Instead, use the words “probably,” “maybe,” or “could be.” Or change the subject. Talk about apricots.