Monday, November 30, 2009

the chosen path

Along with a painful bout of meningitis, I've been suffering from persistent lower abdominal pain (and a variety of other annoying little symptoms I will spare the reader by not describing) this fall. Unfortunately this came at a time when my beloved Dr. Stephanie Scott had abandoned her patients, leaving the world of private practice in San Francisco to join Kaiser Oakland.

Doctorless, I decided to try a friend's doctor. That doctor was not accepting new patients, so that was a no go. Next I decided to find a doctor through recommendations on Yelp. This led to my discovering the top rated doctor on Yelp, who was conveniently located on the very same floor of the very same building where my beloved Dr. Scott had been. However, he was booked up solid, and I ended up getting booked to see his young associate. Yelpers seemed to feel that if you couldn't see the Wonder Doctor, you would be okay seeing his junior sidekick, so I went ahead with the appointment. I showed up early to the appointment, assuming that I would need to detail my checkered medical past on forms before meeting my new doctor for the first time. Instead, the office only cared about my insurance history. They had no interest whatsoever in learning a thing about my health past.

The doctor, a young gay man just out of medical school, seemed unsure of himself in dealing with a middle-aged straight woman. He also had no interest in learning about my medical past and also had no questions for me about anything which might relate to my reproductive system, which happens to be of the yucky female sort. The baby gay doctor decided, after a brief consultation following an extremely long, boring wait on my part, that I most likely had diverticulosis. I researched diverticulosis on my own (Dr. Baby Gay didn't bother to take the time to explain it to me) and learned that it is little irritated pockets in the colon and large intestine. It is believed that these irritated pockets form due to a lack of fiber in a person's diet, and they cause pain and constipation. That diagnosis was asinine. First of all, I don't suffer from constipation, and second of all, as a vegetarian I eat a diet rich in fiber. Diverticulosis is a disease for fast-food grubbing meateaters.

After my unsatisfying encounter with Dr. Baby Gay, I got side-tracked from the abdominal pain by coming down with meningitis. The Sober Husband asked me at one point how my abdominal pain was, and I said it was like how you'd feel if you were in a lot of stomach pain but then got hit on the head by a hammer repeatedly. You'd be distracted by the hammer too much to notice the stomach pain.

While I was recovering from meningitis, I dragged myself over to try out a new gynecologist and see what he had to say about my pain. At least he, whether he were gay or straight, would not be so yucked out by a woman's feminine anatomy as to pretend it didn't exist. This new doctor proved to be immensely condescending (every single thing I said, he had a condescending comeback to), and I disliked him intensely. However, he scheduled me for an ultrasound, and I kept that ultrasound appointment.

After the ultrasound, I got a bill right off the bat, but no one called me to discuss the test results. Dr. Condescension had assured me that he or his nurse would be in touch with me as soon as the results came back. When I never heard from them, I figured that was because the news was that there was no news and nothing showed up on the ultrasound. Indeed Dr. Condescension had disagreed with me (in a condescending matter, natch) when I had brought up the possibility that it was a fibroid tumor which was my problem. He felt that I was being stupid by speculating that, so of course he must have been proven right by the ultrasound. I also thought the ultrasound must have shown nothing interesting because I had been able to leave the ultrasound without a doctor being called in (I learned years ago, when I had an ultrasound which revealed gallstones plugging up my bile duct and a severely diseased gallbladder, that there is an emergency call button in the ultrasound office, so if the tech sees something freakout-worthy, a doctor may be summoned while the patient is still recumbent upon the ultrasound recliner).

I decided that I'd keep gathering doctor recommendations and try out another doctor in December, and I felt fine not doing anything right off as I'd had an ultrasound which must have been normal. Then the phone rang, weeks after that damn ultrasound. Dr. Condescending's nurse shared that I do indeed have a massive fibroid tumor, over three inches wide and three inches tall and about two and a half inches around, and it needs to come out. Dr. Condescension suddenly needed to see me ASAP to discuss my treatment options, but yet, despite the urgency, Dr. Condescension didn't have any time to see me for over a week.

After I got that call, I felt pretty upset, and I felt scared about getting major abdominal surgery. I called my greatly beloved husband of eleven years, the Sober Husband, at his office and blurted out the bad news to him and then shared my fear of surgery. The Sober Husband's words of comfort? He said, "You chose to go down this path" in a voice making it clear that if a person whimsically chooses to go have an ultrasound, she needs to deal with the surgical consequences like an adult.

After this second upsetting call, I took a few moments to calm down. After all, I should have known better than to expect the Sober Husband to be calming and reassuring without advance notice. The man benefits from having my expectations of him spelled out clearly, and so I went off and emailed him, explaining in very few words that my expectations were that (1) he would not question my judgment whatsoever in setting up treatment and would not ever say that I "chose" this unnecessarily and (2) he would take a couple of days off work when, as expected, I have surgery. (I know that there are controversial non-surgical treatments involving massive hormone doses, and I am not willing to choose the hormone path. There is also the option of just living with the fibroid tumor, as it is 99.99% sure not to be malignant, but I'm not willing to do that, either, given my pain and other symptoms. That would be essentially saying that I am willing to go on living as though I were in the second or third trimester of pregnancy with a fetus pressing on my organs and pelvis indefinitely, and that is not a pleasing option).

My plan is to stick with Dr. Condescending long enough to get a referral to a surgeon and a surgery date. Then I will post a scathing review of him on Yelp and never go to his office again. My hope is that I will be able to have surgery over the Christmas holidays, as that will be a convenient time for the Sober Husband to take off from work and be with Iris and Lola and help me out while I convalesce. My fears are that Dr. Condescending will himself want to do the surgery and that I won't be able to schedule it until January, which will be a busy month for the Sober Husband where it will be awkward for him to take time off. But of course, one might say that I chose this path, and therefore it's my own damn fault if I don't get to the end of it before January.

12 comments:

hughman said...

as one who has dealt with innumerable doctors over the years, let me give you one valuable piece of advice re: what you posted. YOU get to choose who does what to you. so if you don't want the condescending doctor to operate on you, insist someone else does. and don't fret over his so-called feelings. in the meantime, maybe try to get to the "nice" doctor you wanted to see before. explain the problem, etc. and maybe wait it out a little. i know this is tough, the doctor thing, but it takes some strength. you might also try contacting your old doc you loved and see if she has any recs. good luck with this and keep us informed!!!

also, tell us more about apps the DH makes. (i kid).

Missy said...

My mother had fibroids, and ultimately surgery for them as well. It was better afterwards, but surely no picnic beforehand. I'm really sorry you have to deal with this.

Keep going until you find a better doctor. We had doctor issues when we lived in Austin--mostly with the condescending pediatrician (please do not talk to the intern and ignore me) and one of my great satisfactions when we moved was finding a ped. who addresses me with the same information he does his interns. No great bedside manner but he treats me as an intelligent equal. If I can't get that from a doctor, I change doctors now. (I'm changing ob-gyns as my beloved dr. of decades retired, but the first one I went was a bit too jovial and I realized I can't talk to him about menopause. Next, please.)

Hugh's right, it is more work but nothing feels worse than simmering rage on the way home from a doctor's appointment.

K said...

Oh no :( To have terrible news from an awful doctor - what bad timing.

That said, I hope he's a great surgeon and you're all fixed up on no time.

And poo to your uncomforting DH. Men. *ugh*

Claire M. Johnson said...

Can you get in contact with your previous doctor and ask her for a referral to a decent surgeon? Given that this doctor didn't even have the cojones to apologize for his UNPROFESSIONAL behavior is not the doctor for you. One wonders if this were more serious, whether he'd be so cavalier sitting on these ultrasound tests for weeks. In fact, I would NAIL him on this issue, and his snotty-ass nurse as well.

the Drunken Housewife said...

I know it sounds insane to go back to Dr. Condescending, but his practice group is connected to a group which specializes in fibroids. So I believe that I will get a connection from Dr. Condescending to a surgeon with special expertise in this area. Dr. Condescending is part of the practice I saw when I gave birth to both Iris & Lola-- I never ran across a doctor I disliked in the practice when I was pregnant.

I do have recommendations for a new general practitioner, and I will try out a new doctor.

the Drunken Housewife said...

p.s. I left out from my account other doctors I tried to see, who were also not accepting new patients, and also the doctor who took over my old doctor's practice, whom I decided not to try (after reading poor reviews of her on Yelp & after not being able to get a timely app't with her).

I have some good recommendations I haven't yet tried out, so it's not all over yet. I WILL get another good doctor. It WILL happen.

hughman said...

well you have much more faith in yelp than i would. i'd doubt unsubstantiated opinions based on god knows what. then again, i've never used it. maybe some of lola's and iris's mothers might have a clue?

Philangelus said...

When he gives you a condescending answer, any chance you can say to him, "Doctor, do not speak to me that way. I am an adult. I may not have attended medical school, but I know disrespect when I hear it, and all your tone does is make you sound like you know you screwed up by not phoning me with the results earlier. Now, let's start over again from the top, shall we?"

Silliyak said...

To add to the last post, "And did I mention having a law degree?"

Dread Pirate Davi said...

Well, that'll teach you not to go around picking up strange tumors off the street. *wags finger* The nerve!!

thi said...

Egads.

I'm sorry to hear about the tumor, and the doctor. One of these can be addressed (new doc please), so hopefully your backup plans work out.

Our thoughts are with you.

Missy, in Austin, we have Dr. Knapp at ARC and she's awesome (and adorable), and good with the kids. If you're ever back here living and need a pediatrician, look her up at the Far West clinic.

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