Being a patient

Doctors don’t make the best patients. Maybe, it’s because doctors forget to BE patients. We know so much about the process of treating patients, that when it is our turn to be the patient, we cannot shift our perspectives. Not easily. And because we have spent a whole career on the doctor-side of the equation, when we are the patient, we can be a bit blindsided by the experience. Or, maybe we sail through the event without much emotional expenditure because our training allows us to compartmentalize things.

And, even if we manage to defy illness, we (should) submit ourselves to the same preventative care we advise for our patients. We know when it’s time to get a physical, do the mammogram or get the colonoscopy.

Last Monday, I surrendered for the colon cancer screening. And now, from the patient’s perspective, I am affirmed that I have been truthful to my patients. The hard part is NOT the procedure. Nope. They gave me intravenous Propofol and Versed and I remember NOTHING. Nada. It might have been an alien abduction, for all I can tell. There is a 30 minute blank spot in my mind, total amnesia. Which is just fine with me.

The horrid part was the prep. And now the prep is the more-friendly process of a week of low-residue eating and then a 3-bottle magnesium citrate and laxative flush. It was gross. I was unhappy. And puny. And I fainted. Twice. It is always super humbling to faint in your bathroom AND have questionable control of your bowel functions. But, I was prepped exactly as Dr. Maico had hoped.

And I got the “Come back in 10 years” Gold Star. I feel like I won the Lottery. I also understand that in the wake of the procedure, they tell you your results before you really have your brain turned back on. So, had the gastroenterologist said, “We removed six polyps and one is highly suspicious. I want you to see the surgeon.” I would have not had the critical brain functions to process and understand that information. It was hours later, after REALLY waking up from the Propofol haze, that I realized that I was GOOD. My colon was clear and I did not have to worry about cancer. And then, I gave thanks for that news. And I considered the other possible outcomes, the “what-ifs”.

It helps me better understand the time-delay my patients will have about their own results. I will slow down and give them more time to think and feel and process. Even if the news is all-good and fine. We each need time to know and understand.

February 2018
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