HOW A CHRONIC DISEASE CAN BE LIKE A BABY.
I remember, when I was 24, and had lived with my arthritis for three years, my mother saying that she hated to tell me this, but had I seen a doctor she knew I didn’t like I wouldn’t have been as I was. Is this true? Well, no.
The type of arthritis I have is not easy to diagnose and people usually take years to diagnose.
The next reason is, the first thing you need, for a doctor-patient relationship to be functional, is the ability for the patient to feel comfortable sharing their problems with the doctor. Okay, my maternal grandfather, and his father before him, if he went to the doctor and was asked what was wrong, would reply, “That’s what I came to you to find out.” The doctor would reply, “Well, have you got an ache? Have you got a pain?” That was just my grandfather being difficult, but with the nature of the doctor my mother knew I didn’t like, he would either say, “This is a waste of time,” and show you out, or if your condition was obvious, would ask questions that you may not want to answer.
Another thing this doctor didn’t understand was, there’s a difference between a patient revealing something because they need you to know, and an invitation to discuss something. For example, you have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and you go on holiday to the seaside, and you stand on a discarded fishing hook on the sand. You go to the local doctor and they remove the hook, clean and dress the wound and check your tetanus status and give you a shot. As a precaution, they also give you a five or seven day course of antibiotics. The local doctor needs to know that you have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis to ensure that the antibiotic doesn’t interact with your thyroxine; it is not a license for the doctor to give you a pathology slip to check your thyroxine levels. The same applies if you go to a medical centre and see a doctor who is not your usual. They need to know to ensure that they know what medicines you’re taking, not so they can suggest changes or additions.
One of the things that you learn when diagnosed with a condition that is chronic, but not life threatening, is just how much responsibility you have to take for your own health. When the doctor told me that I have ankylosing spondylitis, I had braced myself for the fact that the condition is incurable. Okay, you have to adjust to a regime of regular medication, self-care (dietary changes can be helpful, but that’s more if you have associated gastrointestinal issues. For example, I also have coeliac disease, but I can’t say to somebody, “Right, stop eating gluten.” Yes, wheat can be an inflammatory, but if eliminating wheat was the only way to eliminate pain, doctors would be telling everybody that upon diagnosis.
One of the things I remember reading, in a pamphlet about diabetes, when I was at school, was that you needed to have a good relationship with your doctor, your dietician, an exercise physiologist (they are not personal trainers, mind you), a podiatrist and possibly endocrinologist. The same applies with your doctor for any chronic illness. So, as I said to my mother, seeing a doctor you don’t like when you have a chronic illness, is like marrying somebody you don’t love just because you are expecting a child together. (Okay, decades ago, if a woman got pregnant outside wedlock, the man was considered to be doing the right thing by marrying her, but nowadays, all he has to do, either by arrangement or court order, is pay maintenance. Now, don’t get me wrong here, some kids whose parents were never married, but they remained good friends, would see their non-custodial parent every second weekend, and if their non-custodial parent married someone else and had more kids, they remained a significant figure in their lives. And some of these kids grew up to be well-adjusted, well-grounded teenagers and adults, while some whose parents were forced to get married, were raised in loveless homes where they were all their parents had in common.) My mother told me it was nonsense, but it’s not. Okay, my paternal grandmother excepted, not too many people would wake up and say, “Hey, I’m going out, today. I’m going to the doctor,” with excitement. But if you don’t like the doctor, the relationship will not be good. My mother also said, “But if they’re finding things and helping you,” to which I say, “Unless things are very obvious, the only way they find things and help you is if you open up to them.” For example, if you have a black mole on the back of your hand and they say, “We’d better remove that,” and the pathology report says, “Precancerous lesion,” that’s “finding things” but if they have to force it out of you, then that’s a different matter.
I am not saying that the birth of a much wanted and much anticipated baby can be compared with the diagnosis of a chronic condition that may be accepted but not wanted. Okay, I have taken all my chronic conditions in my stride, and that’s how I believe you can, but just like impending parenthood changes your life forever and can mature you as a person, a diagnosis of a chronic health condition can mature you as a person, as you have something that requires a great deal of responsibility to manage and take care of.