I have a doctor’s appointment coming up this week. I don’t take these visits for granted. They are opportunities. I realize that, for different reasons, many people are not able to see a doctor. Living in America and having good insurance has given me access to some of the best medical care in the world. Mr. Legs will once more take time off from work and we will again drive two hours to see this doctor. For the doctor’s sake and mine, I try to make the short time with him productive.
I have been to a few doctors before (do you detect an understatement here?). I like my primary care physician. We used to call those general practitioners – is that term still used? As medicine gets more specialized, so do doctors and the list of specialists available seems to grow. On my list of specialists seen are optometrist, ophthalmologist, EENT, hematologist, internal medicine, neurologist, orthopedist, urologist. And that doesn’t even include the doctors I have seen with my kids or husband.
My appointment this week is with a neurologist. Even more specific, an MS Specialist at an MS Clinic. Because we’ve moved a number of times, I’ve seen at least six different neurologists through the years. This one is not my favorite, but he’s among the best and he comes with a superb support team in the clinic. He is a specialist of specialties. He knows the latest news about studies and medicines and drug trials and has a wealth of experience with patients.
I have always viewed doctor appointments much like going to a mechanic. If you have a problem with your car, you take it in and get it fixed – so it is with our bodies. External damage is one thing. Sometimes duct tape can be used as a temporary fix, but normally if it’s external, we take it to a body shop and trained people know how to make it look like new or at least better. If it’s internal, we need a mechanic. Sometimes parts can be fixed, sometimes they can be replaced. And so, I usually prepare for doctor appointments by making a list of questions and concerns. And then I listen to the answers to each item to find out options for repair.
I’m working with a late model. Age has worn it’s parts. Each one chugs along trying to work with and alongside the others. Sometimes one part is able to take over for the more worn ones. Lots of diagnostic tests have been run. Repairs made are extensive. My system has been flushed, alignment has been straightened, parts have been tightened and others oiled/greased/loosened.
I’m viewing this appointment differently. I will have my normal list of questions about new medications. I will still ask what my options are. But my questions will go beyond treatments and prescriptions and referrals. I know all I need to now about the beginning of this disease and the middle of this disease. I need to know about the end of this disease. I need to realistically understand how the course of this disease will finish.
There’s a difference between determination and denial. There’s a point at which more money and more medicine and more treatment does not equal a better patient. The time will come when my tank of motivation and energy will not be full enough or its contents potent enough to fuel me. When will the focus of treatment turns from a goal of improvement to a goal of comfort? There’s a point at which you stop investing money in a car that is not going to run well regardless of what new parts you install. And there comes a time when parts for older models are simply not available. When ideas for repairs are exhausted and results are ineffective, sometimes even mechanics resort to duct tape. Some vehicles are simply not roadworthy and must inevitably be sent to the scrapyard. When I can no longer drive my own vehicle, how big of a tow truck will be necessary to carry me? I’m not anxious to get on the highway to the sky, I just want to know what route I’m taking, how rough the road is and what the scenery will be like.
Most of us have been faced with tough, but necessary, decisions. Preparation is important and I want to be armed with knowledge for future choices. I do not expect to like what I hear, but I will try to brace myself for whatever information I receive. I need to be responsible enough to know when some medications should be stopped. It’s like putting high octane fuel in a tank with a big rusted hole. And it’s senseless to replace a part when the parts surrounding it can’t support it’s use.
For the first time, I am ready to ask about specialized diets and results observed. And it will be the first time I will genuinely want to hear that it is an option worth trying. I will listen closely to facts he can share and his opinions. I also want to make better use of the supporting staff in the clinic. Its valuable resources have been underused by me.
So my list and I will be well prepared for this valuable appointment with my valued doctor. I hope my electrical system provides adequate mental capacity to process the answers received and that my engine is strong enough to deal with the emotional aftermath. I hate it when my headlights leak.
Your Joy Will Be My Strength by The Foresters
My heart has been heavy, my faith has been weak
I’m calling on You Lord please don’t forget me
My feet need Your guidance, my eyes need Your sight
I know in Your name there is life
Whoa, your joy will be my strength
Whoa, your joy will be my strength
When my world’s coming undone
I will stand on this faith that has overcome it all
Your joy will be my strength
My enemies surround me and
fight for my soul
My trust is in God, on His name I will call
To defend me in trouble, to rescue and save
I trust in the power of His name
Lift up Your voices people of God
The day of the Lord has come
Through trial and pain Your love will remain our song