When doctors do hurtful things: losing my temper after it's all over

When doctors do hurtful things: losing my temper after it's all over

Tonight is ChicagoNow’s Blogapalooz-Hour! Our challenge is to publish a post in one hour. Our community manager throws out a topic at 9 and we have to post by 10. This is tonight’s topic: “Write about a time you lost your temper or somebody lost their temper at you”

I have a wicked tongue and the soul of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I say all the right things, really hit my mark and make powerful people who’ve done stupid things quake in their shoes. In my head. Several hours or days later.

Wait, I should be fair to myself. In some work situations I can be fearsome. Just ask the three-star general who was president of a statewide-university system who crossed swords with me when I was faculty senate president. In a room of a dozen faculty members, I read him the riot act on behalf of my colleagues. Folks told me later that he crushed a plastic soda bottle in his right hand as I challenged and questioned him. The only quotation I can remember is, “You can’t really work with strong women, can you?” (We got what we wanted from him, by the way.)

But in my personal life, when I should be advocating for myself, I often end up speechless, feeling about as big as Ant Man. I end up not making eye contact and becoming passive. Especially with doctors. And there have been so many doctors. When you’re diagnosed with cancer, you meet and interact with so many doctors.

My life lesson for the year is: “It’s not personal.” You’d think I would have learned that about 30 years ago, but I’m just now getting it. In my head I know that most of my negative interactions with doctors have nothing to do with me, with who I am. It’s just how things work. Doctors are busy and flawed and stressed. They are sometimes insensitive and rude. They’re almost always in a hurry.

There was the doc who gave me a steroid shot without a head’s up, and when I almost passed out said, “OK, you lie down and leave when you feel better.” He left me alone in the exam room to take care of myself.

There was the doc who took my notebook, where I’d written questions, out of my hands and said, “No, I’ll tell you what you need to know. You don’t need that.”

And, there was the doc who told me I was having a test and instead took me into surgery and told me I had cancer when I was completely alone and completely unprepared for the news. He yelled at me when I started crying.

It’s this last doc who inspires my post tonight. Unfortunately, he’s a partner at the same office with my real doc. If it weren’t for the fact that my urologist is the most amazing doctor I could imagine for myself, I would have changed doctors so that I wouldn’t have to run into the “bad doc.”

I haven’t seen him since I woke up from surgery and he was shoving a photograph of my tumor into my face. Until last week.

I’ve been having some persistent UTI symptoms and have been to my urologist’s office twice for tests. I usually see him in the office on Wednesdays when “bad doc” isn’t in, but this last time I went on a Monday because I only needed lab work. As I went to the front desk, “Dr. Bad Doc” spoke to a nurse and came through the main door.

When I told my husband, he said, “Is he still standing?”

The truth is, though I feel great anger for this doc, I’m mostly just terrified of him. When I saw him, I backed up, went to the waiting room and started shaking. Then I went to the restroom and cried for a bit, got myself together and tried again.

As I got to the front desk this time, I heard my doc’s voice talking to a nurse, and I felt relieved. I felt safe.

I’d like to be able to stand strong in front of Dr. Bad Doc, give him a piece of my mind. Lord knows I’ve done it a thousand times in my head. But I can’t see him or hear his voice without shaking. Even worse, I’m pretty certain he has no memory of me, no recollection of what for me was a life-changing moment and for him was probably just another day.

It wasn’t personal, not for him anyway. And, it doesn’t help me much to lose my temper after the fact. It just aggravates and stresses me.

What I’m trying to do is to accept that this is how things work. Some docs do and say hurtful things. I’m trying to remember, always, to be grateful for the truly wonderful physicians I have encountered recently–a urologist, a GP, a psychiatrist, an orthopedic surgeon, a cardiologist. Men and women who do their jobs well and who interact with respect and kindness.

But, I’m also trying to remember that I’m not powerless. I don’t have to leave shaking, remain mute or passive in the presence of an unprofessional doctor. I’m Buffy the Vampire Slayer, dammit.

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Filed under: Cancer, Doctors, Uncategorized

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