Posts Tagged ‘trust’

Find YOUR doctor, not just A doctor.

July 21, 2010

Recently, I was talking with a friend who mentioned her doctor had recommended she needed to find a specialist pretty quickly. This was the second time her doctor had made that recommendation.  When I asked why she hadn’t done it, she said she didn’t even know where to begin.  For anyone who is suddenly diagnosed with a serious illness or the possibility of a serious illness, determining what steps to take next can be overwhelming.  Finding the right doctor, at a time when our mind is spinning, can seem truly beyond our ability. Often, our physician will refer us to a colleague or we might be expected to look at the list of doctors on our insurance plan and pick one.  Sounds like the easiest and best solution.  But, there is a catch to that solution.

When we are faced with a potential serious long term or life-threatening illness, it becomes critical that whatever doctors we choose to work with are doctors that we trust and like and feel really comfortable with.  While this is true for any doctor, we often settle for the most convenient or easiest get an appointment with. Since we usually see them infrequently for physicals and acute illnesses, we can forgive an abrupt bedside manner or the harried energy.  However, when we will be seeing a doctor frequently, when we have to rely on them for our lives, when we need to be able to comfortably talk about all of our symptoms with them, when we need their undivided attention, it becomes critical that we don’t settle but that we choose.

But choosing, taking the time to interview several doctors, researching who is covered by our insurance plan, getting recommendations, can all be overwhelming when all we can think about is the illness and what it means for us.  That is when it is critical to find an advocate–someone to help you sort out all the pieces, to listen with you at doctor’s appointments, to help you define the questions you need answered and to help those questions get asked.  An advocate can be anyone–a friend, a partner, a child or parent, or a professional who is trained to help.

Several months ago, one of my friends, who was finishing her chemotherapy, said she was glad she was done because now she could start looking for an oncologist she liked and felt good with.   I asked why now and she said because she didn’t feel like she could change doctors once the chemo started, but that she had never really felt comfortable with her oncologist.  She said when she was diagnosed and referred, she had just been in such shock, she had gone along with the referred doctor and then felt stuck. How much harder that makes our treatment and recovery!

It is our life and our health and we need to feel comfortable and informed to make the best decisions and choices. Finding an advocate who can be there with you and for you can make a huge difference.  It will allow you to take the time to find YOUR doctor, not just A doctor for your care. And that can make all the difference in your ability to recover and heal.

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Vulnerability. Submission. Trust.

July 1, 2010

Vulnerability.  Submission. Trust.

Those are the messages my little rescue foster dog is sending when she lays on her back and shows her tummy.  And I am gentle and I smile and I rub her tummy and tell her she is a good girl.  And she is rewarded for her trust.

How different I felt  thinking about lying on my back and showing my tummy when I was schedule for abdominal surgery for cancer.  Vulnerable, yes.  Submissive, yes.  Trusting–kind of. About to be violated–totally.

Even after spending many years working in the operating room, it felt so uncomfortable and scary to know it was my turn.  It’s not like I wear a two piece swim suit or show off my abdomen, so just having it exposed is a little embarrassing.  But, then to have it cut open, to have all the things that are supposed to be inside taken out and evaluated and handled, and some of it removed, and then everything put back in just felt scary and, more than vulnerable, it felt violating.  Strangers would know more about me, would have seen more of me, than those closest to me–than even ME!  There would be no hiding behind clothing to look better, no masks to wear or stories to tell.  These people would be able to see me to my very core.  And, it wasn’t that I didn’t trust the doctors and the team to know what they were doing.  I did.  But, I wouldn’t be there to see if they accepted my offer of submission, if they could accept my tummy with a smile and a message that I am ok.

And, it has affected me since the surgery.  The part of me that read the operative report and saw the words “obese”, the part that recognized the extra steps necessary during surgery to make sure I was ok in spite of complicating factors– all those parts of me just wanted to know that I was ok, that I was a “good girl”, that my trust was rewarded with caring and acceptance.

And then, this past week I came across a wonderful book that documents  a woman’s journey with abdominal cancer that required major abdominal surgery.  A passage in that book so moved me and so opened the door to understanding the vulnerability and reward that goes with the trust, that it brought tears to my eyes and heart.

On page 131 in Between Me and the River: Living Beyond Cancer: A Memoir by Carrie Host, she writes:

“I’m telling him, ‘I’m just really scared, I feel like they’re just going to slice me open like a fish.  It will be so violating, in every way.  My solar plexus…well..I’ll just be lying there, cut wide open, totally exposed in the worst way.’…As usual Dr. Gottlieb is not in a hurry to rush for words… Calmly, he proceeds to describe surgery for me, as only he could.

‘Actually, during a surgery where they are working to save a person’s life, it can be spiritual in many ways.  The operating room itself is bright, clean and quiet.  There is light everywhere. Your body will be meticulously draped to cover everything but the area that they will be working on.  Every tool and necessary object is in its place, waiting to be used.  The doctors and nurses are standing in a kind of circle around you, with the anesthesiologist at your head, all focused on the same goal.  It is a powerful and moving sight.  I invite you to imagine that when Dr. Nagorney opens your abdomen, it will then be flooded with light.  Then still more lights will be added to that.  I have observed a number of surgeries and many of them are really beautiful.'”

And I remembered my experiences working in the operating room.  How reverent and non-judgemental we felt, how focused on making things right we were.  It really is a healing circle, bringing in healing light.

I have come to realize that I was vulnerable and I trusted that I would be safe at a time I couldn’t trust my own body to keep me safe.  And, I got the smile and  tummy rub and  “good girl”.  My surgeons created a way for light to enter my body—healing bright white light.  What a gift.  So, thank you to the surgeons and surgical teams that understand the power of bringing light to those vulnerable areas shrouded in darkness, to smile and rub our tummy and let us know we sere safe in our vulnerability, that is was right to trust.