Some medical appointments are so crucial they feel like judgement day. You might have been worried about health issues for weeks and months. And now, finally, the big day has arrived and you will see your doctor. Make the best out of your visit! Be prepared!
• Write down your questions in detail before. If you try to remember them, you will forget some, believe me.
• Also write down the answers, at least in keywords. This information is crucial, as you will think about it over and over again.
• Ask! That is maybe the most important piece of advice. Ask until you understand. Don’t ever stop before.
• Take your partner, friend or someone else who cares (a fellow spoonie?) with you, if you don’t want to face it alone.
• If you are not satisfied with the outcome of your medical appointment, get a second opinion.
• Don’t count on receiving all the answers. In most cases you will be referred or you will only get bits and pieces of what is important for you. In many occasions, you will have to wait for further tests.
• Don’t ramble on! If you want answers, ask questions. Detailed accounts of “how you felt when…” or “something you read online…” are normally not interesting from a medical point of view. Come straight to the point: describe symptoms and tell the doctor about changes in your lifestyle. Don’t mention every dubious fact you read about. Doctors hate patients who google too much. Ask him about those two or three things you researched which seemed interesting to you.
• Don’t hesitate to challenge your doctor with information you have from trustworthy sources (other patients, etc…)
• Don’t turn your doctor into a psychologist! Of course, the emotional side of being sick is important and doctors should be trained to deal with it accordingly, however, an oncology expert will not be able to help you with it. Ask him for support groups, if you don’t know any.
• Don’t leave your doctor without knowing about your future perspectives: will he arrange more tests or do you have to do it? When is the next appointment? And so on. Gather all the information and write a to-do list.
My typical medical appointment lasts from about ten minutes to a maximum of half an hour. You can see why excellent preparation is important. I must try to raise all my questions during this limited time and squeeze all the information I need out of my doctor. So, my approach needs to be extremely structured if I want it to be successful.