After all, if he doesn't ask the right questions, then what? There's a reason so many hospitals are teaching doctors to communicate. What we need in that office is not a speech, but a conversation. And any conversation is partly our job.
To do our part of the job, besides a pencil we also need a clock! And a calendar. Why?
Let's go back to that chart I never could keep, in The Immune Power Personality. * What the chart is really for is paying attention to our symptoms. Dreher reminds us, that unfortunately, it's harder to pay attention to symptoms if we just pop a pill to quiet them so we can get on with our daily business of doing too much, criticizing ourselves, endlessly rushing forth unprepared.
He's right, I know. So I've abandoned the charts and started using my too-small purse calendar. That way, even if I'm unprepared for a doctor visit, the records are with me.
In the calendar, I write on that tiny page that the waves of fatigue I associate with Tamoxifen often occur at about 9 a.m., when I've already had a good breakfast. I write down a word about what my acid reflux is doing right then.
I write down whether I've had coffee, or chocolate, or milk. (Sometimes it feel like the doctor should have a confessional with a curtain so I can't confess what I ate, and the exercise I didn't do.)
And a record would have helped to remind him that although there was big anxiety right before the backaches started, there was also too much of the depression (another thing I blame on Tamoxifen) for me to take the anxiety pills he wanted me to take.
I can even tell the doc I have exhaustion just before computer lab. Or I have stomach trouble getting ready for my appointment with client Susabella B.)
Or your feet hurt when you woke up every morning for two weeks.
And with a calendar, you can be sure to let Dr. Sally know if the symptom hurts for three days, goes away for a week, then comes back every week. (That's important, or they wouldn't mention it on medicine bottle labels.)
A clock for: What time does it hurt.
A pencil to write down: What happened just before it hurt.
And a calendar so I can tell the doc how many days it hurts, and which days of the week. (There was a study once that showed the big heart attack hours are Monday morning. Guess why.)
Then, it's up to us to take the calendar out, and tell the doctor what's going on. We deserve a turn to talk. We don't wait for him to ask.
*Henry Dreher, Plume/Penguin, 1996