Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Hope vs Fear

It's not often I lose my cool, but I spent this afternoon more riled than I have been in a long while. The reason? A disagreement with my GP.

My chest has been gunky and crackly for about four months now, and I had a follow-up with my GP following a spirometry test. The nurse who did the test had told me about the results, and what the GP would probably suggest. But when he reread my history, a look of panic came over his face. "You need to go back to your rheumatologist. You're on methotrexate - it's probably pulmonary fibrosis. It's a common side effect." I looked at him a little puzzled; his verdict was rather grim, and quite different to what I had expected. I quizzed him a bit, and found myself getting quite cross - how could he give me such a bleak prognosis on so little evidence?! Little One didn't help matters by running round the room shouting, jumping on equipment and trying to steal stethoscopes.

Eventually I stopped fighting and apologised for disagreeing. After all, as he reminded me, he was the doctor. By the end of the appointment my heart was going, tears were welling and I was desperate to escape.

On reflection, I should have stopped myself apologising for disagreeing with him. It's not that what he said was technically wrong (although I know for a fact that some of it was!). My main issue with the consultation was his communication with me. Doctors have a responsibility to inform and warn their patients, but not to scare them into believing they are probably very sick. Maybe there is something wrong, but maybe not. Let's find out together and not jump to conclusions. But this doctor left me no room for hope. 

Each time I have one of these hope-sapping medical experiences, I have a choice. There's not much I can do to change my GP's communication skills, but I can control how I take on his words. Do I listen to that voice of fear, go home and Google the name of the horrendous condition I probably (don't) have, or stay calm and hopeful until I've seen the specialist? This time I'm choosing to stay calm. What good would worrying about it do anyway?

Have you ever had a medical professional pronounce doom unnecessarily? How did you react?!


  1. My neighbour was once told she probably had cancer after the shortest of examinations and sent in a panic to the hospital, where it turned out to be a hernia... she's since left that practice!
    I've been sent to A&E a couple of times for reasons I thought a bit spurious and I've had a whole variety of encounters with doctors from wonderful and caring through to nightmare, patronising and idiotic, nearly all with fragile egos. It's a very mixed profession like any other. I've found they don't like you going in saying, "I think I've got x", better to describe the symptoms carefully and let them get there themselves and that arguing doesn't tend to get very far :-( I hope your rheumatologist is more helpful. Are there any other GPs at the practice you could see? And any mother/mil/relative/friend who could little one mind for you?
    Have a hug

  2. Thanks. Yes, in future I will make sure I get the Little One looked after - not much fun for him either!

    1. If there's no one to take him watching a video on your phone might occupy him? I see other parents around doing it