To The Doctors

To The Doctors

Chronic Illness isn't fun

Dear Doctors,

Most of you don’t know me and hopefully most of you will never even need to see my chart. But chances are some of you may come across me at some point or another. Whether it be in an office or a hospital setting you’ll see my chart and wonder ‘how is this possible’. I’m sure by now there’s a note on my file saying that I’m a difficult patient and I truly do understand your frustration. But please try to understand mine as well. Somewhere along the way you’ve lost your compassion and your understanding of people. You understand the mechanics of course but not the effect of these issues.

I’ve spent most of my life being told I’m a hypochondriac and to stop researching my issues. And over the past few years I’ve heard it more and more and not just from Doctors but from my family as well. The truth is that if you were willing to listen to me and not just discount me as being hysterical we could work together better. Something a lot of people have forgotten is that the relationship between doctor and patient is supposed to be that of a team. Together we can get to the root of my issues and hopefully along the way you’ll learn something new. Because the truth is not everyone’s body reacts the exact same way (It’s called an average for a reason after all). Some people might react one way while others might react on the opposite end of the spectrum. TYPICAL DOES NOT MEAN EVERYONE. Sorry that needed to get out.

Personally I’ve known since I was about 12 that my body runs colder than the average person. My normal body temperature is 96.8 Fahrenheit, the average is 98.6. So while someone being at 100 degrees might be not too concerning for you I know that when I’m at a 100 degrees that there’s something wrong. I’ve been told countless times that my temperature is perfectly normal when I’m sitting in the office with it being 98.6 and I can’t stop shivering or I have a cough. But because the average is 98.6 and I’m telling you I have a fever I’m hysterical or a hypochondriac.

Like I said I understand your frustration because I have no clue what’s going on either, somewhere along the way my body just gave up the pretense of being normal and now I’m dealing with the fallout. All I’m asking for is for compassion and understanding, just like any other patient. I’m 25 and at this rate I have no idea what my health will even be like when I turn 30.

I try to be a good person but after frustrating appointments I can’t help but think that if you were in my shoes being treated like this how would that make you feel? Would you sit calmly while stewing on the inside because here we go again with being told there’s nothing wrong? Just because your body is reacting in a way that is not the typical way the body reacts to something. Or would you get angry and talk back or cry? I don’t know but in my less kind moments I wish this on you. I wish the confusion and the frustration and the being treated terribly on you because then maybe just maybe you would understand where your patients are coming from.

So all I ask is that next time a patient walks into the room with something that isn’t readily apparent admit it and maybe together we can learn exactly what is going on. Just treat your patients the way you would want to be treated if you were the one that was sick. Trust me it’ll mean the world to your patient to be treated compassionately. Listen to your patient and don’t just brush off their concerns as being those of someone who is hysterical. Or better treat them like it was your family or how you would hope your family was treated if this was the situation they found themselves in.

Thank You,
A Patient

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Yes, I Bite My Straw, Don't Ask Me Why, Thanks

Everyone has their "things," so maybe try not to call it out with judgment.

Habits, ticks, nervous movements. Things that we do unconsciously. Almost everyone has at least one if not multiple habits and or obsessions if you will, that make up who they are. From tapping fingers to the overuse of a word or the little quirk in which one might roll their eyes a little too often.

These pieces of our personalities stem from various reasons, but that is not what I want to address. I would like to point out that people cannot often help the various actions that they have and the fact that you shouldn’t call someone out simply because they always chew on their straw.

As someone who has been called out for many of my personal habits, it can actually be a bit crippling. I often don’t pay mind to some of my habits or simply do them unconsciously and when someone points it out, it makes me more self-aware and it feels a bit judged. I often brush off the comments with ease or a snappy response, but in the moment, I also get a bit upset. Especially when I am asked about it repeatedly or when I am interrogated about a habit that in all honesty just developed and I can't tell you why I stare into the distance, bite my nails, or only eat bagels only on Wednesdays.

I know that people are naturally curious, and I’m not saying you can’t ask. My point is that people should be a little considerate before asking someone why they put a lot of salt on their food or why they might fidget so much. As I mentioned, our habits stem from various reasons, sometimes reasons people may not want to share or maybe they just developed it out of nowhere.

Pointing out people's habit might make someone insecure and no one likes to feel like an outcast, especially in today's society. Again, I get that people are curious, but just remember to be considerate. Try to ask politely or maybe not even ask at all. As I'm sure you’ve heard before, treat people the way you want to be treated.

If you wouldn't feel good about being called out because of your constant hair twirling, the guy who always looks down when speaking might not like it either. All in all, it’s the small things, we are told not to be judgmental and consider feelings, but maybe we don’t consider habits. The small things that make us, well us.

Things like compliments, good or bad stick with us and I think people forget that comments about our quirks also stay with us, and when you point them out it can make others insecure. So just remember that people's habits make them who they are, and we often times can't control them.

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What I've Learned That Cancer Cannot Do

I would never have expected that something as disgusting as cancer could be a learning experience that I could not have gotten anywhere else.

This past Saturday marked the two-year anniversary of when I finished chemotherapy. My "Chemo-versary!" Not only is it the two-year anniversary of when I finished chemo, but later on this year, it will be 10 years since my first surgery.

Prior to my first surgery and even during the past few years, I always viewed cancer as the end-all-be-all. That it would forever leave a negative effect on my life and that it would follow me around like a dark shadow pushing into every part of my life.

For some reason, I was, for lack of a better word, ashamed of all that I had experienced. I thought that people would see me only as the person that has cancer and that every time that I spoke about it, they would roll their eyes thinking, what else would we expect.

Over the years, I have come to realize and accept that part of that is true. I was right in thinking that there is no way to keep cancer from spreading into every part of my life. That is how much of an effect that it has made in my life.

That isn’t a bad thing or something to be ashamed of, though. I don’t think of it as a dark shadow anymore. I now see it as a light to follow that has guided me to who I am today and who I will become. I would never have expected that something as disgusting as cancer could be a learning experience that I could not have gotten anywhere else.

My Nana has a newspaper clipping on her refrigerator about what cancer cannot do.

When I first read that many years ago, I thought that it was kind of ridiculous. However, thinking about that prayer or poem that she has, it is absolutely so true and it has taken three cancer reoccurrences to teach me that.

Cancer is unable to cripple love, kill friendship or suppress memories. I am closer to my family and friends than ever before. The amount of love that I was shown from them and even from people that I didn’t know at all was absolutely amazing. I have a newer appreciation for my family and friends in my life, and there is no way that I can put into words how thankful I am for all of them — for every single person that has helped me through the past many years.

It cannot shatter hope, dissolve faith, destroy peace or steal eternal life. My faith is stronger than ever. Even though it was tested MANY times over the past 10 years, I know that God has a reason for putting me through all of it. I am studying to be a nurse because I want to be able to help kids and their families that are dealing with their own battles, just like the great nurses at my hospital helped me. I would not have even considered becoming a nurse if I hadn’t gone through what I had. I strongly believe that God used all that I had gone through to guide me down the path that He had set for me.

It cannot silence courage or conquer the spirit. I am who I am today because of the disgusting disease. I was brave and kept going because that was the only thing to do. I chose to not be a victim of cancer not just because I got through it, but because I didn’t let it stop me from doing what I loved and living my life. Since I was fortunate to make it out healthy, I am using my experience of battling cancer to make a difference. There is extremely little education and funding for pediatric cancer. We formed the Go for Gabs team and every year since my second diagnosis in 2010, my family, friends and I have done a different race or event to raise money to donate to pediatric cancer research.

I have no idea whether or not I will have to go through all of it again. If I do, though, I sure as heck know that because of all that I have come to learn about what cancer cannot do, I will add to that list that it cannot stop me.

Cover Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons

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