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To the Doctor Who Didn't Give Me False Hope About My Diagnosis

I waited patiently in a small cubical down a long hallway of the pulmonary clinic. I overheard another patient in the other room. I waited for the crease of light at the bottom of the door to go dark as I waited for a knock on the door. I searched through the outdated “People” and “Good Housekeeping” magazines on a side table.

It wasn’t long until the respiratory therapist opened the door.

“Hi, honey. How are you today? Just a few breathing tests. You know the drill. Three easy breaths and big breath in and out at the end.”

I found it a little silly that I was being instructed on how to perform a spirometry test. I mean, this was the sixth time performing this test which also means it was the sixth time seeing my pulmonologist and the respiratory therapist.

In the meantime, I huffed and I puffed like the wolf in the “Three Little Pigs” until my lungs were empty and airless.

“I’ll have the doctor look these over, and he should be in shortly. Good seeing you, sweetie!”

I pulled out my iPod in hopes of tuning out the mumbled and jumbled conversations in the hallway, but before I knew it there was another knock on the door.

I wasn’t exactly excited to be at this appointment because I had reached a point of stagnancy and an unexpected halt in my diagnosis. Before this appointment and a few months prior, I had two procedures within three months. I had been to the lab for blood work over half a dozen times, and frankly I didn’t know what the next step would be.

He took a seat, asked how I was doing, and then proceeded to say, “There’s nothing more I can do. I have ordered labs and scheduled procedures, and there is nothing significant that leads me to a clear diagnosis. I would like to refer you to some specialists.”

These words wove themselves around my ears as I understood what he was saying. Part of myself was confused because I thought doctors were supposed to figure out a patient’s symptoms. Part of myself was frustrated because I went through endless rounds of labs and procedures. And, part of myself was relieved because maybe I would be referred to a specialist who could figure out what was going on with my body.

And that’s just what happened. I was referred to a specialist in a different clinic.

Throughout the process of realizing I was being referred, I was thankful I wasn’t strung a necklace of hope. I was thankful for the sheer purity and honesty of the conversation because it put everything into perspective. There was something going on with my lungs for a year and half, and I went through all the ropes to try and figure it out. I find it an accomplishment of some sorts because I advocated for myself and by myself. Though I learned what it means to advocate at the age of 18, I believe I learned a lesson not many learn until later in life. I also learned the “MD” behind a person’s name does not mean they have all the answers. They, too, are humans, and sometimes options and avenues and treatments don’t lead to clear and precise diagnosis. I’ve learned that a stethoscope draped like a curtain around a doctor’s neck and a white lab coat does not mean they know all of the medical conditions at the tip of a hat.

There may not be anything more this doctor could have done to help my lungs, but I left thinking there are other doctors who have a different perspective to bring to table. A perspective that could lead me down the street of a diagnosis. And that alone, is enough.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment when you were at a hospital and a medical staffer, fellow patient or a stranger made a negative or surprising comment that caught you off guard. How did you respond to it? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.