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No, I Can't Just Cancel or Reschedule This Doctor Appointment


Because of my complex medical issues, I need care beyond that of your Average Daisy or Joe. I go to my local university-affiliated center, which thankfully has offices in my city.

But sometimes, I’m too much for them. So they send me to HQ (headquarters).

And getting into HQ is quite a mission. It’s at least a 3- to 4-month wait, plus you are at the whim of those big fancy doctors at HQ and how they feel that week or if they have a class to teach or an important meeting to attend.  Of course, it’s deep in the heart of Los Angeles traffic. And they always want to offer you 8 a.m. or 3:30 p.m. appointments, which will inevitably turn into six-hour excursions depending on traffic, like any true Angelino knows.

Many think people on disability have all the free time in the world. Free time for all sorts of fun stuff. I, in fact, with all of that time, have four standing appointments every week plus whatever follow-ups and tests I have. Being on disability isn’t this glamorous life, laying on the couch with your make up done and a bag of Hot Cheetos and Netflix, waiting to go out for Happy Hour. It’s actually being at home, being sick and unable to do anything else.

We don’t choose to sit at home, waiting for those six months to pass before we see the specialist who may or may not give us an answer. A specialist who may or may not make us feel inadequate and “crazy,” like so many specialists have before. A specialist who might say, “I have no idea” and send us onto the next wait list for the next specialist.

Imagine going to work on Monday morning and telling your boss, “Hey I just don’t feel like doing the training today. I know we’ve had it planned for six months and I’m supposed to conduct the training, but I’m just not feeling it, and I got a better offer. Sound good?”

That is the equivalent of canceling an appointment at HQ.

My appointments to me are what your job is to you. My appointments are my job. I literally have no other job than going to my appointments and taking care of myself.

When you decide you want to get coffee on Thursday and that is quite possibly the only day that works for you for the next six months, I’m sorry, but HQ is calling. You can’t just willy-nilly with HQ. HQ doesn’t work like that. HQ sets the rules; we are but mere ants who follow them.

If it is an appointment I am able to reschedule and there truly is a conflict, I will. But some appointments (those pesky HQ ones) are not reschedulable. No matter how bad I’m feeling, no matter what is going on. I will move mountains to get to those appointments.

And I’m sorry, but at the same time not sorry, about coffee.

By saying I should be able to reschedule my appointment to spend time with you, you are invalidating my very real and very serious medical condition. You might have a few hours off from your kids or be between classes, but this is my illness. My very real illness that doesn’t take a break, doesn’t relent. An illness I’ve been fighting for years.

So no, I can’t reschedule.

I’ve probably been waiting for this appointment for four to six months, and then if I reschedule who knows when the next opening is. Sometimes I can, and I will. Sometimes I have to. Sometimes I physically can’t drive to my appointments, which is why I’ve developed an extensive network of “drivers” (see: family and friends).

I know when I reschedule an appointment I shouldn’t have because the person inside the person with chronic illness wanted to have some fun that day. I get the same nagging feeling I got when I ditched class as a student. It’s not a good feeling to have.

So I stopped. I stopped missing appointments because I wanted to hang out with my friends or see my partner or go get coffee. I stick to my schedule because I learned, like I said before, my appointments are like my job.

I may not be able to do a 9 to 6 Monday through Friday for 50 weeks a year like most people, but I can do an 8 a.m. on Monday in six months at HQ.

Follow this journey on Living Without Limits.

Image via Thinkstock.