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To the Doctor Who Falsely Promised Me He Would 'Get to the Bottom of Things'

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You told me you were not a miracle worker, but that you would do everything you could to help and to get to the bottom of things.

I believed you. I put my hope and trust in that. And it was my mistake.

To the doctor who told me he can’t help and there is nothing more he could do for me:

Thank you. Whether you know it or not, you taught me about advocacy. You taught me about how and when to pick my battles, and most importantly, you taught me I cannot put my trust in every doctor I see or come across. I need to choose wisely when it comes to my team of doctors, and I cannot be afraid to stand up for myself when I know something is not just, and move on when the time is right.


Advocacy. When you told me the one result was negative, I asked to pursue further testing per request of one of my doctors who I have been working with for a couple of years. You said you would consult the team and do what you can for me. I took that step forward and asked to continue with testing, trusting in my gut that something still is not right with my health and my body.

Picking my battles. When your assistant called and spoke the words, “There is nothing more we can do for you. Your symptoms are not severe enough and we cannot make a case to pursue this testing like you want,” at first I was devastated. I was discouraged. And then I was angry. Not severe enough? You saw me one time. Do you not know that three years ago I was using a wheelchair to get everywhere? Or that two years ago I was relying primarily on a walker just to walk into the pharmacy? You did not see me with my walker. I still have it. I still use it for long distances. And I am in the process of trying to get a wheelchair. Is that not severe enough for you? Because it is severe enough for me. When my life is turned upside down due to illness, when I was a girl who used to ski down mountains all day, sail in the summers and run miles on end, that comment is almost a slap in the face. I understand I am not the most severe case out there. I understand fully, truly I do, that people may have it worse off than me, and that in many ways I am blessed.

But to sit there and tell me there is nothing more you can do, that you can’t make a case, that you won’t even try? Well, to me that says you don’t care. That is telling me you can’t keep your word. And if you can’t keep your word or promises, you should probably not say anything to begin with. Next time a patient comes in and you say you will do everything you can to help them, I suggest you think carefully before you speak, and really think about the truth behind your words. Because making empty promises to someone who is sick is not only careless and negligent, but it is shattering to those of us with chronic illness on the receiving end.

But back to picking my battles. I knew right then and there this was not something to fight for. If you do not even want to try, why should I push the matter? When I already have a good doctor who believes me and will do what he can to help and advocate for me, why fight to have you on my team? I need doctors who care. I need doctors who are persistent. I need doctors who aren’t afraid of a challenge and who are determined to get to the bottom of things. So, thank you. I learned when to pick my battles, and this is not one of them. I can try to get the testing done with my regular doctor who wanted it to begin with, and we will fight as a team to get the coverage.

And lastly, trust. You taught me I cannot trust every doctor I come across. Doctors are human, too. I almost used to forget that. However, the more I have seen different doctors and had experience with different doctors, the more I have come to realize that not all doctors will gain my trust. Not all doctors will instill me with a high confidence level in their abilities. Not all doctors I will get along with. Not all doctors will be kind and compassionate. Not all doctors will care. This experience was the icing on the cake for my lesson regarding trust in doctors. There is a process that happens in the doctor’s office; there is an engagement, a conversation, and there is a vibe and a feeling that you get. It is either good or bad. I did not have the best vibe when we met, but I decided to give you a chance. Now I know you were not meant to be my doctor, and that initial trust I did put in you is now broken.

I am not holding onto anger or bitter feelings. I am no longer disappointed and discouraged. But I think it is important you know the effects your words can have on a patient who is desperately seeking answers. So, next time you can see a patient who can walk, talk or appears healthy, do think twice about your promises and choice of words. Because the patient will take that as a glimmer of hope and hold on to it. Just because we appear healthy on the outside does not mean we are on the inside.

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Thinkstock photo via NanoStockk.

Originally published: September 25, 2017
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