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Why I Ended a 6-Year Relationship With My Rheumatologist

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The phone rang twice. A feeling of dejection resonated as I held the phone to my ear. This wasn’t the only time they made my life more complicated than it has to be. Tears welled up in my eyes as I hung up the phone, shaking in frustration. It’s the first rheumatologist I’ve broken up with. The others were simple – one retirement, the distance was too far with another – I guess I thought this guy was the one.

Strike one: non-returned phone calls

Strike two: thrown out paper work by clerical staff because they didn’t think my blood work from another doctor was “relevant” to my lupus

And you’re out: As I try to schedule an emergency appointment mid-flare, I hold a conversation that borders on comical:

“Wait, who is this?”


“I heard you and you said your name starts with “R – U.”

“OK, well, my name is T-A…”

“Well, what do you want us to do? Should we forward your blood work script to Quest?” (Quest is where I get my blood work done.)

“Yes, I would really appreciate that!”

“Well, I don’t know the number. So I don’t know what to tell you.”

“Do you want me to look up the fax number for you? I’m also happy to pick it up or take it somewhere else.”

“Oh, also, your appointment has to be cancelled for Monday. We are changing office hours.”

I could feel my blood rolling into a slow boil, my ears becoming warm to the touch. In fact, the following sequence truly resonates with my emotions:


Granted, I’m not the most patient or even-keeled person, but I had this sensation that moved me to feel like I deserved better. It was upon being informed that my appointment – which was less than a week away – had been cancelled without anyone calling to give me the slightest notice and that I would now have to reschedule during my workday. Their office hours are changing. Resurfacing in my mind were other times I felt slighted by their office staff, as though my health was an annoyance to their day.

I felt the words slip off my tongue before my brain had any input. And while I don’t regret my choice, this wasn’t the me I know.

“It seems as though this isn’t working out anymore. It looks like I’m going to have to find someone new.”

Not like me because I have a complex and despise feeling like I disappointed someone. Go ahead, psychoanalyze me. How far has that gotten me in life? Not far at all. Which is why I’m coming to terms with the fact that not everyone will like me; in fact, I’m fairly certain plenty do not. But that’s OK because I was always told that the older you get, the less you care, and that is certainly true. Not to say I don’t care at all about what people think or I’d quit shaving my legs right…about…now. But as I said, I do care. So for me, ending this relationship with my doctor was not a simple task.

Would I allow a friend to treat me like this? A significant other? A family member? Co-worker? Stranger? Anyone? No. No. No. No. No. No.

And there I was – my face turning red, a fiery sensation burning from somewhere deep within. Everything in me that cared about what these people thought about me vanished as I was reminded that the only thing that matters at the end of all of this is my health.

So after a six-year relationship, my rheumatologist and I are broken up. And call it quick, but I’ve moved on. If anyone asks, it ended because I know I deserve to be treated well.

Here’s the thing though, I will break my own new rule and tolerate being treated like a second-class citizen by one doctor: the veterinarian. Frankly, she connects much better with animals than people and I only request that she is kind to my dog.

This post originally appeared on 52 Miles Per Month.

Thinkstock photo via takasuu.

Originally published: August 1, 2017
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