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To the Doctor Who Might Not Understand What's Wrong With Me

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Dear Doctor,

I just wish you and I could maybe talk a little. But since I know you’re busy and probably don’t have time to sit down face-to-face, I want to write you a quick letter instead. I really hope you’ll just take a few moments to read it.

In 2008, I had to have my gallbladder removed. During the surgery, my vagus nerve got nicked, and I’ve been sick ever since. I don’t like being sick. In fact, I hate it. When it happened, I was on the verge of finally finishing up my Bachelor’s degree and had been accepted into a Master’s program that I would never finish. I was working hard, both at a job and at school. I was active at my church, teaching in youth ministry and singing with our praise band. Once I got sick, that all changed.

At first, I tried to keep up my normal life. But after a while, sickness and pain have a way of dragging you down. I tried hard to stay in my Master’s program. I was there for four years on a fellowship, but in the end, I was in the hospital more than I was in class, and it just wasn’t fair – not to my professors, and not to me.

So now I’m a 42-year-old woman who lives with her mother.

I’ve probably come to you because I can’t stop throwing up. That happens a lot. And when I can’t stop throwing up, I can’t get control of the pain. It’s deep, and it’s primal, and it feels like it could tear me apart from the very center. But unless I can’t speak through it, you’ll never hear me call it a “10.” I promise you, if I’d had any other way to deal with this, I would’ve never come here.

I’m sure you see a lot of people in here for a lot of different things. I hear some stories from the nurses that turn my blood cold. And I’ve even been accused of things… I had a doctor ask me one time how many times that day I’d made myself throw up, and no matter how many times I tried to tell her I just couldn’t stop throwing up, she kept asking me that same question. I’ve been accused, in plain language, to my face, of being a drug-seeker. I’ve gone into the emergency room after five straight days of vomiting, with no relief in sight, and been sent away with nothing more than an orally dissolvable Zofran.

I can’t lie. I’ve also had some wonderful experiences with different doctors and nurses. But being treated poorly by your community is by and large the norm for me.

Please know this: I’m not asking you for special treatment. I am not asking to be admitted for a full Dr. House work-up every time I need to come into the emergency room. I don’t expect your eyes to light up every time you see me. Just please see me for me. Please look past the notes on your chart and the 50 other patients you’ve dealt with tonight and talk with me when you come into my room. Please see that I’m on a feeding tube, and that I’ve been hospitalized for pancreatitis, and that I have multiple problems with my biliary and digestive system. Don’t just look at “nausea and pain” on my symptoms list and automatically form an opinion about me.

Even if you don’t understand what’s wrong with me, and there’s no simple answer for why I’m sick now, can you please just reassure me a little? Please help me feel like someone will care for me here. Because I never asked for this. I had plans once. I was like you. I looked forward to a fast-paced career, a social life and a bright future. But life has led me in a different direction and asked me to look in different places for purpose now.

I’m not asking you to be my friend, or my sister or my mom. Just please don’t treat me like the chart in your hand. Help me feel like a person when you’re with me. Like someone who deserves to be healed. That’s all I’ve ever wanted from you, and I’m here with you now because you’re my only hope. Please don’t treat me dismissively and send me home once again, hopeless and sick and in pain.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to anyone you wish had a better understanding of your experience with disability and/or disease. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: September 14, 2015
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