For what reason, I am not sure, I have usually sought out medical advice from male doctors. I’m certain it stems from some old, outdated (false) perception that I was in better hands with a male doctor. It’s strange to me that I would find myself thinking that way since, in my family, it’s the women who are the doctors and lawyers. In my family the women are the pediatricians, the Ph.D.s, the attorneys, the business owners, and the entrepreneurs. Why I wouldn’t always seek out female doctors is still, at this point, uncertain to me.
I will be 36 in 24 days. I have (finally) come to the understanding that this is about me and my life, not about the doctor. I’m not wasting their time – their job is to see me – I’m wasting my time. This isn’t about being liked or caring what a doctor thinks about me. This is about finding doctors who treat me with the respect I deserve.
I can remember vividly sitting in the office waiting to be seen by my male dermatologist. I was getting married in less than a year and wanted to get my skin cleared up (consistently) and looking radiant. For a new bride that was hardly too much to ask for. I had been seeing this doctor regularly for about a year and had yet to get clear skin on a daily basis despite the medication he was putting me on: topical creams, antibiotics, steroids to counteract the effects of the topical creams, more antibiotics….At my last visit I was greeted by the doctor and a medical resident. I explained that I was still not getting the desired outcomes I would think should be possible. He shook his head and then folded his arms. He then began to tell me what the problem was. The problem, as he saw it, was me. He held his arm outstretched into the air and said that my expectations were too high and that I wanted something that was unattainable. I would get better outcomes if I were more reasonable.
Hmmmm. Of course I began to cry. I was horrified. I didn’t acknowledge what the doctor said but simply looked at the resident and said, “I hope you don’t model your bedside manner after him.” and walked out. Of course I sent a letter and of course he responded with a half-baked apology and wished me well. That’s fine but the impact of that visit stayed with me for a long time. I did move on to a female dermatologist who changed my skin forever. She also showed me how great doctors can be – basically read my mind and assured me that positive results were not only possible, they were a priority. Still, though, I wasn’t ready to leave male doctors behind.
Anyone ever have an irregular pap smear? Ok, well if you didn’t already know this it is a result of HPV. Nothing else. HPV. Get used to it if this is the first time you are hearing this. Own it. About ten years ago I was seeing a male OBGYN when I received the call that my pap smear came back abnormal. Between the time of that call and my next visit with him I talked to a few people close in my life. One said that it probably had nothing to do with an STD…this was totally different. Another said, in fact, it is pretty likely that this is related to an STD. I was anxious and confused and wanted to discuss this with my doctor. I show up for the biopsy and before he entered the room the nurse had me strip down and get on the table. Barely covered by a sheet he walked in and began his work. I think he may have quipped a short, “Hello.” I sat up on my elbows and asked if my abnormal test was a result of an STD and his comforting answer was, “Well, yes. You didn’t know that?” I sobbed and sobbed on the table and didn’t get as much as another word of comfort. I was devastated to say the least. Looking back I’m not sure what devastated me the most – the STD or the fact that I was choosing to have this man as my health care provider.
I overcame it all. I lost my fears about sharing my experiences and it was freeing. People came out of the woodwork wanting to talk about their experiences with abnormal tests, STDs, whatever. I was in control of my life and I was certain I would not be held back by an experience like that. Before I could fire him, I received a letter that he had moved to another practice, thankfully.
For a reason I still cannot seem to wrap my brain around I sought out another male OBGYN. He truly has been fine and I can’t say I didn’t get great care while I was pregnant. He took a very hands-off approach and assured me that my body knew what it was doing probably more than he did. He may have been right. He didn’t believe that hormones really had that much of an effect on women (meaning they don’t make you crazy) which would be fine until I starting having severe night sweats. I remember crying in his office (I seem to cry a lot in doctor’s offices…maybe it’s just me) that I couldn’t take it any longer and he simply said there was nothing he could do. “I can’t help you, Melanie.” he said flatly. It’s not hormonal. At my urging we switched my pill and wouldn’t you know, it was hormonal. How about that! The sweats stopped after my dose and level was changed.
(Make note that up until this point I still have not run for the hills)
So recently I started having these wacky symptoms that sent me to my male ENT. I must be a glutton for punishment. Anyway, I explained what was going on and he treated me as I expected him to. Antibiotic, decongestant, and a nasal spray. Two weeks went by and the symptoms hadn’t gone away. He does a CAT scan. Two more weeks and they are still there. Let’s do a balance test. That was fun. Symptoms still present. At the last appointment there is nothing left to say. I’m distraught and my doctor can’t help me. So instead of trying to better understand what’s going on, or (god forbid) assure me that he would get to the bottom of this, he asks me, wait for it….wait for it….”So how are your hormones?” I wanted to shove a tongue depressor in his eye. You are really going there, I thought. After I assure him my hormones were just terrific he then made the next logical assumption. Ready for this? I bet you can guess it!! “So, is there anything going on in your life that maybe you’re not telling me?” Where is that damn tongue depressor. Finally, he rounded out his effective line of questioning with, “Have you thought maybe this is a side effect from medication?You know I can get a little dizzy, too when I take certain things.” So there you have it, he managed the holy flippin trilogy of female patient insults: hormones, stress, and medication side effects. I couldn’t event bring myself to remind him that I WASN’T TAKING ANY MEDICATION. I also didn’t have the confidence to tell him that I am not an idiot and that I would not waste my time in his office because I am too stupid to know the difference between real life symptoms and the side effects from Sudafed. His statements and comments were demeaning and they devalued what I was truly concerned about. Basically, it totally sucked.
So, today, finally, after about ten years of this I am finally finished. I am finally waking up to the reality that this is my life! I can do whatever the hell I want! I don’t have to go to a doctor and be treated poorly! So I’m telling them all to go to hell and I have replaced each and every one of the them with female doctors. There are too many wonderful female doctors out there that give excellent care. So the short list is this: our pediatrician is female (and family and fabulous = double bonus) and when she is out our back-up is also female, my new ENT is female, and my new OBGYN is female as well.
There is one caveat. I was referred to a neurologist this week and his only major flaw that I was concerned about was that he was male. However, the fact that he is also a magician totally made up for that! The Amazing Doctor Z was, just that, amazing. Took time, listened, did card tricks, and diagnosed me with (unless the MRI tells a different story) restless leg syndrome. So, the Amazing Doctor Z will remain the only male doctor in my life right now. If it weren’t for the magic act, he probably wouldn’t have made the cut, but I guess, because of him, I can agree that they probably aren’t all that bad.