Thursday, March 11, 2010

You're Special: Advocate

This is the first part in a series.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many doctors. To a sickie, doctors are priceless, but they can also be assholes. Don’t bother reading the glib magazine articles about getting the most out of an appointment – I’ll tell you what you really need to know to navigate the tricky terrain of communication and ego. My specialty is specialists.

Take a buddy. Don’t ask your husband/mom/friend/brother/daughter-in-law to join you because you need a second set of ears, because ears are overrated. You need an advocate in that office; a reminder to the doctor that you are a human being who knows a handful of people, and those people care enough about you to take time off work.

It sounds sick, but doctors find it easier to put you in the whacko column if you’re alone, and when you’re in that column, you’re dismissed. Once that happens, even when you sound smart about your symptoms, you’re considered a potential hypochondriac, and when you can’t find the words to describe the fact that the world looks purple today, you’re a pushover.

There might be a reason nobody cares about this whacko, he might think. Going alone to an appointment has cost me. Don’t let it cost you. Find someone to take time off work for you, even if it’s inconvenient. If there’s absolutely nobody who can make it, consider bringing a cut-out of Neil Patrick Harris.

But seriously, the person sitting next to you across from the doctor’s desk sets a tone: this illness is real and it has affected her family. If you’re lucky enough to have a choice of people to bring, pick the smart, empathetic one who knows all of your symptoms and how each one has made your life shit.

Prep this person beforehand, so you present a united front. Give your husband permission to act as your advocate. Tell him it’s okay to interject with symptoms you forget, or with stories about how bad it really is, if you’re one of those people who would rather keep the mood light.

The more chances you give the specialist to see you as a person, not a file, the more likely you’ll get the care you need.


  1. I'm speechless Jenn...and that doesn't happen often. Our stories are so similar. I look in the mirror everyday and see the changes but everyone else seems to think I look just fine. Who is seeing the true me? Personally, I think I look like crap!! I looked for you today at work, maybe sometime we can get together and compare notes. I think it helps to know that you're not alone in this and that someone else is going through the same thing. I'm glad to hear that you're feeling so much better. Take good care of yourself and keep smiling girl.

  2. We have got to get together for a long conversation soon... I have so many questions for you.

    I know how you feel about seeing a different person in the mirror. That's a whole conversation in and of itself!

    I'm sitting with the new team, if that helps any. I think we should get together outside of work, though, if you have some time to hang out. There is just so much to talk about.

    It does help to know you're not alone -especially when you're right in the middle of it all.

    You take care too. We'll talk more soon.