Sometimes doctors can make you feel so dumb. At the optometrist’s office last fall, I had this conversation:
“So, Mrs. Smith, how well do you feel you see?”
“Well enough. I was told some years ago that my vision wouldn’t deteriorate after age 55.”
“Um, that’s not true.”
“Well, I just use readers from the dollar store and I do fine so I don’t think it’s gotten a lot worse.”
“Do you have to buy stronger and stronger readers as time goes on?”
Here we just sat quietly for a moment while I caught up.
Sometimes we’re reminded that doctors are just people trying to do their jobs, with varying degrees of success. I went for a physical shortly after menopause and complained about my waistline — no longer “nipped in”, as it were. The professional assessment:
“If you’re asking Dr. Don the physician, you’re fine. Perfectly healthy. But if you’re asking Dr. Don the man, you’d look better 5 to 10 pounds lighter.” Strange thing to hear from a doctor, I know, but he was trying to be honest (and it turns out he was right).
And then there are times when doctors seem like absolute saviors. In June, I began having a strange sensation on my daily hike. The first couple of hours of the day I was fine. Then I’d get out on the trail and it was fun-house-mirror time the rest of the day. The ground seemed to move toward me and away. It was awful.
I called an ophthalmologist and apparently my symptoms sounded serious enough to skip me to the front of the line but ONLY if I went to the hospital first. Now they had my full attention.
The day was a lot of waiting punctuated by tests — blood work, CT scan, you name it. Finally, it was decided that I would have an MRI.
Inside that noisy machine, the fear and fatigue finally took hold of me. I just knew they would find a brain tumor or something equally terrifying. I imagined my husband calling the kids and telling them to come see us because Mom is really sick.
Tears are a little like students who ask for a bathroom pass. Once one goes, they all want to go. I allowed myself a single moment of self-pity and when the poor technician pulled me out of the machine, she was face-to-face with an ugly panic-induced flood that I could not stop.
“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” I sobbed. “You’re busy. There are other people waiting. I’m just being a baby!”
This angel in a white lab coat said, “Don’t you worry about that. This is your time. You’re scared and we ladies feel we have to take care of everyone. What can I do to help you?”
Of course, she’d already given what I needed by allowing me to get the fear outside my own head. I calmed down and waited for the doctor to come tell me about my future of chemotherapy and radiation.
They say no news is good news so I tried to rejoice when the ER doc said they didn’t find evidence of tumor, stroke or nerve damage. The verdict: Keep the ophthalmologist appointment and go from there.
So I did. We played a lot of “follow the finger with the blinding flashlight in your face.” Finally, he said, “You have reading glasses and distance glasses, right?” “Yes,” I answered, “but I don’t use the distance ones at all.” The final prognosis: “If you want to feel better, wear them.”
Yes, I needed to wear the glasses I kept in a drawer. The ones I bought last fall for driving but never felt compelled to use (be thankful you weren’t behind the wheel in my area).
The bills from this adventure are $2,295 and counting. I console myself by noting that I have met my deductible so stuff will be cheaper the rest of the year but, truth to tell, I feel like an idiot. A very lucky idiot.