How I (almost) Missed The Fight
If I told you how many medical professionals I interact with on some level over the course of an average month, you’d probably spit your coffee out. And since I’m a nice girl who doesn’t want you to have to do that, I’m going to keep it vague. But let’s just say that if going to the doctor was a full-time job, I’d be quite well paid. Between my appointments and orthodontist/dentist/optometrist appointments for the kids (including my oldest who goes through an average of two eyeglass replacements a year. The last pair died on Splash Mountain. Rest in peace, glasses), I see the inside of a lot of medical offices.
One question I can count on being asked during these visits is what my medical history looks like. It was no exception a couple of months ago when I sat in the office of a medical professional we’ll call “Bob.” I began my litany of ailments, offered up in my standard memorized speech. In return, he began to offer up the standard seemingly memorized responses. Rheumatoid Arthritis is pretty straightforward and doesn’t garner too many questions or an abundant amount of skepticism, so I like to start there. Next, we move on to CVID. Inevitably, no one has ever heard of this. I explain that common variable immunodeficiency disorder means that my body doesn’t make enough antibodies on its own and that I have to borrow them from people with healthy immune systems in the form of monthly IVIG infusions. This sometimes rings a bell, although most still refer to it as an autoimmune condition as opposed to an immunodeficiency disorder. Next, comes the one I dread most: Lyme.
I told “Bob” about my positive Lyme test in the summer of 2014. He responded with all the typical medical professional responses I’ve become accustomed to. “Lyme Disease? That’s really hard to get! (This is new information to me. All I did was wear yoga capris on the wrong day) Were you up North somewhere when you got it?” I resist the urge to tell him that Lyme is, in fact, quite easy to get. And no, I was not up North, but right here in Florida, which is an answer he doesn’t really want anyway. He continues with the next typical question, which is, “Were you diagnosed by an infectious disease doctor? What tests did they use to determine you had it?” I carried the positive tests results around in my purse bearing the name of my infectious disease doctor at the top for almost a year for this very reason. And as much as I want to, I have yet to tell someone that it was determined by making me stand on my head instead of the actual CDC recommended tests that were used.
“Bob” wants to know what my symptoms “were” with Lyme Disease. I begin listing off the most benign of my symptoms because most medical professionals don’t believe that the most severe symptoms can be caused by Lyme, something I’ve learned along the way. But as I’m talking, Bob cuts me off and tells me that “it could always be worse. Just think of it that way.” Perhaps you can imagine that I’m not exactly thrilled with “Bob” at this moment. I mean, why did he ask if he didn’t want to know the answer? And what’s with the absolute lack of bedside manner?
Bob finishes his exam and I silently stew, determining that I nor anyone else from my family will ever frequent his place of business again. I come home in a hissy fit, telling my husband all about how long I had to sit in the waiting room just to come back and have “Bob” enlighten me on how much worse things could be. And how I will never, ever return.
But then I was forced to go in and get something for my son this week.
He’s a big kid now, so I sent him back by himself. (Also, I confess I didn’t want to deal with “Bob”)
But as we were finishing up out front, paying and making small talk with the receptionist, I overheard something that stopped me in my tracks.
“Bob” had come out front and was engaged in a conversation with a woman about someone in his family whom he clearly loved a great deal. I heard about surgeries and pain, about support and physical therapy, about wheelchairs and an uncertain future.
And I began to feel quite small and humbled.
Wasn’t it just a couple of months ago he told me, “things could always be worse?” Wasn’t it just a couple of months ago I vowed never to return because of it?
Just look at me walking around on my two legs, talking about my symptoms to this man who knows first hand about how much worse it can be. And maybe he’s a little angry. Maybe he’s tired of watching people wander around oblivious to just how good they have it. Maybe he can only listen to so much before he has to put his hand up and stop it.
And truth be told maybe he and I aren’t really that different. How many times have I looked at “healthy” people and wondered how they could possibly be so unaware of their ability to take over the world? How many times have I thought about all the things their bodies would allow them to do on any given day and wondered why, instead, they sat on the couch? Sometimes I forget that they, too, are fighting their own battles.
So today, whatever battle you face, I’m cheering you on. And I’m choosing to extend some grace in the instance that battle leaves you a little tired, worn, snippy, angry.
And “Bob” wherever you are today, I am praying for you.
(photos courtesy of Pixaby and Hannah Stucky photography)