Tips from the paper gown

happiness-is-a-warm-blanket-charlie-brownI have spent a billion and one hours in Doctor’s offices, hospitals and clinics. I have gleamed a few bits of advice for anyone new to the chronic illness track,or headed to the hospital for the first time. I hope they will be useful to you, please feel free to add your own if you are inspired:

  • When seeing a Doctor, look sane. I have found that my Doctors take me more seriously if I come to their office nicely groomed, and mentally together. When you approach them on this level, it is harder to over-look your symptoms, going straight to depression or anxiety. I know you feel like never taking off your PJs, but trust me on this one – I’ve tested it.
  • Give yourself time. The good Docs tend to be a over-booked (because they actually take time to talk with their patients). Double (even triple) the amount of time you think a medical visit or procedure will take, and you’ll be closer to reality. Not giving yourself enough time away from work, or your kids, can put additional stress on your appointment. This stuff is tough enough, give yourself some breathing room.
  • Take time to regroup. Even simple procedures and tests can take their toll on your mental state. If you can, take a little time off (at least the rest of the work day) to relax and regroup. It is always a bit bizarre to be scanned for cancer over lunch, and then return to excel spreadsheets at your desk. I find it very difficult to be productive. Respect the need to heal and reset.
  • What not to wear. When headed to the hospital for procedures, plan for comfort. There is nothing worse than having to pull tights and a skirt on after a long day of needles and nausea. AND, hospitals are freaking cold. I have developed a procedure uniform of yoga pants, smart-wool socks, super soft T-shirts and cardigans. If you can avoid wearing metal, sometimes they will let you leave your own clothes on (unless you like the super-comfy hospital gown). Leave the diamonds at home.
  • Know your stuff. When meeting with your Doctor, know what you want to get out of the appointment. Write down a list of questions and don’t let that Doc leave the room until you have your answers. Docs are in a hurry and sometimes forget to give you details that you absolutely need. If you don’t ask, they might not remember to tell you what you need to know. Maybe it is just a MN nice thing, but I had to learn to control my own appointments.
  • Your Doc is your partner. Doctors know their stuff and I respect their expertise immensely. However, many of us are dealing with disease that has not been fully researched. It is chronic because they do not know how to fix it. Therefore, they don’t always have the answers (and many of them will never tell you that). Don’t expect that they can fix you immediately. A good doctor will work with you over time: respecting your symptoms, accessing them honestly and progressing step-by-step. If you feel that your current Doctor is not hearing you, or is not interested in a working partnership, find a new one. The keys to my sanity have truly been my amazing Doctors, who have never make me feel crazy, or unimportant. I especially love the one who consistently calls me smart.
  • Know thyself. It is up to you to make your medial visits as comfortable as possible, take that power and use it. If you know that you have claustrophobia, make sure you get help for your MRI. Afraid of needles? Tell the hospital that you cannot have the intern insert your IV. I am a warm blanket junkie, I ask for them constantly (they are seriously amazing). Be polite, exceedingly grateful, and ask for what you need.
  • Circle the troops. I realize that blogging to the world does not bring comfort to everyone (so weird), but please don’t do it alone. Let a friend know what you are going though, ask for prayers or crossed-fingers when you head for the hospital. I find reassurance knowing that my family and friends are thinking of me as I’m going through a week of nasty testing. I came out of my traumatizing MRI last week and saw my 15 month old smiling at me, shouting “HI!” like I was the best thing she had ever seen. Snap, none of that scary stuff mattered anymore. Get yourself a cheering section.

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