Hell on Heels: Soul Searching

Be a Boss Babe: Why Your Doctor Disliking You is a Good Thing

My name is April, but everyone calls me Elle.  I’m 26 years old, I live in Brooklyn and I have a yorkie named Frankie.   I’m involved in lots of philanthropic work, including educating girls in third world countries.  I recycle, I volunteer in soup kitchens, animal shelters and at other charitable events.  I’m told I have a wicked sense of humor and I can always make someone laugh.  I’m pretty normal for a twenty-something.

(Except for the fact I’m currently undergoing diagnostics for cancer and it’s something I’ve been dealing with since I was 17 years old.  Sadly, as the rates of cancer increase, cancer is becoming increasingly “normal” for young women like myself.)  I love poetry, long walks on the beach and poking dead jellyfish with a stick to see if they make a “POP!” sound.  Yep, I’m totally normal.

Babies and puppies love me.  Women wish they had my shoe collection.  Men send me marriage proposals via Twitter messages sometimes.  Most people that meet me love me.   Except…my doctor(s).  (And a an ex-boyfriend or two.)

Yes, that’s right.  I think my doctor(s) dislike me.   Most women my age are worried about whether the hot new guy from accounting likes them, not their doctor, and a lot of my peers don’t even visit their doctors enough for their doctor to even remember a name; let alone have a relationship.  Considering my situation, I see a lot of doctors a lot.  I was in the hospital or at the doctor’s office 4 days this week alone.  Needless to say, like any good relationship, sometimes me & the docs need some space; unfortunately, we can’t always get it because there’s a job to get done.  My  job is to heal and these guys are supposed to guide me.  (Or….should I be guiding them?)

Given that a doctor is in a helping profession,  it’s a little awkward when your doctor dislikes you; doubly so if it’s a gynecologist or anyone who may have you in stirrups, with access to your lady lumps.  (And hopefully you really don’t have any suspicious lumps.)

But it may be necessary.  If my doctor doesn’t think I’m a pain in the ass, I’m not doing my job.

This is a typical example of why my doctor(s) find me to be a pain in the derriere:

My doctor and I are going over blood test results. My carbon dioxide (CO2) levels are high, which I notice before he gives me my results.

Doctor:  “Tests are good.”

Me:  “I’m looking at the same piece of paper as you.  It says my Co2 is high….”

Doctor:  “Don’t worry about that, it’s not that important.”

Me:  “If it’s not important, why do they measure it?  If my Co2 is high, that means my cells aren’t getting enough oxygen, right?”

Doctor:  “Well, yes, that would have to be the inference.”

Me:  “Well if I’m not getting enough oxygen to my cells, that’s not a good look.  Cancer cells thrive in anaerobic, oxygen depleted environment.  That means my body is a friendly and fertile environment for the little rascals.”

Doctor:  (Silence.  Blank stare.)

I can only imagine what was running through his mind.  I know I’d be irritated.  No one likes being told how to do their job.  But this is what you need to remember – your doctor works for you.  You’re his boss.  And the employees are only as good as the boss!


Be the best boss.  Remember:
  1. Your doctor works for you.  You’re his boss.
  2. All bosses have some type of relationship with their employees.  Since your doctor works for you, you need to develop a relationship with your doctor; especially since you’re working together towards a common goal.
  3. Like any good relationship, there needs to be room for feedback from both parties.
  4. You hired the doctor and you can fire the doctor.
  5. We’re conditioned to think of doctors as the ultimate authorities on our bodies and medicine.  But you are your own expert on your body.  You know your body because you live with yourself.  Don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel like something is wrong!
  6. Take your power back and take charge of your health.  It’s not your doctor’s job to keep you healthy.  It’s your job to keep you healthy.  This means being prepared:  Know your symptoms.  Think of your questions.  Gather your facts.  Ask your questions.  Compare it with what you know.  If it doesn’t make sense to you, speak up!
  7. Doctors are human; they aren’t infallible.  They have good days, bad days and make mistakes.  If you recognize something is wrong, speak up!
  8. It’s okay to revert to toddler tactics in the doctor’s office – Ask “Why?” as much as you want!
  9. Don’t expect your doctor to remember your history off the top of his head.  Don’t expect him to have read your chart before he comes in, either.  While these things would be nice, they hardly happen.  Managed care models of medicine have doctors seeing a crazy amount of patients in a short period of time.  Think back to grade school and pretend you’re writing a story- assume your audience knows nothing, and start from there.
  10. Toddler tactic time:  Negative attention is better than no attention.  It’s better to be thought of as a patient who’s a pain in the butt as opposed to having a tombstone that says “I told you I was sick”.
  11. Once your doctor learns that you’re always going to have conversation for him, he’ll take more time with you to avoid having to hear you and avoid having his ego bruised.  You’ll receive better care because they will have learned they can’t cut corners with you.
  12. Don’t forget to be polite.  Say “please”, “thank you” and acknowledge them for their time.
  13. Remember that the employees of an organization are only as good as the boss.
Yes, you have to “pay the cost to be the boss”, as they say.  You’ll have to do research, fact check, and maybe even take notes.  At the end of the day, the doctor goes home and he’s collected his check regardless.  But it’s your health, your body, and your life.   Can you really afford NOT to be the boss?!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1198595038 Jessica Morris Bowen

    This is awesome! Thanks for posting this – it’s especially encouraging to me. It’s so easy to take the second chair when you feel overwhelmed or “out of it” but with cancer you can’t afford to take any chair except the drivers seat! Thanks again :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/kcostantini Katherine Costantini

    Definitely good advice! When I had to take my dad to the hospital for appendicitis, anytime someone came in the room and started doing something, he would ask them what they were doing and why. Even if you’re overwhelmed, it’s a good idea to question what’s going on because doctors and nurses are incredibly busy and they do make mistakes!
    Best of luck with your treatment!

  • http://www.facebook.com/lyricat Lyraida Maldonado Caraballo

    This is great advice. I’m usually a pain in the ass with doctors, but sometimes I chicken out. I bring a long list of questions and don’t ask half of them, not because I forget, but because I don’t want to pester them. But is IS my health and IS my money and I should be the boss. Not asking the questions and not speaking up could cost someone their life.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent post. I’m so sorry you’re going through this, but it seems like you have a good head on your shoulders. I currently hate one of my doctors but have been to chicken to bring up my issues with the arrogant bastard.

    • http://www.facebook.com/a.ricchuito April Ricchuito

      Ladies, thank you so much for all your lovely comments. They mean so much to me! <3 As of today, I have a surgery date to get the little sucker out of me. (More details on that coming soon, because you know I'll be blogging about it!) This has definitely been a long and trying journey, and it's affected every area of my life from the time that the suspicious mass was found, before there was ever even a diagnosis. I'm talking about wreaking havoc at work, losing my boyfriend, a cross country move….ladies, do I have stories to tell you!! This is why I've chosen to write about my experience. And note that I say "undergoing" diagnosis, because it's been a year on 10/26/11, and I won't even have a definitive diagnosis until after it's removed. (There are multiple different types of thyroid cancer.) For those of you who were inspired, I encourage you to take your power back and kick doctor derriere! I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but I know a little something something. And Alexandra, if you're in NY, can you be my anesthesiologist please? Hit me with the good stuff! LOL!

  • http://www.facebook.com/KarenWissClark Karen Clark

    Go easy on the space bar. One space is all it takes baby. But apart from that, thank you for a nice article.

  • http://wheresyorupture.blogspot.com Alexandra

    I’m a doctor and I like you already!!! As an anesthesiologist my interactions with patients are very finite and short term, sort of “one night stands” if you will, but I really try build a rapport with each patient. They always have invaluable information that the charts, notes, and studies don’t reveal. Like you said, no one knows the patients body and health like the patient (or the patients parents for the little ones).

    To me the doctor patient relationship is a partnership: a doctor and a patient need each other in fighting for the same cause, and that is the patients health and safety. It IS your doctors job to keep you healthy, and part of that job is listening to you. Any doctor who refuses to see you as an active participant in your own health care, or who gets “annoyed” by this, should be called on that. It’s inappropriate, and it is not good medicine. I applaud you for advocating for yourself and your health. Nothing worries me more than patients who are passive about their own care.

    With my patient interactions, I have the luxury of taking care of one patient at a time for their surgery. My patient at any given moment has my undivided attention. This is why I chose anesthesia. I never wanted to feel rushed with my patients, because that is when doctors stop listening, get frustrated, and come off as jerks. The truth is, most of us really do care and mean well… Sometimes we just need to be snapped out of robot mode and back into human mode.

    Anyway, this is a fantastic message for patients. You are a wonderful and strong woman with a great message, and it sounds like you are doing everything right. I know you will prevail in all of your health battles with your kickass attitude. You are one smart cookie too- good call with the CO2. I wish all of my patients were like you. So yeah, I like you! I would LOVVVVVE to see this shoe collection, too! XO

  • http://www.facebook.com/breily Bridget Lynch

    Great advice! Exactly what my great-uncle, an oncologist, has instructed everyone in my family to do. It’s your body–you’re the boss!

  • http://wheresyorupture.blogspot.com Alexandra

    Girl, if I were in NY, I would in a heartbeat! I will have you in my thoughts! If you ever want to talk or vent or ask questions or anything I’m here!

  • http://www.facebook.com/lorrenrichelle Lorren Lemmons

    I am so glad you posted this! I am a student nurse and at times I notice the people who are teaching me doing something that seems wrong. At first I was afraid to ask them, because I assumed they knew what they were doing better than I did. And it’s true that sometimes when I point out that I think something is off, it really isn’t – I just thought it was because I didn’t understand the process. But I have also pointed things out that have prevented a serious mistake. You own your health care experience — if you are not getting what you expect, I think it is not only appropriate but essential for you to bring it up. If you just don’t understand the procedure and think it is being done wrong, it can be explained so that you aren’t uneasy about it, and obviously if it is wrong, you can stop it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/a.ricchuito April Ricchuito

    A lot of people are afraid to own their healthcare experience because it’s easier to blame it on genetics or poor luck, rather than take responsibility for your lifestyle. Ignorance is bliss; knowledge is responsibility. Not only that, but we’ve been conditioned to accept doctors as the ultimate authority and the end all, be all; we need to move away from that, and that’s what I’m here to advocate for. Not only is it better for everyone, but it just FEELS better being able to (somewhat) be in control!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=39904575 Erin Joan Snyder

    This is a fantastic article, thank you!

    • http://www.facebook.com/a.ricchuito April Ricchuito

      You’re all so welcome! Thank you all for reading, commenting, and sharing! <33

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