“It’s your choice.”
June 18, 2013
I have seen doctors for almost all of the forty years of my adult life, and this is what I learned:
While I need to have doctors in my life as I deal with MS, I ultimately know what is best for me to do—not my doctors. I know my body and I will always make the final decision relative to how I want to be treated by a doctor. My doctors are there for support, knowledge, prescriptions, consultation and referrals. If I believe I am not getting from a doctor what I (or my insurance) is paying for, I will fire him/her.
It is a viewpoint other older MS veterans have shared with me.
Many MS specialist-neurologists are experts—they have seen numerous patients and are trained with knowledge. But I am an expert too, with a lot of common sense. I have talked with numerous people dealing with MS (both patients and professionals), and constantly research information about my disorder.
Each case of MS is different with regard to disability, rate and duration of relapses/progression, symptoms, response to medications and treatments, etc. It is a fact that that no two cases are alike. I believe I know my body best in terms of how I feel and how my body acts/reacts; this is information that I must note and share with my doctor.
I live with MS, monitoring and documenting many things regarding my own case, 24/7 every day–symptoms, side effects, triggers… A doctor looks at my case and evaluates me for only about fifteen minutes every 6-12 months. As one recent MSer complained to me, “I just wish a doctor would listen to my symptoms and not just do their little neurological test of pinch here, pock here and say nothing wrong here. This sucks.”
Recently, I spoke with a person with MS who was complaining how bad MS had been affecting her cognitive abilities. During the discussion, I learned the doctor prescribed her a sleeping pill, an anxiety pill, and a pain pill—all at the same time!! It was no wonder why her mental faculties were impaired. Where’s the common sense here?
Other patients receive scripts to treat two or three things at one time with no instruction to start them at different intervals. How would someone know what is affecting what, positively or negatively?
Since I am not on a DMD treatment, I choose not to get MRI’s. Personally, I don’t care how many lesions I have or how big they are because that by itself isn’t always reliable in terms of what to take, do, or how bad I am. For me, going for an MRI every six months is a waste of my time and money. But that is my choice and my decision.
And doctors are not always right. Doctors make mistakes or poor decisions as well. Maybe they are having a bad day, are overloaded, or were given faulty test results. Let’s face it—why do people get second or even third opinions before having major surgery, for example?
Truthfully, I like, need and want my doctors. Doctors have things I don’t have–the ability to write prescriptions, order tests for evaluation, and referrals for things like therapy or specialists. I use them to get these things. Also, I really do want to listen to their expertise and judgment, and consult with them about any course of action.
Now I do not have major cognitive issues that interfere with my judgment. But there have been times when I was distraught with anxiety or depression and I felt I didn’t want to make a decision alone. I asked the doctor if he was in my shoes, “What would you do?” I have enough trust in my primary professionals to follow their advice. In these situations, I also have a close family member or friend with me to listen and help evaluate the circumstances. Teamwork is good.
When I choose a doctor, I find one that has very high ratings and one that I am compatible with. It enhances my confidence when I make my final decision about a course of action.
I have been blessed to have two MS specialist-neurologists in two different states that were both opened-minded and respected my personal choices. They talked with me, not at me or down to me. They also recognize that I am the one living with MS and know my body best. However, “Two heads are always better than one” when evaluating anything, so I am open minded as well. And throughout the years, there were certainly good reasons to see and confer with my doctors.
So choose your doctor and your course of action wisely.