What A Checkup Can Mean, With A Good Doctor

I love going to the doctor, because I have the most amazing doctor I have ever come across. He has white hair and grandchildren, and a more curious mind than any of the others in his practice. When I came in for a weird knee injury that wouldn’t go away, he asked about breastfeeding and medication with real curiosity. When I told him who had given me the information and where he could read more, he wrote it all down. He mumbled something about an argument with a fellow physician who remained convinced that women should take no medication while breastfeeding, and a patient who was very pregnant. I was so impressed when he was willing to come out to the waiting room to get my breastfeeding consultant/doctor’s card! He always asks about my life, as part of our conversation about my health, and this is the mark of a good doctor. If your doctor doesn’t want to know that you’re still breastfeeding your one-year-old because that baby just loves that milk so very much, but only knows that you are still breastfeeding, then you may have an alright physician. But not a great one. I have a great one. (His idea about how I might have hurt my knee helped me solve the mystery, which had to do with nursing, actually, and I would never have known, without him!)

Another reason to love him: he stocks his exam rooms with very good novels. For years, I’ve been meaning to bring this up, and during my annual physical today, I remembered to ask about the books. He told me, “I’m not really a doctor; I am actually a librarian.” I thought he was going to wink! He gifted me a copy of a book by Irène Némirovsky, because I noted that I didn’t realize another of her works had been translated into English after her book Suite Française. The exam room I most often occupy has an increasing number of books by a good detective novelist/writer of historical fiction whose novel about the Spanish Civil War I’ve been meaning to read for years. (Unfortunately, I can never remember the author or the title until I am in that room, staring at it, again.)

I forgot about how much I like my doctor, because all the while I was pregnant, I went to see my midwives about everything. But he follows up on everything. I wanted Imitrex, because my migraines are more frequent than they were, making caffeine and ibuprofen ineffective (they always are, if I use them too often). He doesn’t just write a prescription, though; he wants to see me in a few months. He has the hematologist check the levels of Effexor in my blood to make sure that they aren’t nearing levels of toxicity, which is rare but can happen. And he explains to me that that is what is happening. He offered to have my test results sent to my home, so that I could share them with my psychiatrist and midwives, just in case his administrative assistants don’t find fax numbers for them.

The longest part of my visit, today, though, was about my diet and appetite. It’s a routine question. But the number on the scale was lower than I had expected. I’ve been forgetting to eat. He genuinely wanted to know how I was going to go about ensuring that I was eating balanced meals. He mentioned my energy levels, a concern for my welfare, while also bringing up the energy it takes to breastfeed a baby and toddler. I didn’t feel like he was worried about my baby; he asked about our pediatrician, said we were in good hands, and moved on. He asked another routine question about a link between my attitude towards food and breastfeeding, but I explained that I can’t tell. I don’t know what’s related to my anxiety, or the relief thereof, and what isn’t. Having a baby has made me happier. Because I am now happier and less anxious than I was before my pregnancy, there have been fewer times when I forget to eat. It still happens. Is the infrequency related to nursing? I don’t know. But I did feel normal, again, when he mentioned a few close family members who become engrossed in their work and forget to eat. It was quite sweet of him, and made me want to be adopted into that family more than a little!

Finally, when I asked whether I needed a booster for my pertussis vaccine, he actually had a detailed discussion with me about the TDaP vaccine and the newly available pertussis-only vaccine, the availability of the shots and how little they actually know about the effectiveness of them.

Self-care is not just about getting a massage and going to therapy and having nice tea for rough days. By carefully selecting my primary care physician and making sure that he is someone who will happily speak with my psychiatrist, midwives and even my therapist, it saves me time, energy and boosts my mood. If something were really not going well, and I wasn’t really aware, they would put the pieces together for me. If my blood tests show that I am anemic, but I haven’t really noticed any dizzy spells, my doctor will prescribe iron and tell my psychiatrist to discuss the relationship between my anxiety and appetite. It’s a mark of how much more I value myself and my life that I even have a primary care physician, than I did in the past. I care about my life and health enough to risk being told that I’ve done something wrong (not enough sun, not enough meat–I often see low Vitamin D levels, low iron, as criticism). That anxiety is real. But I have a safety-net, now.

Today’s lesson: I care enough about myself to make sure that I can’t hide anything that’s wrong, mentally or physically. Having spent the first twenty plus years of my life keeping secrets from my parents and teachers about stomach aches, insomnia, sweating palms, nightmares–this is real progress.

My new book.
My new book.


  1. story said:

    I’m so glad you have such a good doctor. And I’m so proud of you for really taking care of yourself and taking responsibility for your own health.

    November 11, 2013

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