My first experience with a doctor was the relationship I had with my pediatrician. Dr. Wade gave me my vaccines, tb tests, and he also diagnosed me with diabetes. My mother could not give him enough credit for being a caring physician and her most treasured mentor regarding her childrens' health. I can remember having a nasty bout of the flu during Christmas and I camped out on a couch near a crackling fireplace with ice chips, washcloth, pillow and blanket for the night. The room was comforting for me and mom was sleeping in a chair close by. At 11 pm, the outside door opened and a grey head of hair peered in and quietly said, "Hi Charlotte, I thought I'd check on both of you!" With his kit in hand, Dr. Wade checked me for dehydration, ketones and checked my lungs and heart rate. He asked how much ice I was keeping down and carefully weighed all the factors to decide the next plan of action. Then, he sat down in another chair and had a scotch with my mom. Normally, Dr. Wade's practice did not include house calls and we were not on his way home.
Dr. Wade was my doctor and mentor for 18 years and his method of doctoring was to place the patient as the expert and he as the guide. At every office visit, he would look at my test charts and ask how I was feeling, followed by the comment, "You know your body better than I do, tell me what's going on!" When we would talk about my health, I was the expert to help guide his decisions, and the result was usually very successful for me.
When I became too old for Dr. Wade, he referred me to a colleague, but my experience was nothing close to what I had with Dr. Wade. I was told how to order my life around diabetes. I was asked strange questions, for instance, asking if I had ever not taken my shots, and when I replied "not intentionally," he told me I was in the minority. He simply ordered tests and recommended insulin dosages and when I asked questions he dictated orders.
My next three doctors were much of the same and so I stopped going to regular visits to the doctor for my general health and diabetes. No one recommended a certified diabetes educator (CDE), and one sent me to a nutritionist for a 30 minute consult, during which time I didn't learn any new strategies to manage my diabetes. Doctors, to me, were only critical care consultants; I called when I was sick, and gave up annual check ups and quarterly diabetes visits.
Because of my early training of being the expert of my body, I had a hard time when doctors decided that they were the experts. I recount this story because I've read so many comments and questions on this site that show an alarming similarity to what had been my pattern up until a few years ago. When we struggle, we often come to the internet for information (which can be helpful!), but there is still a looming problem: We have not changed the system for health care!
So how do we connect with ourselves to be the expert? The answer is education. The more we learn about our bodies, healthy habits, and the chronic illness we have, the more information we'll have to share. This is what the experts do, they share their knowledge! The more you can tell the doctor about yourself, the sooner they will adjust their own thinking, or you'll have to find yourself looking for someone new to be your health care teammate.