Preparing for the Doctor Appointment : Making Sure You Remember Not to Forget

  • Everyone knows the first rule of preparedness when you are off to see your doctor: Bring a list. (If you didn’t know that, go get a pen!) There are so many emotions that surround any doctor appointment; when you are coping with a chronic, unpredictable, potentially progressive disease (just typing those words gives me the yucks!), the anxiety factor is huge. And anxiety does not partner well with clear thinking and remembering. Therefore, making a list of everything you need to discuss with your doctor will not only help paint an accurate picture of your MS, but it will also ensure that you get answers to every question. Keep in mind that when you’re teeming with volatile emotions, you may forget to break out the list, so set an alarm on your phone to jog your memory.

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    As we know, MS is a chronic, unpredictable, potentially progressive disease (again, yuck). And the only way for your doctor to understand and effectively treat your version is to provide details. Keeping track of the symptoms you experience daily is critical. Equally important is the list of the questions that occur to you at random moments. Mine usually hit at 3 am when the day’s distractions have lifted and I’m trying to get a good night’s sleep, which is very important if I want to function tomorrow. So, where is that pen? And how about the paper?


    With both secured at my bedside, I write down whatever has been keeping me awake and try to get busy on more sleep. It’s important to remember that in order for note-taking to work, you’ll need to hone your skills in deciphering pre-dawn chicken scratch or learning to write neatly in the dark. It might not be a bad idea to practice your nocturnal penmanship. I practice in my closet (though any dark space will do) and that has been very helpful.  It’s the difference between “I can’t get to the bathroom on time” and “I ate a mushroom with lime.”

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    Do you see how misreading a simple note can lead to mass confusion at your next appointment? For those with "doctor" handwriting, consider a digital recorder and a practiced whisper so the rest of your house can continue to enjoy the slumber.


    Another thing that can cause anxiety at your doctor’s office is the review of your most recent MRI. Say you’ve been symptom-free for two months and you can’t wait to hear how great your brain looks. Then your doctor points out the areas of your brain that don’t look so great. I’ve been told that there can be symptoms without scars and scars without symptoms. Say that again... there can be symptoms without scars and scars without symptoms - now what are we supposed to do with that?


    I try not to get my hopes up for any revelation at these reviews, but sometimes my optimism gets the best of me and I end up very disappointed. Sigh, yet another anxiety inducing subject to avoid thinking about.

    (Hmmm. I think I may have created a new list of what to be anxious about. Oops.)


    If this post leaves you with new anxiety, I apologize. If however, it has left you with little notebooks all around your house, a digital recorder at your bedside and a renewed recognition of how important it is to be prepared to tell your doctor everything... well then, my work here is done!


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    One more thing, if you have your doctor’s email address and can send a note detailing the aforementioned, you won’t need to set that alarm on your phone or worry about forgetting to remember the list you’ve painstakingly kept. You know, the one that is sitting right there on the kitchen table. So your doctor can be ready to discuss your MS details even before s/he starts singing the touch my finger, touch your nose, touch my finger, touch your nose, touch my finger song.

    OK, that’s it! If you have a moment to share your techniques for remaining clearheaded at your doctor’s office, please do so. And while you are there, feel free to debunk any of the points I’ve made here. Shortening the anxiety list I’ve crafted can only help!

    (Note to self: next time, edit out the anxiety-inducing information before hitting submit. On second thought, that would only leave one or two sentences, so I’ll stand by what’s here. )

Published On: November 23, 2011