I am more than a patient
-An open letter to every doctor-
Dear Doctor, can I start off my open letter by simply saying ‘thank you’? These two simple words I don’t think are said quite enough. Thank you for all that you do each and everyday. Thank you for waking up each morning and despite the long night you may have had because your kids begged you to read one, two, or maybe three bedtime stories. Thank you for coming into work each day even though back at home maybe things aren’t as smooth as you’d hope they could be. Thank you for taking the time to care about me, even though you may have moments in your own life where you don’t feel cared about enough. Thank you for putting your life on hold each day to come to work to serve those who really need it. Thank you for being my doctor, but also thank you for being an incredible human.
I’d be lying if I said I love to come see you, but that comes with the territory of your field. If only we lived in a world where there was no sickness, disability, or disease. But until then, you are stuck with me, your more than a patient. I am writing this letter today not out of anger or frustration, but out of hope. Hope that you will consider what I have to say, as more than just a patient. I am not your typical in and out visit, your once a year physical, or broken finger fix and return in a few years kind of case. I am not your clean and simple annual physical kind of paper in your files. Oh no! I am the big, whopping ,overflowing folder that holds way too many papers and notes. The one that once picked up has to be delicately opened, as not to lose one single not. I am your “not just a patient” who is suffering from complex symptoms, illness, and struggles. I am the patient who may be in your office several times a month, or even a week. A once look over, splint, bandaid, tylenol pill, or vitamin will not cure my condition.
You see doctor, you and I have a very complex, sometimes stressful, but oh so important relationship. But in all relationships they have to be both ways. A delicate and even balance by both sides. Relationships rarely last when one person has all of the control, or when one person is the only one speaking up and taking charge. I am asking you to please let me be an equal balance in our relationship, and in our journey towards better health for myself and for everyone you treat. I promise you that there is no one better who you can consult with over how I am truly doing, than me. Labs, scans, surgeries, infusions, transfusions, tests, questionnaires, biopsies, and so many more amazing tools are just that, tools. No one tool can “fix” the problem on it’s own. Please use me as a tool too. Ask ME questions instead of studying and researching typical symptoms for my condition. I am not your typical case, and no one really ever is. Just like there will never be another patient or person like me. And when things don’t add up, please do not dismiss me. Ask me to help you figure things out, listen to my questions and concerns and let me know that they are valid. Please remember that I am more than a patient. I am a human being who has come to you on their worst day, during the scariest moments of my life, overcoming some of the biggest battles I will ever have to face. Like it or not, I need to be here and you are the person I am trusting with my life and care.
I respect you in so many ways. While some days I feel like I could be my own doctor I know how hard it was for you to get where you are. All of the long hours studying, years of residency and training, and I’m sure many many challenges in getting where you are today. I respect how hard you work everyday to do what you do. In turn, I ask that you respect me as well. I hope that you will respect that courage, bravery, and strength it takes for me to even just open my eyes up everyday and continue to fight. I hope you will respect the patience I have had to develop after hearing doctor after doctor tell me things such as…“You’re fine”, “It’s all in your head”, “But your labs are perfect” “You’re too young to have that” “You’re way too old” “Usually someone of your race wouldn’t have this condition” “We couldn’t find anything” “I think you’re just depressed” “We could test for that, but I know thats not the case” “I don’t think your insurance would even cover it” “You’re back again?” and best but not least “Are you sure thats how you really feel?” To have a doctor you’ve entrusted with your life make you feel as though you have to fit into every statistic, every chart, every lab result, every textbook or you’re completely okay, makes me feel like just another number on the chart, or name on the board. I may not be your textbook case, but that doesn’t mean I am not suffering, that I do not need your help. I know myself better than anyone, and if I tell you that something isn’t right, please listen. I’m not trying to pester or annoy you, or to add more hours to your day, it means that I am devoted to trying to be the best that I can be. It means that together, we need to keep fighting for answers. And when you truly do not know how to help me, please do not just leave me hanging. Please do not tell me “I’m sure it will be fine”. It is OKAY to not know, to be stumped, and to admit that my case is bigger then just you can handle. I respect anyone who can say “I just don’t know!…But I think I know who may!”
I promise you I am many things. I am a dreamer, a lover, a creator, an adventure seeker, a problem solver, a promise keeper, and sometimes even a promise breaker. (I NEVER said I was perfect!) There are so many wonderful and quirky things to know about me. When you see me come into your office I hope that you will see me for the complex, unique, and special person I am, more than just a patient. I hope you will take a few moments to ask me how my latest adventure went, what music I may have listened to on the way here, or what I’m most looking forward to in the months to come. Why you ask? Why ask these questions and spend more then just 5 minutes with me?
For you see, I am more than a patient, but you are also more than a doctor. You are a caring, dedicated, compassionate, smart, complex, unique, and special person yourself. And to many, you are a lifesaver, a second chance at life, and a hero. I see you for more then the coat you wear, the news you deliver, and the pokes you give out- my wish is that you will see me as …………………more than just a patient.
Love, Your more than just a patient- Fee