Friday, June 02, 2006


My Doctor told me quite a few years back that I needed to exercise more, drink less coffee, and eat less fats. And since then, I have had a few more checkups when he told me the same thing. And each time he has told me this, although I listen carefully to his concerns about my calcium levels, bone porosity, and cholesterol count, yet when I leave his office, despite the best of intentions, within a few days I find myself slipping back into the old rut. Fatty foods, too much coffee, and minimal exercise.

And so I recognize my failings. And seeing the way the Medical Community is currently coming down on smokers, with some Health Advocates even going so far as to suggest reducing efforts to treat them, I felt anxious and quite concerned. The message was out there that those with self-perpetrated smoking-related illnesses brought on by their own foolishness or lack of discipline, are individuals less deserving of quality care. And so, with this in mind, the last time I had a checkup, I just had to ask my doctor the all-important question.

“Doc,” I said, “I know what you want me to do and I don’t always do it. So if I continue in my evil ways and I become ill because of it, can I be confident that you will still take the best possible care of me?”

“Roberta,” he said, “I know how easy it is to have the best of intentions but how hard it is to carry them out. I promise, no matter how bad you fail, I will always take the very best care of you.” I knew when he said it he meant it. But what surprised me was this was coming from a Doctor who had every reason to feel self-righteous and judgmental. Sufficient enough to make him want to puke in disgust at my disablement and lack of self-discipline. Particularly since my Doctor is so accomplished, not only in his professional dedication to medicine, but his personal dedication to good health as well. I know he is a rigid, unbending, calorie-counting health-oriented fat-free walk-to-work flex-trained no-nonsense individual.

So in that moment I was so proud of my Doctor’s compassion and non-judgmental care. ‘Here is someone,’ I said to myself, ‘who fully honors the Oath he made when he became a Doctor.’

And so going back to my failings, although I still gobble up too much fried foods, and drink too much coffee, if there is any redemption in it, I now exercise every day. I take the puppies on a long dog-jog each day (rain, sleet or snow), and if exercise is what I need, then I’ve got enough stamps in that department to allow me to be a couch potato for the rest of 2006. Since my last post, I have been helping Hub build a new patio with huge railway ties and more than thirty concrete blocks that individually are only about 30 kg. less than the weight of a half-ton truck. It only took two days to finish. It would have taken much longer but Hub would not bend to the wisdom of my suggestion that we place two blocks each day, one in the forenoon and one in the aft. But I digress (perhaps because of physical exhaustion).

So returning to our original discussion, perhaps it’s an uncommon approach to things but I’ve always felt more import in me being proud of others than in them being proud of me. There is more import in me being proud of Hub than Hub being proud of me and likewise I think there is more health import in me being proud of my caregivers rather than them being proud of me.

What I have seen happening when patients do all that is asked or expected of them, is sometimes they get overlooked. One year my daughter’s 3rd-grade schoolteacher apologized to me for overlooking my daughter because she was so cheerful, cooperative, and well behaved. She told me it wasn’t something she meant to do, it just happened because her attention was always diverted to the more difficult children in the class.

I suspect this kind of diversion can happen with any situation including one’s relationship with their Doctor. Now, let me be clear, I’m not suggesting that anyone should ignore a Doctor’s advice, but don’t give the pride in your efforts too much voice. Because society has a curve of thinking that is about as rippled as forty-foot ocean waves. And the curve of this wave taints the thinking of all professionals as well as the common man. And in a health-minded society pressing hard for healthy living, the assumption may be made, and sometimes is, that healthy living will prevent or turn an illness around when what you need is hard-core medical intervention.

Obviously, I am outside the splash of the swell. No such assumptions will ever be made like that in my case and besides, my Doctor and I have an agreement.


Blogger PEA said...

You're very lucky to have found a doctor who hasn't lost his caring and compassion...too many these days are so overbooked, they don't have time to really get to know you and it's in and out of the office with a prescription! I had a female doctor from the time I was 17 and I was devastated when she passed away when I was 39...she knew my whole history and knew me inside out...when she passed away, my whole health history vanished. Since then I haven't been able to find another family doctor (the shortage of doctors here is a real problem) so I've been using the walk-in clinics. Not always a good thing because they know nothing about you! I suffer from anxiety/agoraphobia and when it flares up I feel so helpless because no doctor has taken the time to treat me properly...until last month when I lucked out going to a clinic and getting a doctor who seems to really care!! I'm seeing him every two weeks now and I feel like I'm finally getting the help I need. Nice to know there ARE still doctors out there with a heart!

6:29 AM  
Blogger ME Strauss said...

You are lucky to have a doctor who is a doctor and doesn't think he is a god. Of course, that's how it should be then again we know that's not how it is and that not all of it is the doctors' fault.

We've slowly done to doctors what we did to teachers -- made their jobs so unpleasant and unrewarding that only a few of the best want to go there and the rest of the best choose other fields.

I'm glad that you have one of the best ones. I'm glad that I do too.

6:19 AM  
Blogger Roberta said...

Hi pea. Glad you found a doctor you're happy with. It is important.

Hi me strauss. Yes, doctoring is a profession with little reward or appreciation. But that seems to me more the result of a failing system. I excuse myself because I had nothing to do with that scheme. I have the right to vote but even at that, when it comes to health issues (and the jargon used to describe sustainability and reform) one can never be too certain what they are voting for.

12:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations on upping the exercise. When we moved into this house seventeen years ago, my sister gave us a dog that she had rescued. Defer was part Beagle and part German Shepherd. We live within the city limits, so Defer had to be on a leash when we were outside. Unfortunately, we had to make the decision to put him to sleep two years ago, and I can attest to the fact that my body misses those daily walks. The pups will be good for you.

As for the patio...I envy you getting it done, even if you weren't allowed to do it two blocks a day! *G*

Congratulations on sticking with it.


7:35 PM  
Anonymous Esther said...

I think maybe it's a little too easy to "backslide" when it comes to our good intentions to eat right, exercise and stop smoking.

How many of us see our doctors more than once a year? And, when we do it's for the short visit, that barely scratches the surface of who we are and what we've been up to for the past year. It's the generic...."How are you?"..."Fine".

Imagine if we had to see that doc every week to check on our process!

7:44 PM  
Blogger Roberta said...

Buffy, thanks for visiting. You mentioned that your body misses those daily walks with Defer, but I'm sure your heart misses him even more. Doggies are such good friends. I also appreciate your acknowledgement of all my hard labor on the patio. A wee bit more painting and it is finished. Looks lovely. Very lovely.

Hi Esther, though a weekly check-in might be helpful to those who find that kind of structure helpful, for me it would just raise my guilt to a toxic level that would make me quite ill. Even bi-yearly checkups are too much for me. But still I know for many others progress checks would certainly reduce a lot of backsliding.

10:22 PM  

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