Miss Diagnosis

A blogger I follow and admire, A Southern Celiac, recently posted about the need to check your medical chart for stray misdiagnoses and other errors. It sparked my own memories of doctors who misdiagnosed me, suggested or provided improper/crazy treatments, put the wrong information in my chart, or otherwise blundered.

This is not to beat up on doctors. I’ve had the privilege of being treated by some of the best and most competent doctors, doctors who really improved my health and well being. I’ve also seen some really bad doctors.

Dr. P diagnosed me with endometriosis when I was twenty. I was in college and the severe pain and wacky bleeding were wreaking havoc. I missed classes, did poorly on exams because the pain was so bad. His recommendation? He said I should get pregnant. I said that was a ridiculous treatment recommendation for my age and condition. He shot back, “Who do you think you are, Miss Diagnosis?”

I opted for laparoscopic surgery which took care of the adhesions and scarring and pain. Life got better.

Fast forward five years to 1993. I broke down in Dr. P’s office the morning after being raped and held captive for five hours by an evil monster. Dr. P’s solution? He called the psychiatrist in the office upstairs and had me committed to a mental hospital for eighteen days, saying I was psychotic. I wasn’t, as other doctors later confirmed. I never saw that doctor again. I also reported him to the state board but with a psychiatric diagnosis, albeit a wrong one, they dismissed the complaint.

Fast forward ten years. I saw a different gynecologist when the pain and irregular cycles returned. He told me my problem was not being feminine enough, which I still think is funny because I wear dresses and heels far more often than pants. Pants and a blouse make it easier to undress from the waist down for the exam and trouser socks keep my feet warm in the stirrups, not to mention that there’s no way in hell I’m wearing anything other than granny panties to the gynecologist. He said with a straight face I needed to invest in a lingerie wardrobe and wear it even under my work clothes to reconnect with my inner sex kitten. He said it worked for his third wife. I walked out without a word…and without a treatment plan. I stuck with my very good female primary care doctor from then on.

Twelve years later, the pain has worsened. Frequent bleeding ruins several pairs of really sexy lace panties, proving lingerie has no effect on reproductive health. Dr. W takes my symptoms and my suffering very seriously. We discuss options, which don’t include psychiatric treatment or lingerie. At forty-eight with a long history of endometriosis and ongoing pain, and with a family history of cancer, I agree after extensive research to a radical hysterectomy and bilateral Salpingo oophorectomy.

I’m recovering well from the surgery, I think. At five weeks post-op I have decided to try hormone replacement therapy because the hot flashes and insomnia are making it difficult to get good rest. Dr. W says I may only need the HRT for a few months, which sounds good to me. Thinking about what’s different this time, I appreciate how Dr. W hasn’t told me what to do, hasn’t judged me or pressured me. We discuss options every step of the way and I always feel heard and respected.

As my mother used to say, every medical school class has a top third, a middle third, and a bottom third. And there are top tier schools, average schools, and Club Med schools. Just because someone is an M.D. or D.O. doesn’t mean he or she is a good, caring doctor. On the other hand, all doctors are not money-grubbing, misogynistic jackasses. If a doctor isn’t giving you the kind of treatment you think you deserve, find another doctor…and another doctor until you find the doctor who you feel is right for you. Don’t do what I did: stick with a quack, hoping he’d get better. Like a bad boyfriend, a bad doc isn’t going to treat you better just because you stick with them. They could get worse and the results could be catastrophic.

Each of us has one life to live and our doctors had better act like that one life is precious and deserving of the best clinical care possible. If your doctor doesn’t, get a second opinion.