Doctor-Patient Relationships Can Be Hard

Are you a scaredy-cat when it comes to going to the doctor? Never fear: you're not alone.


  I hate going to the doctor. I don’t even watch-doctor themed shows. “Grey’s Anatomy” – never seen it. Same for “House,” “Scrubs” and “ER.” I refuse to even give “Doctor Who” a try, although I’ve been assured it’s not a medical drama.

   Yes, for anybody worrying about me, I go to the doctor, but good Lord, I dread it. I blame my first job. It left some deep wounds that have yet to heal. Fresh out of college, I was hired as a medical reporter for a small CBS station. It sounded very exciting to be reporting on the latest trends in medicine and even shooting surgeries right up until I had to actually do the job.

   The first time I had to observe a surgery it was a TKO. I passed out, hitting the floor face first. I still have the scar on my left eyebrow from where my head made friends with a chair on the way down. If that wasn’t harrowing enough, weeks later I had to go into a lab where various horrific germs were stored and do an interview. 
The next day, I thought I had for sure caught some version of the plague. I was feverish, light-headed and a feeling of numbness was moving in waves throughout my body. I rushed to the doctor, where I described my symptoms “as if those scrubbing bubbles in the bathroom commercial were traveling up and down my central nervous system.” 
Now, because this was about the fifth time I had been to the doctor in the past eight weeks with undiagnosable symptoms, his RX for healing me was that I had to talk to my boss and get assigned another reporting beat because my current one was making me “acutely hypochondriacal.”

   In a surprise to no one, except me, the doctor’s advice worked, and I have managed to stay clear of any medical reporting for the last couple of decades. I’m still, though, a doctor scaredy-cat. The whole annual checkup experience is fraught with peril.
First, there are all the forms you have to fill out. It’s all the family history stuff that gets me. They just need a box that you can check that says “my entire gene pool is polluted with crazy” and then, for verification purposes, a line where you list the dumbest thing that happened at the last family reunion you attended.

   Mine would read when a third cousin brought his homemade cannon, shoved a pumpkin in the cannon that had been stuffed with fireworks, then when the fireworks were lit a rear portion of the cannon blew out creating a near-death experience that caused a blaze requiring the entire battalion of county firefighters to extinguish.

   Next on the uh-oh list is getting weighed. Ugh. Anyone who keeps their shoes and belt on when they step on the doctor’s scale is the wind beneath my wings. What bravery! I take everything off but the necessities and then I close my eyes. I like to follow the “don’t ask, don’t tell” philosophy when it comes to knowing your weight at the doctor’s office. Last year, some sassy person weighing me asked me if I wanted to look so I could “calibrate my scale at home with the doctor’s office.” I replied with a very firm, “No, thank you.” The nerve of that woman. I’m sure her comment made my blood pressure spike.
Then there’s the delightful combo of the exam gown and the crunchy protective paper on the exam table. Once you lay down, it sounds like you’re in a Rice Krispy ad. It’s all snap crackle and pop.

   The absolutely worst for me is when you get to the bloodletting. I hate, hate, hate needles. When it comes time to get jabbed I pray for a phlebotomist with the aim of an Olympic archer. Never, ever, do you want to hear, “I’m having problems finding a vein.” How does that even happen? We’re humans. Our bodies are a vein-topia. It’s like staring at a Rand McNally atlas and uttering, “I don’t see any roads.”

   Of course, I know it’s not that simple and veins can be tricky. Which is why if I ever win the Missouri Powerball I’m going to have an elite squad of phlebotomists on retainer for any medical procedure that requires being stabbed.

   The best thing about going to the doctor is when it’s over, and hopefully you don’t have to go back for another 365 days. It’s not that my doctor isn’t awesome. She is, but seeing her is the easy part. It’s all the other stuff that gets in the way. And, for the record, I’m still officially ticked off about that scale comment.