I’m a relatively content person. Yet doctors’ visits conjure up sadness and fear and grief. Since cancer turned my world upside down, appointments with physicians are so difficult.
I appreciate my physicians tremendously. Besides their high competence, they have superior people skills. They talk to me as my doctors, offering sound medical advice, but they don’t treat me like a patient.
They treat me like family.
These genuine, caring, decent people always take the time to chat with me. No matter how incredibly busy they are, these individuals treat me like I’m the only patient they have.
Their kindness helps ease the pain of having to see them.
My doctors enjoy my company, I think. I smile, laugh with them, telling them about my latest projects. I tell them about my daughter and show pictures. I tell them how well I’m doing and how wonderful and awesome my life is. This is true.
But not completely.
What my physicians may not know is that at each appointment I put on my game face.
I smile and laugh with them.
But I won’t tell them that a Pandora’s Box of fears fly out of my mind with fury at each appointment. More often than not I want to cry, and I need to keep flashbacks at bay. I am always battling to get out of the ugly place where fear-demons live.
After most appointments, I calmly get in my car, and that’s when it all hits. I sob uncontrollably – partly because of relief that another doctor’s visit is complete and partly because keeping my emotions in check drains me.
With such supportive medical professionals, you would think I could really dig down deep, open my full heart to them, and tell them how truly haunted I am. Instead, I put on that game face and tell them happy things, things I want them to hear:
My life is complete.
My life is great.
I have accomplishments and fun hobbies that are always pleasant to talk about.
Truth is, I want to be a medical success story – their medical success story.
I’m afraid if I show my fear, maybe they will view my fears as doubts of their competence.
I’m afraid if I reveal my inner fears, medical professionals might think I’m unappreciative.
Maybe if I cry in front of them, they will perceive me as weak.
And I won’t show the deep core of my fears for another reason – I view each doctor’s appointment as the opportunity to grapple with my demons – and to win the battle by not falling apart in front of my physicians. I see this for what it is, some silly competition with my greatest competitor – myself.
Perhaps if I allowed my doctors into my world just a bit more, if I allowed them to see me falling into the abyss of fear – they might just catch me.
So I’ve been trying a new strategy lately. I’ve allowed some doctors to see the cracks in the facade. After all, one can keep up a positive performance for only so long before the wear-and-tear of omission begins to show.
I recently began to hint to doctors that things are not all peachy on planet Gainer. I admitted to my primary care physician, “Whenever I get an ache or pain, I get scared I have cancer.” She was supportive, reassuring me that I am not alone, as this is a common reaction of patients affected by cancer. I once confessed to my oncologist that I was feeling vulnerable. He was sweet and said, “Of course you feel that way. After all you’ve been through, I can understand that.”
And, finally, I’m learning that when I reach out to my doctors, they reach out to me.
Do you disclose your fears to doctors? Why or why not?
How is your relationship with your doctor(s)?
Tags: cancer, doctors and fear, fear of doctors, followups and fear