When meeting a doctor or stepping into a new hospital or environment for the first time it can be overwhelming and can make you feel all sorts of emotions. From my experience I have felt anxiety, fear, I have felt afraid but at the same time I have felt excitement, encouragement and determination and going in prepared will make you more in control of the situation. When talking to your doctor, always remember that you are the one living with the chronic illness, you are the one going through this and it is important that you know where you would like your treatment to go. Don’t be afraid to ask whatever you would like to and remember that no question is ever silly.
When heading into your appointment, approach it with positive thoughts. You don’t know who is behind that door and you never know what new options there will be to explore. You might have been to several hospitals before this one but giving up is not an option. We are strong, we are brave and we are fighters and I know that there is an answer for us all.
From my experience, lists and notes are important. I would take with you a list of all of your symptoms and no matter how big or small these symptoms might be, it is important to highlight them all. Something that might seem small to you and irrelevant, might just be the answer.
Following on from this, a medication history is also top of my list. It is important to list all of your previous medications, the dosages that you have been on or are currently on and when you have taken or when you take these medications. Make a note of whether you feel you have benefited from these medications or if you have had any bad experiences or side effects, these also need to be included. When listing medications, include any supplements and vitamins you also take or if you take any other medications for other illnesses. Often, medications interact with each other and whilst we think they are helping, sometimes this can be the problem.
When stepping into you a new environment, something I often don’t appreciate enough is the support from someone else. Having someone with you will put your mind at ease and if like me, you suffer with poor memory and brain fog, they are there to pick up on any questions you might miss and any information that you are unable to process straight away. If you struggle to remember information, ask someone to take notes for you whilst in the appointment and you then have a log of how the appointment went, what was said and you are able to re-read this as many times as you need to in the future. This will help to take away the overwhelming pressure of remembering everything in one go and will take the stress off of you.
Although you might be attending for example a neurology appointment, the doctor will also ask about any other medical history or conditions that you might suffer with so it is wise to take a full medical history into the appointment with you. They will also ask about any previous operations, scans, tests etc that you might have undergone in the past so knowing about these and when they took place alongside the results will also help the doctor to understand and know where you are currently at.
Having attended many appointments over the past ten years, a pain diary is one of the things that I find helps my doctors to understand what I go through on a day to day basis. Having a full log of my pain handed to them, my daily symptoms, my flare ups and my good days, highlights to them exactly how often I am experiencing my pain and how I feel. When writing my pain diary, I include my thoughts, feelings and emotions on a daily basis and I have found, this really helps them to see where I am at not only physically with the pain but also emotionally too.
Don’t be afraid if the doctor asks you a lot of questions back. Just like us, in order to help us, there are a lot of answers the doctor needs. Some of the questions I have been asked when attending appointments include;
- How long do your symptoms last?
- When did your symptoms begin?
- What makes your symptoms worse/better?
- How are you feeling?
- What do you think about your current treatment?
- What would you like to happen next?
- How does this affect your day to day life?
Time with doctors doesn’t happen very often. Appointments come far, few and in between so take your time, take as much time as you need and don’t let them rush you.
So from me, good luck with your appointments. You can do it and remember, everything is easier just one step at a time.
All my love,