Monday, September 23, 2013

Raw Fear

Just read a nice piece from Slate called "My Leap of Faith in Medicine," by Danielle Ofri.

Ofri is a medical doctor, and a PhD in Biochemistry -- she's wicked smaht, in other words. But she never really got how fearful it can be for a patient to talk to a doctor, until her 18 month old had a minor medical procedure that required anesthetic (he had "tubes in his ears," which you parents might be familiar with). Seeing her baby lying on a table brought what she called "raw fear" to her heart, and her advanced degrees did nothing to help her.

The lesson she learned?

"When I sit with a patient now, deciding on a treatment, I still lay out the risks and benefits as systematically as I can. But then I take a moment to acknowledge the raw fear that cannot be assuaged by even the most convincing clinical data. This conversation can’t eliminate the necessary leap of faith. But at least there is some recognition of the stomach-plummeting sensation that occurs when the patient edges their toes out onto that clear glass bridge."

It's a nice reminder for physicians that sometimes we patients get irrational with our fear. A kid getting tubes in his ears is tough enough. As cancer patients, it's even worse. I want honesty, but I want some compassion, too. Some recognition that I'm scared about things. As Ofri says, that won't make it go away, but it's nice to know the doctor understands how I feel.

This has nothing to with the fact that I have an appointment with Dr. R on Thursday. Just a coincidence that the article appeared this morning.....

(Really, I have no reason to be scared. Things seem to be going well. I'll let you know on Thursday.)

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