As we grow older, we will no doubt develop newer health problems we never expected to have. Those of us living in the Diaspora from African descent will have diseases that others from European descent or from Asian descent do not have. And yet, we will be free of diseases those from other backgrounds or races have. For example, African women and men or blacks will develop more problems with High Blood Pressure, obesity, Diabetes, and stroke at a higher degree than people from other backgrounds. We will also have less cholesterol problems, less problems with bone loss, etc. than those from Western European backgrounds because we have larger bone mass and if we stick to our diet of of less sugar and less processed food, we can do even better. But if we eat all of the oils and the sugar choices added to the salty diets we already have, than we will add our inherent problems caused by our culture to that of the Euro-centric proplems to push us further toward the grave yard.
All of this silly explanation is to say that we NEED to manage our health since no two individuals are the same and no two races or cultures experience health issues in the same ways. What works for us does not work for others, and our diet practices at home in Africa are not exactly the same as we try to improvise out here in the US.
Additionally, the child who grows up in an African home, eating African meals alongside hamburgers and French fries, drinking highly carbonated, sugar coke products, eating lots of candies and other types of sweets, one who does not exercise through walking as children in other countries do, will have different childhood diseases, and later, adult health issues than children in Africa. Worst is that the children we bring up here in the US do not do the same tasking household chores children and their parents must do in Africa. Our children will therefore for this lack of exercise develop even bigger bones, but they will also be heavier, more obese, and will develop many health problems children in Africa will never have.
What’s worse are the adults who come to the US and develop all of the eating habits very fast because of stressful work schedules, a lack of opportunities to exercise or the refusal to change lifestyle practices. Now having stated all of these negatives, let us examine how one can be the manager of their own health, keep a clear eye on what the doctors are giving one to swallow, how doctors treat us, and how to stay alive longer than our parents.
WHEN IS IT A GOOD TIME TO BEGIN PAYING ATTENTION TO YOUR DOCTOR & WHEN IS IT TIME TO FIRE YOUR DOCTOR or DO YOU BELIEVE YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO FIRE YOUR DOCTOR?
I’m no medical specialist or doctor, but from my common sense experience and my own life, I’d like to offer a few words to women out there. If this is a good word for men, thanks to God. I am no specialist on what illnesses men have, so you can bear with me.
FIRING YOUR SWEET, SOFT SPOKEN, NICE LOOKING FEMALE DOCTOR…. or FIRING THAT OVERBEARING, VERY CONFIDENT MALE DOCTOR WHO DOESN’T EVEN GET IT WHEN YOU TELL HIM WHAT YOU’RE FEELING- Can you do that? Can you be brave to say to your doctor, who probably, has been your family doctor for longest “You’re fire!”?
YES- you can! Yes we can, as Obama’s campaign would say- YES, WE CAN!
Let’s examine some of the problems with us women who care more about our doctor’s feelings than about own health.
Let”s say you are a very professional, hard-working woman who takes care of your health, you have a very good insurance, and because you care about your health, you have been at your doctor’s office every time you felt something wrong with you. You go to see your doctor, whoever she or he is, male or female, but on every visit, you tell her that you think she out to check your sugar, to check for whether or not you have high cholesterol because you feel a certain way that is not like yourself.
But time after time, your doctor does not check for these problems. She tries to console you or he tells you that it’s all in your head, that you’re overstressed, and therefore, he or she does not do anything to check your sugar, to check for problems with your pressure or to inform you of results from a Mammogram you had or you feel something strange, and need to be examined for certain serious conditions, but she refuses by quietly dismissing you or promising to order the exam later. Or maybe you need a certain medication to treat an ongoing problem, but she says, oh, you don’t need it. It can wait.
Now, you may think these are really extreme examples. But you’re not being true to yourself because one time or the other, this has happened to all of us. We are often so busy, so caught up trying to keep our families in focus, we neglect ourselves. We never stop to think- hey, didn’t I tell that doctor how I am feeling, and why didn’t she take me seriously?
When weeks after you discover something wrong with you, your doctor finally feels the bright light from Heaven and orders the test for what you already knew, BAM, she calls to tell you that you have this or that disease. She tells you have something you knew all along you had, and the problem has got so bad, your life is threatened by this disease that the doctor was too busy trying to avoid treating even though you have good insurance. What do you then do, especially, when you discover that the doctor is not even qualified to treat what the laboratory work has discovered, and she, your nice doctor who only wants to appease and not treat you, does not want to refer you even though she should and she can.
What do you do?
Or let’s take this argument on another leg. You have a certain illness that is being treated by some medication that is actually killing you. You go in and tell your doctor to take this medication away. You tell your sweet female doctor or your big male doctor that the medication makes you sleep all day, that it makes you suffer from that stupid illness they call Vertigo, or that the medication depresses you or that the medication is just not doing what it was meant to do. Your doctor looks at you and says with her/his eyes “here we go again- this woman!” You cannot get it.
You are used to those old time doctors who saw an illness and wanted to destroy it, who wanted to go to battle with illnesses for the sake of God. Today, your doctor is a younger, more popular-culture kind of person who actually may be underhandedly working for someone else. If she/he sends you to the lab to do that very complicated procedure, the insurance company may not like her anymore. So, she puts off finding a diagnoses by not ordering the test. Remember, now you live in a country where most good medication has to be prescribed for you to get your hand on it and one does not ever order their own lab test.
Maybe your doctor does not help you out because the insurance will be mad that she has given you a very expensive medication that actually does the job it was meant to do, so she holds back. Or maybe she will look bad among her peers, so she gives you some weak tablets that make you come and go when what will really help you will cost you just two dollars after insurance. All of this is difficult to prove, but that is just what seems to happen, doesn’t it?
What do you do with such a doctor?
Now let me tell you why these questions are significant to us African women or women from African descent or simply immigrant women who come from a culture that respects and treats our doctor as if they were some God. We do not quit a doctor or question them or try to find out why they cannot agree with us. We simply go, and if they are so bad, we will keep going until they finally kill us.
My mother died because her nurse practitioner who noticed that she was very ill one day decided to help her by injecting her with some medication that caused her to have a cardiac arrest. He did not mean any harm to her. He simply did something stupid, and Mama was no more. In this country where we don’t have to have someone come to our home to play doctor on us because we have great doctors despite the problems, why should we settle for less?
My case was made for the woman with the best health insurance or the very good one. But just because one does not have health insurance or the money to pay does not give a doctor the right to neglect treating them or giving them the right medication or from listening to their complaint. There are many ways of solving the financial problems with the lack of health insurance, therefore one should not allow a doctor to give them poor services because of this lack.
When a doctor performs in the manner I have described above, such a doctor should be fired. I mean if you went to work and did not perform your job properly and caused clients to leave your business or if as as an professor of English, you could not effectively teach English so that students are drawn to your classes and to the institution, do you think your employer would keep you just because you are sweet or beautiful?
A doctor that causes a patient’s health problems to remain undiagnosed for long even after the patient asked them to check for the problem, should be fired immediately. Firing your doctor does not mean that you will take their job away. Firing your doctor does not mean that you dislike them as a friend or a person. It simply means that the relationship as doctor and patient is no longer working well. You simply stop seeing them and find yourself a good doctor, one who knows what you’re paying them to do. Do not settle for any less.
In case you settle for less, in case you allow your doctor to play with your health, in case you make excuses for your doctor, you should know that you are only playing with your life.
The idea for this blog came to me not only from my own personal experiences. I was watching CNN when the topic came up about the high statistics of women who die or put their lives in danger because they refuse to fire or get rid of their bad doctors. Men refuse to go to the doctors, but women who go, never fire a bad doctor and can die from the lack of good services.
As immigrant women, we find ourselves in an entirely different country now. The doctor is a good friend, but that friendship is base on the trust that the doctor will be the good care taker of the health needs we pay them to meet and we will in turn take care of our health the way the doctor advises.
I was in to see my doctor, who is a very fine specialist in his area, and when he saw the new results of an ongoing health condition he has been treating me for, he was elated. He is a very no-nonsense kind of doctor, one who seems to be from the old school of thought where doctors took seriously the needs of their patients. I have friends who do not like him because they say that he has “bad bedside manners.” They mean that he doesn’t waste other patients’ time chatting about useless things when they go to see him. He gets to the matter of one’s illness, finds a problem, and chases it down. He does not give useless medications. In fact, the first time I was referred to him three years ago, he took some useless tablets my family practitioner at the time had given me, and asked me if he could throw them away. Of course, I said yes. He told me upfront that the medication would harm me in five years, would do this and that, that I did not need such when my body could produce better than the medication was doing. I tell you, he was right. I have never needed that medication again in three years.
This time, now, he was excited that within two weeks, I was making progress. Now, that’s what I call “good bedside manners!” When a doctor can see a difference in his/her patient and get excited about that, that is a good doctor. When a doctor sees a problem and pretends it’s not there simply because he/she does not want the extra work of following up, that is what I call “bad doctor,” who should be fired.
It is your first responsibility as a woman, as a mother, as a professional woman, as a human being to take good care of yourself and your health. I always compare taking care of my own health to what the airline stewardess tells us about emergency safety precautions when the plane is taking off. “If you are traveling with a child, you must assist yourself before you can assist the child.” To me, that means that if I am not alive because I did not take care of myself, I will not be around to take care of my children.
As I conclude this discussion, let me give you the right to free yourself of a bad doctor if you need to. Fire your doctor who is not good for you. If you are taking medication that is killing you, get rid of it with your doctor’s consent, but if your doctor does not understand your need to quit the medication, you need to ask yourself why.
I recall the last time I had to quit a medication when I was with another doctor. My doctor did not think so, but the medication was causing me to lose my sight gradually. I called a girlfriend who told me to dump the medication because she had had a similar problem with the identical medication. My doctor would not allow me quit the tablets she believed were good for me, but on my friend’s advice, I threw the medication into my trash can. Within a couple days of quitting the medication, my vision began to return, and within a week, as my friend said, my vision was normalized. When my doctor learned that I no longer had vision problems because I had dumped her tablets, she simply smiled. Now what was that?
The medications we take as well as the health services we get are important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Please take care of yourself. You are the only person you’ve got that is you.