Ego vs Empathy

On Wednesday, July 31st, I saw my new rheumatologist. The visit went very well. Though the wait to see her was longer, the doctor spent almost an hour with me, took my medical history herself, and asked a lot of questions. She was concerned with the amount of time that had passed since my first blood tests and did not understand my other rheumatologist's reluctance to treat my pain seriously. She declined to prescribe a narcotic, which was fine with me - I have no desire to live in a drug-induced haze. It's bad enough to deal with fatigue-induced brain-fog. The exhaustion makes it very hard to concentrate.

She prescribed neurontin, to be taken nightly, and tramadol, to be taken as needed. So far, I've only needed it once. The neurontin has helped my back a lot, and it has the nice side effect of reducing anxiety. Unfortunately, it also has the not so nice side effect of causing nausea and vomiting. However, the vomiting only lasted a couple of days and the nausea seems to have subsided. I should be able to get test results on Friday of this week. In addition to the usual round-up of levels, she also suggested testing for lupus. Like my original rheumatologist, she is reluctant to give any set diagnosis at this point, and not just because she hasn't seen my test results yet. She told me that it usually takes quite a long time to get a diagnosis for specific autoimmune diseases. It isn't until the symptoms begin to cause lasting damage that we can really be sure.

I'm wondering why my other rheumatologist couldn't have been like this. Is it more than just the difference between two personalities? Maybe it goes deeper than bed-side manner. Maybe gender has something to do with it. Maybe my new doctor is more willing to listen to me because we are both female. She did not suggest that I was overstating my pain or exaggerating my symptoms. She did not refuse to treat me because I declined her first suggestion, which was prednisone. She accepted my explanation of why I did not want to take prednisone and then began searching for another option. She was willing to hear me out and accepted that I knew more about my body and its needs and reactions than she did. My first rheumatologist would not budge from his first suggested course of treatment, and if I did not accept his suggestion, he refused to offer another.

Then again, maybe gender has absolutely nothing to do with it. Maybe my first rheumatologist is just an egotistical jerk who believes that he has right to the final word in every situation, regardless of how his decisions might affect his patient. His dismissive attitude made me question my own intuition and even my own perception of how I felt. When someone waves away your pain as though it doesn't matter that there are mornings when you can't get out of bed or get dressed, you begin to wonder if you are worth helping.

Maybe he is incapable of empathy; that would explain a lot. And an inflated ego would explain even more. I'm glad to have moved on. Even if my new doctor is not able to help my condition very much, at least she treats me as a whole person rather than a confluence of levels on a sheet of paper. My quality of life seemed to matter to her. Or maybe she's just good at faking. Either way, I'll take it.

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