I had a doctor's appointment this morning - a consultation about an ovarian cyst I've been carrying around for a while. I've named him Larry.
My Caribbean Gyno seemed eager to cut me open and remove Larry, which would be fine if Larry were still causing level 10 pain and making me pass out. But he only did it that one time and since then he's calmed right down. He's gone from about 10cm down to about 7cm - a softball down to a small baseball or field hockey ball, for you sports fans.
(I know he's about the size of a small baseball now 'cause it took almost three weeks for insurance to authorize the MRI after I had the ultrasound. I think Larry hates insurance companies as much as I do.)
So, knowing that he's calming down and possibly resolving, I told my doctor we should wait and see how it goes. Maybe he'll totally resolve and as I slide into menopause, we may never hear from Larry ever again. She was talking about not just laparoscopic surgery to remove Larry, but opening me up and potentially taking ALL my lady parts. ALL OF THEM. Even though there's absolutely nothing at all wrong with any of my lady parts.
Where does that idea come from? When in med school are you taught things like, if a patient gets a bee sting on her finger, you chop off the entire hand? And this from a lady doctor. How is it still such a cavalier idea to remove a good amount of my anatomy simply because there's a pesky cyst in there? A cyst that shows no signs of malignancy, isn't causing any alarming symptoms that could indicate cancer, and blood work that came back 100% fine. WTF, doc?
She hemmed & hawed about being conservative and strongly recommended I get a second opinion from an oncologist in Berkeley. Fine, whatever. I forgot to make the appointment (probably on purpose), which led to the oncologist's office calling me, kinda bitchy, asking if we could go ahead and make the appointment. Are they hard up for patients?
Long story longer, I made the appointment and this morning I drove to Berkeley expecting a doctor's office, with a doctor in it having read and reviewed all my paperwork - ultrasound, MRI and pathology from surgery years ago as well as the most recent films done earlier this year - everything - to hear his informed, sage opinion.
What I didn't expect was to go to a hospital, register, get a stupid plastic name bracelet, fill out a five-page questionnaire that seems to assume I already have cancer, then wait 30 minutes just to get inside an area within the hospital where this doctor does business.
I also didn't expect I'd have to be weighed and have my blood pressure taken. WTF does that have to do with anything? I don't care what the official answer is - it's stupid. I was there to talk to a doctor, not get an exam. I told her that I could tell her what I weigh, but she insisted, so I stepped onto the scale with my Doc Martens, purse, jacket - everything. Yeah, that's what I weigh. Fuck you.
Then we did blood pressure - with disposable cuffs. ? That must cost a shit ton of money. Is that really necessary? We can't sterilize plastic cuffs now? Oh, is my pulse a bit fast? That's because I have no idea what's happening right now and no one gave me any indication that this is what I'd be doing here this morning.
Next, I was led into a room like a regular ol' hospital room that's been sort-of converted into an ob-gyn exam room. The MA started to tell me that I'll be examined by the doctor's PA when I interrupted and said, "I don't understand what's happening right now. I thought I'd be talking to a doctor about an ovarian cyst."
She tersely replied that she was explaining what's happening, but I still didn't understand. I interrupted again and told her I was not going to have an exam - I just had an exam - all I need to do is talk to the doctor. She finally shut her mouth, handed me some badly-written information about ovarian cancer, then went to get the PA.
When the PA came in, I got the sense that the MA had told everyone at the desk about the cunt in room 1075. The PA was a bit prickly. They didn't seem to understand that dropping someone into a cancer ward without any warning might be upsetting or at the very least, confusing.
And here's where I'm wondering why they make you fill out a fucking five page questionnaire when they ask you most of the same questions later. Read your own goddamn forms, assholes. And no, I don't remember exactly when my mother had breast cancer - I'm just trying to figure out what the fuck is going on right now. Here's her number - call her yourself. She's fine, because she scared that shit right out of her body, and now I know how she did it.
When the PA left with her clipboard I realized how upset I was. No one had thought to explain how this would go, what I should expect - nothing. And I don't even have anything really wrong with me. I can't imagine how terrifying it must be for someone who has a confirmed diagnosis and is about to undergo surgery, chemo, and whatever else.
The info they gave me about ovarian cancer is written as if you already have it. It looks to have been produced on an IBM Selectric about 75 years ago and it has typos in it. The facts are probably all valid, but it seems designed to scare you into having every known treatment and to hope for the best, but it's probably not going to end well. Awful.
After it had been a full hour since I arrived, the doctor was finally ready to see me. His "office" is right next door in another hospital bedroom. A giant, wooden office desk right where a bed would be. Another, smaller desk behind him in the corner, with all the artifacts you'd expect to see in an office. Weird and disconcerting. But there's a bathroom in it, so that must be convenient.
He was reading through the pathology reports as I sat there, apparently reading them for the first time. He didn't have the ultrasound nor the MRI. My doctor recommended this guy over a month ago, but he still didn't have all my info. WTF?
The best part was when he was trying to explain the location of a previous cyst I had and pulled out the illustration of the female reproductive system to show me. Pointing along the chart he said, "Here's the anus, rectum, vagina..." I interrupted and said, "Yes, I'm familiar."
He asked, without any attitude, seemingly surprised, "Oh, are you a healthcare professional?" I said, "No, but I have the equipment."
Did he really think I wouldn't know where my own ass is in relation to where the ovarian cyst might be? Really? Only healthcare professionals know where their asses are? I wouldn't count on it.
Back at the desk the ladies asked me if I had my CD. My Prince CD? What CD? My MRI CD? Why the fuck would I have it? Don't YOU have it? No I don't have it. Who the fuck is running this shit show? For fuck's sake, YOU called me to make this appointment. YOU had all the info from my doctor to get what you needed. Fuck off.
I had a feeling this morning that I might turn into a raving bitch when I got there, knowing I'd be nervous and scared. I told myself to be nice to the staff because they're the ones who provide the critical care to people struggling with serious illness. But as soon as I was there, my mother's DNA kicked in and my spikes came out, ready to stab. To be fair, except for the registration nurse, no one was all that friendly or sympathetic. It could have been a pretentious coffee house with aloof baristas moving drinks down the line.
And now I get to wonder what this adventure is going to cost me. The previous appointments I've had have not been fully covered and I'm looking at some hefty bills just to confirm that yes, I have an ovarian cyst. No treatment of any kind. Just confirming that Larry is in there.
The ACA isn't the problem. Our entire approach to healthcare is the problem. The eagerness to do major surgery when it's not necessary. Doctors who just barely seem to know what they're doing or don't do their fucking homework before you get there, while they get paid a shit ton to tell you what you already know. The exorbitant cost of simple tests. Disposable materials that aren't necessary. And of course, an entire system that profits from illness.
I'm keeping Larry for now and will be looking for another doctor. Just fucking disgusted by all of it.