phote-jo-2This excerpt from my book Beyond Embarrassment is such a perfect example of a doctor going through the motions of an exam and me not asking enough questions at the end of the exam.  I hope that if a situation happens to me or even you in the future, we take the time to get the important answers.  We need to understand how to advocate for ourselves.

From the book..

During my yearly physical, I have blood drawn for various tests. The physician listens to my heart, looks in my mouth, and checks my weight and height, blood pressure, and other statistics. She checks over my whole body to make sure nothing is developing that needs my attention. My bladder, bowel, and nervous system are not a big part of this appointment. But there are times when I need to remind my family-practice physician that my body reacts a little differently than that of the “average” patient. I need to advocate for myself.

During one routine physical, the doctor felt my ovaries as part of my pelvic exam. As a woman, I need to be aware of the risks of ovarian cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that, in the United States in 2014, about 21,980 women would receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer and that about 14,270 women would die from it. So as we went through the pelvic exam, I was listening carefully. The conversation with my doctor went like this:


One of the symptoms of ovarian cancer is constipation.


Well, since I have a Neurogenic Bowel, I am always constipated; my bowel is chronically sluggish.


The other symptom is feeling bloated.


Since I am chronically constipated but use stool softeners, the bloated feeling is not foreign to me.


Discomfort in the abdomen is another clue.


There are a lot of reasons that I get twinges of pain once in a while. It is just a way of life for me.

My ovaries were tender after the exam, which is another symptom of ovarian cancer. But the topic was dropped, and, quickly, we were onto the next body part.

As much as I like my family-practice physician, I felt like my doctor forgot that I had some nonworking parts and did not really understand that my body had its quirks. As I left the appointment, I wondered if I should have persisted and asked how I can know if I may have ovarian cancer, given that the usual symptoms occur as part of my daily experience with Neurogenic Bladder. I discussed the situation with my urologist, and she suggested that I work with her in the ovary department.

My point in all of this is that, no matter how well we get along with our doctors, we need to prepare for our visits with them, because even “normal” issues can be more complicated when combined with the symptoms of any chronic illness.

Are you prepared for your next doctor’s appointment to advocate for yourself?