I’ve been seeing a lot of doctors lately and, just between us, I’m not that thrilled about it.
It’s not that I don’t like doctors. I have friends who are doctors. It’s just that I don’t like being a patient.
It’s not a phobia, but a wariness that comes from experience. When I was 13, I had to spend a couple of weeks in a teaching hospital where I was visited several times a day by bands of earnest young medical students who poked and probed and questioned me until I hated each and every one of them. I was subjected to spinal taps — three of them — and gave up so many blood specimens that I’m surprised I’m not anemic to this day.
Eventually, I was given a diagnosis. My affliction was a syndrome with a French name, and I would need physical therapy to recover, but I would be just fine.
I don’t totally subscribe to Mark Twain’s take on physicians, but I can appreciate it. “If ever I am deadly ill,” he wrote, “I hope you will stand by me and bar out the doctors and let me die a natural death.”
My experience in adulthood has been that if you see a doctor often enough, he or she will find something wrong with you. It’s just common sense.
So I’ve been quite content to see them only when absolutely necessary — like when I’m miserable with a kidney stone or I have strep throat or I’ve cut something or broken something or burned something. I’ll also go, grudgingly, when it’s time for a precautionary screening exam. These exams come more frequently as you get older. It seems fair to conjecture that if you live to be very old, you might spend most of your time under one kind of scanner or another in search of something suspicious looking.
It was during one of those same precautionary exams this summer that my doctor determined that I needed to be seen by another doctor who did some tests and told me I would need some treatments, beginning with some medicine.
I muttered a lot later about how none of this would have happened had I steered clear of doctors, but my wife suggested gently that I was an idiot.
So I’m taking these pills three times a day. It’s been a couple of months now and, except for the one I swallow first thing in the morning, I’m still having trouble remembering to take them.
I don’t want this to come across as whiney. I’m truly grateful for the medical care I’m receiving and for the capable professionals and institutions providing it. But, I’m not happy popping pills.
Until lately, I’d been able to say “absolutely nothing” when asked what medications I take. “Not even aspirin,” I would say proudly.
That’s not true anymore — not even the aspirin part. The other medicine I’m taking gives me headaches.
But that’s not all.
I was reading the information sheets that came with my prescription when I came across this: “Remember that your doctor has prescribed this medication because he or she has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects.”
That got my attention and I read on to discover that these side effects include flushing and sweating (hot flashes), body aches and pains, breast swelling/tenderness/pain, headache, dizziness, drowsiness, trouble sleeping, weakness, hair loss, weight changes, constipation, diarrhea, stomach upset, gas, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite.
More serious possibilities include vision changes, swelling of arms and legs, trouble breathing and a persistent cough and decreased sexual ability/desire.
What I got from all that was I should look forward to less hair and less sex.
But, I’ll be just fine.
Irv Dean is the Gazette’s city editor. Reach him by email to [email protected]