How All Doctors Should Be

Photo: Camerique/ClassicStock/Getty Images

Lately every visit to the doctor leaves me feeling disappointed. It’s not that my doctors are giving me terrible news, but they always take this odd tone with me, like I’m just some random 40-something woman who’s steadily aging (instead of someone who’s working very hard to stop time in its tracks — and succeeding!). They’re all so negative. “You have high cholesterol,” they might say, or “Your eyelashes are falling out, aren’t they?” And they never say a word about how great I look from all the running I’ve been doing lately! Instead, they imply that things are only going to get worse from here. The way they talk, you’d think that I might even die at some point. And they act like that’s normal, and expected!

I guess that’s just how doctors are. They’re focused on your guts, not your thick head of hair or your killer gams. But I still want more. I want my doctors to strike me as inherently trustworthy and kind, like the doctors on TV. And I want them to listen closely to my symptoms, then ask me what I’ve read on the internet about my maladies, and then ask if I’ve tried any of the remedies I found there, and then agree with me about the potential value of this or that remedy based on the science they’re familiar with, all the while congratulating me on my desire to seek out answers on my own.

I also want them to be a lot hotter.

“Well, your skin certainly looks amazing. I think the Passion Fruit Seed Oil is really making a difference,” my incredibly toned endocrinologist might remark. (What is that gorgeous accent? Is he Moroccan? Israeli?)

“Yes, I think so, too! And my friend Kelly takes collagen so I started doing that, just to see if, you know, it helps around the eyes.”

“That’s a great idea. This Kelly must look damn good as well.”

“She does! I’ll tell her you said so!”

Rather than being treated like just another patient, I’d prefer to be treated like a high-profile star being interviewed about her daily regimen by a fawning celebrity journalist on assignment from Vogue. Instead, though, I’m often treated like a new piece of office furniture the doctor hasn’t noticed yet. Brief instructions are delivered, rapid-fire, while questions hang in the air, unanswered, as if they’re insults the doctor has chosen not to acknowledge.

People say “Find another doctor!” but I keep searching and they’re all the same. They don’t like me and they don’t appreciate the hard work and energy I put into being paranoid about my health.

“I’m 47,” I told a new ophthalmologist last month, flashing him a coy smile, waiting to hear that I look disturbingly good for my age.

“Close your eyes,” he said, so he could get a closer look at the blocked oil gland on my eyelid that only dims my beauty ever so slightly.

“This is the smallest it’s been,” I tell him. “I’ve been doing three hot compresses a day, 30 minutes each.” I’ve been overachieving, in other words. Your average woman doesn’t spend an hour and a half every day with a hot washcloth on her face. He’s got to be pretty impressed.

“It doesn’t look small to me,” he replies.

So lately I’ve started to see other sorts of healing types, in the hopes of getting more positive affirmations instead of a steady flow of bad news about my achy hips or my scary lipid totals.

“Wow, your neck is incredible,” the healing-bodywork masseuse told me yesterday. Finally, I thought, some acknowledgment of how hard I work to look and feel good!

“It’s like stone! I haven’t seen a neck this messed up in years. Are you in a lot of pain?”

“Oh. Well, yeah, I was, but then I got this treadmill desk …”

“Because honestly, with this neck, I’m surprised you’re not in an institution somewhere, crying and taking pills all day long.”

I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but believe me, I was as shocked as you are by this person’s alarmingly negative attitude about my extremely young-seeming (and probably feeling!) body. I don’t want to get too graphic, but my ass is the size and shape of a firm, ripe … Let’s just say that if I were in an institution, I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to keep the male nurses’ hungry eyes off me.

Luckily, though, my sister is a highly trained and respected surgeon, so I was finally able to get some good health advice on our recent vacation together. We were taking a walk on the beach, so she was trapped and I had lots of time to tell her about my treadmill desk and all of the supplements I’m taking — like the B2 and the magnesium to prevent headaches, and the kelp and the fish oil that make me smell like the dead jellyfish we passed along the way, but which are clearly making me more even-tempered and smarter and more beautiful and lowering my cholesterol and fixing my thyroid problems (or at least that’s what I’m sure to find out when I get all of those numbers back in a few weeks).

My sister was very patient and supportive, unlike so many other doctors I’ve come across. She even told me a story about a patient of her colleague, out in California, who had cancer but who wasn’t a candidate for surgery. Her doctor recommended chemo but she refused it and then went to Mexico for colonics and healing crystals and aromatherapy, but then her cancer got worse. So she came back, but now chemo wasn’t even going to help that much. And after all that, the woman said to her doctor, “I wish you had just told me to get chemo in the first place.”

I could’ve been insulted, but I understood what my sister was trying to say to me. She was saying, “I know that you are nothing but wise about your home remedies and meticulously researched life choices, but some people don’t have the incredible reasoning skills that you have, so maybe some of your doctors falsely assume that you fall into the unwise category, which is unfair but sadly quite common in my line of work.”

It was very healing for me, this walk on the beach. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if curious bystanders told us that they found just one set of footprints in the sand at times, along our path, because my busy and important surgeon sister literally carried me along because I could not walk on my own. (She does do strength training and run marathons so she could manage that, plus my brain has been fuzzy lately even with all the omega-3s, so if that happened I might not remember it at all.)

Even after such a soothing and restorative talk, though, I couldn’t help but ask my sister one last question as our walk ended. “Is it normal for a person who’s middle-aged — say, somewhere in their mid-40s — to have, you know, a little bit more, um, gastrointestinal trouble going on than usual?”

“What do you mean?”

“Like, um, unpredictability. And explosivity, if you catch my drift. Would you expect to see that?”

“If this person were ingesting a shitload of magnesium, I would,” she said.


I am taking less magnesium now, at any rate.

How All Doctors Should Be