February 15, 2009

Right now is a tough time. A lot of people are getting laid off and those that aren't are living in fear. You'd think an angst-ridden pessimist like me would embrace a collective mood of doom and gloom, but I don't. Things are changing and I am not a fan of change.

Some people are philosophical about it. "Nothing lasts forever," my father says. Really? I disagree. What about anxiety? That lasts forever. And, chronic pain. That's infinite.

Another thing people say, as a comfort: "Well, at least you have your health." But what happens when that goes? I can hear it now. "Well, at least you HAD your health."

Recently I called my GP, Dr S, in New York. He has a message on his voice mail that I bet he recorded with me in mind. It says: "if you have to talk for more than 30 seconds, make an appointment." So I did.

I've had a cough that won't go away and it was time for a check-up anyway. I made the appointment and then all week, I felt I had a purpose. It was something to look forward to.

Blood-work, an electrocardiogram, a chest x-ray and a chance to have his undivided attention. What could be better?

Even though my symptoms are real, they never add up to anything serious which of course, I'm grateful for. But at the same time, I'm starting to wonder if maybe he doesn't take me seriously. Is it possible to wear out a welcome at a doctor's office? How many visits are too many?

I get to his office and put the gown on. I love the gown. I think I'm at my best when I'm in a hospital gown. As long as nobody has a rear view.

The solid blue ones happen to be a very good colour and the neckline is perfect. It's like a paper towel and garment all in one.

If only I could live my life in a paper gown, I'd be happy. Why not? It would be my signature look. I've always wanted a signature look. Also, they're easy to take care of. When I'm done wearing it I just crumple it up and throw it away. Never again would I have to do laundry.

But the only way I could live my life in a paper gown would be on a psychiatric ward. Which isn't the ideal place to meet men ready for a healthy relationship.

Dr S used to look happy to see me. But this time was different. Maybe I'm getting on his nerves. I noticed that every time I asked a question, he sighed. Also, when it was time to take the blood he asked me what tests I wanted.

Then he said, wearily: "The usual?"

The usual? Isn't that what a bartender says to the drunk who shows up every night? Am I the loser patient who instead of asking for a whisky sour is asking for a lupus test?

"No," I said, defiantly. "This time I'd like the test for diabetes."

Dr S is the best. I told him about my cough and he asked if my apartment was dusty. I told him my mouth was dry and he suggested I might be thirsty.

And when it came to the chest x-ray he promised he had checked it carefully. But how do I know? He has a lot going on.

"What if there was a black spot on my lung and you missed it?" I asked. He paused. "I'd be embarrassed." I guess if a patient dies, it's awkward.

Afterwards he looked through my chart and told me everything seemed fine. I pointed out he used the word, "seemed". Was that the same as everything is fine?

He wrote something on my chart. What was he writing? What if he wrote down: "Pest"? Patients never get to see what doctors are writing.

He could write anything. Maybe that's why you can never read a doctor's handwriting.

What if he's written: "She smells like a shoe"?

There are things in life that last forever whether you want them to or not. Medical records. My chart will be what defines me after I'm gone.

I just hope someone isn't looking it over saying, "Oops. How did we miss that?"