The 2nd Opinion Adventure

Really they should be squaring off with each other...or me.

These models who play doctors for stock photos should be squaring off with each other…not me.

I’ve discovered the hard way that doctors don’t like squeaky wheels. They like them even less when these said wheels seek out a second opinion. My relationship with my GI’s office has seemingly cooled since I sent the records request, and though I was delayed in personally letting them know what I was up to (they obviously signed off on the release before I got to explain) my reassurances have done little to re-warm things.

Now, I fully accept that I’m a bit more sensitive these days than usual. Blame the meds, blame the mental and emotional toll of being sick for nearly 16 weeks, blame the reality that, given prior experience, if I’m going to have any kind of ride it’s going to be a bumpy one. However, I haven’t lost my mental faculties or my emotional IQ. Phone conversations growing terse/abrupt and audible sighing are a) not imagined, especially not after the third, fourth or fifth occurrence and b) convey more to me than the verbal reassurances that I “absolutely have to look out for myself” and they “fully advocate patients seeking a second opinion.” I’ve gone from feeling like a patient with a serious problem to a problem patient. Like some kind of annoying frequent flyer who won’t stop calling with question after question (though they are always new and fairly innovative. I do try.) What’s really disappointing, in the beginning I felt like I was receiving stellar care and gushed about how great, responsive and understanding the office was being. I felt like I had a support system, whereas now it’s a bit more like walking a tightrope.

I’ve tried different avenues to confront and deal with this. I’ve point-blank apologized. I’ve come right out and acknowledged that I realize I am not their only patient, nor their sickest one, and that I understand they are incredibly busy. (That’s damn-near a direct quote). I’ve explained why I sought a second opinion–increasing pressure from friends, family, coworkers, and my husband to get a second set of eyes on this because it’s all new to us (and newsflash–it’s not getting any better and is in fact getting worse); it has nothing to do with how I feel I’ve been treated or the care I’ve received; I even told them how the meeting went and how the other doctor felt they were doing everything right and he wouldn’t change a thing and therefore I’m satisfied and staying, etc. The response I receive every time is, “That’s ok, thanks for letting us know, we just want you to get better.” Well thanks, yes, trust me, that’s actually what I’m after too believe it or not.

Despite that, the vibe I’m still getting is more “Oh, [sigh] you again” than before. And you know what? It makes me second-guess calling with another question, even when it’s something totally legit, such as my dentist’s office requesting I get clearance before my next periodontal cleaning. I feel like a royal pain in the ass, like an inconvenience, like some hysterical drama queen. I dial and then cringe. Me being too sensitive again? Perhaps. But I know I’m not alone in this. I’ve read posts on other blogs and forums. There are people uncertain whether to even seek out that second opinion for fear of insulting or jeopardizing their relationship with their current doctor. I respond and advocate for it, since after all, this is our health, these are our lives. Hopefully my doctor and the nurses understand that I (and the rest of their patients) don’t get to leave ulcerative colitis at the office at the end of the day. We’re living it 24/7, an easy thing to forget when you’re not.

So my takeaway? Do I regret getting that second opinion even after all the grief it’s causing me? Nope. It’s become a personal hassle, but the peace of mind and reassurance far outweigh the eye-rolls on the other end of the line. As someone with no prior family history and no friends with the disease, I didn’t know a thing about it, what to expect, or what a “normal” treatment regimen was going to include. I couldn’t have told you if the care I was getting, though it seemed quality, was actually quality until I cross-referenced with an entirely different set of experts at a different hospital. Now I know. So my advice to you (or someone you might know) is to go for it. If you don’t, and you wind up more sick or hurt, you have no one to blame but yourself. Besides, skin thickens, it’s just our intestinal lining that’s wearing away.