As I sit at my desk with two alternately bleeding/clotting nostrils, mild chest pain and throat discomfort-and twinges of pain in my left shoulder blade-I’ve come to realize that I’m not the best long term planner. Take this as a cautionary tale about the general perils of neglecting your health, or perhaps as a specific indictment of my own stupidity/hubris.
Over 2 years ago I visited a free clinic located around Union Square in order to investigate what can only be described as colorectal problems. After examining me, the physician told me that I probably had hemorrhoids. However, she wrote me a referral to see a gastroenterologist, which I promptly dismissed. About a year later I went to the same clinic and received the same diagnosis. I had hemorrhoids, but I might also want to see a gastroenterologist to get a second, more comprehensive, opinion. Of course, I ignored this recommendation.
Fast-forward to approximately 5 months ago. I’m feeling fatigued, my bowel problems have progressed in an unfortunate direction, and I’m having a multitude of other symptoms. I take several rounds of inconclusive blood tests, make an impromptu visit to the ER, and am no closer to understanding why my body is falling apart.
I’ve been told by friends that as a patient I have to be an advocate for myself. It’s something that I’ve failed to do-to my detriment-many times over. If there’s one lesson to be drawn from my example, it’s that you need to be insistent and unrelenting in advocating for your needs. Physicians are not omniscient, even if they have some of the answers. If you feel something is awry, don’t wait until it’s too late to speak up for yourself.
It might save your health…or your life.