Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Polar Bears Are Mean

I had a doctor's appointment yesterday.  Sigh.  I need a new doctor.  I can see this clearly.  So can Carl, who so very kindly went along with me for moral support.  This is still the 10-15 Mile a Day Doctor I saw last year. No, I didn't find a new one yet.  But, boy,  I have to.

I think she might be a good doctor for people she likes.  She clearly doesn't like me.  I just rub her the wrong way or remind her of someone in her past or present who drove her crazy or something.  I don't know what it is.  And no, I'm not a person who has to have a doctor who knows the names of my pets, don't get me wrong.  I don't care if a doctor doesn't remember who I am.  That's fine.  They see hundreds of people.  I get that.  I'm just one more ache and pain in a rotating, shuffling line of ailing humans she has to tend to. 

I had a good doctor though, once.  Not that I spend that much time at doctors, since I've been blessed with fairly good health up to this point.  But once upon a time, I did have a good doctor.   And the way I found him was when I took my aged father in for his appointment years ago.  I was so impressed with this kindly young medical professional who took the time to talk to my 88 year old TO him, not down to him, and who so very clearly cared about the effect my father's advancing senility was having on my elderly mother and even on me.  I became one of his new patients.  That was such a blissful ten years.  Some people are born to be doctors, and he was one of them.  He cared.

But then he moved away.  To Iowa. And ever since then, time spent at the doctor's office has been far from pleasant.  I'm not a hypochondriac.  At least I don't think I am.  My goal in life is to stay away from the MD's as much as possible, but I can't always because my thyroid up and threw a hissy fit way back when I was 32 and I need meds.  And with the meds, comes the bloodwork, at least once every six months and with the blood work comes the doctor visits and this all leads us back down the path to yesterday morning. Thyroid trouble is common, I realize that, but finding a doctor who will treat it as something worth treating is not common.  When the thyroid isn't working properly or is under or over medicated, you just don't feel well.  I've been through at least five doctors since the good one left.  And lots more when you rarely see the same one twice anyway because the clinics run a rotation of different doctors through all the time.  I had hopes for my current doctor, I really did.  She came highly recommended from a cousin of mine.  (Apparently she likes my cousin.)

But back to yesterday.  What an appointment.  We walked in and waited in the exam room for what felt like an hour, but I guess was only 15 minutes.  As the time ticked by, I was getting more and more anxious.  I had time to read a few articles from Reader's Digest to Carl--one was about a poor kid who was kayaking around in icebergs somewhere with a buddy and had the bad fortune of being attacked by a polar bear while asleep in their tent.  This roaring polar bear barged in to the tent and grabbed the guy's head in his jaws, dragging him around and shaking him like a rag doll.   Luckily, he lived to tell about it, due to his friend's quick thinking (and shotgun). 

Little did I know this story was setting the stage for my upcoming doctor visit. 

The doorknob opened and in she came.  (My doctor, not the Polar Bear.) Here we go. 

She asked me how I've been.  I said I wasn't feeling too bad, really.  No more daily headaches since the CPAP machine and I feel more rested. 

Well, did I have anything that was bothering me?

Yes, I have some shortness of breath once in awhile (when I'm trudging up steps with my laundry baskets) and some days my muscles and joints ache pretty bad.  But not everyday.  Kind of a comes and goes thing. I said I'd done some reading that suggested this could be normal for someone my age going through menopause with fluctuating hormones and what not.  I asked if she had any other patients who had the hot flashes and weird feelings subside after finally getting through the other side of menopause.

Suddenly, there was a Polar Bear in the room..........

"Well, this is just like puberty.  When you were younger, did you go to bed a girl and wake up the next morning a woman?  No, you did not.  It was a gradual process. And the same thing for menopause.  It doesn't just 'happen'.  It takes time.  And every one is different.  There is no set time table for how long this will take.  I have no crystal ball, I cannot tell you that by such and such a time you will be all done with it."

"I realize that you can't give me a guarantee," I said, " But I was just wondering if you have seen patients who have an easier time of it after the roller coaster ride of up and down hormones has subsided, even if it takes five or ten years.  If I knew that in time this will all even out, I can live with the aches and pains and whatnot for a few more years."

While I was talking, she was looking at her computer and clearly looking aggravated by what I just said.  When my silly little speech wound down, she blurted out:

 "I can see your problem right here.  Do you want to know why you feel the way you do?  Why you are short of breath and your joints ache?  You have gained weight over the winter.  Look at this!  I can see that whatever you are doing for exercise is not enough.  You have to get up and do something and watch what you put in your mouth.  People do not gain weight by breathing air, it is what you are eating.  You have to get out of your chair and exercise. You need to join a gym and get a personal trainer.  You need regular, physical exercise in your life and to cut calories down to 1200 a day."

Carl then piped up, "She does exercise!  She walks every day and she gardens."

"Well, it is not enough, obviously.  Gardening is not good exercise.  It is not aerobic and very possibly you are not doing the 'exercise' you do correctly.  That is why you need a personal trainer."

I knew I had gained weight over the winter, but I also know it is on it's way back down.  The same thing happens every year, once gardening season is here, I tend to lose any weight I put on during the winter.  I know it's not a good thing, I know I'm a flawed person, I know I eat too much.  And I know I've been heavier than I am now.  And I'm not proud of it.  I shouldn't even be writing about this here, because I know how this makes me sound.  Pathetic donut eater.  (I cut out the donuts a while back, I really, really did.)

"What did you have for breakfast yesterday?" the Polar Bear MD asked. 

"A bowl of corn flakes and milk."

"How big was the bowl of corn flakes?" as she asks the question, she makes an imaginary bowl in the air, like the size of a hog trough.  "Do you measure your portions?  Do you even have a clue as to how much cereal you are eating?  And what was for lunch?  Oh, a salad?  And did you use the same size bowl for that too?  And you put dressing on it?  NO dressing is allowed, only a spritz of vinegar, no more.  And what about dinner?  Oh, you had a baked potato, well, NO more baked potatoes, no more starch, no more carbohydrates, no more bread, no more pasta, no more dessert,"

By this time her strident voice had receded in my mind and I was the guy dangling from the jaws of the raging polar bear, being whipped from side to side staring at her glaring face as she tore me a new one. 


 I tried to defend myself one more time at least on the exercise thing. 

"I know you don't feel it qualifies as exercise, but I do garden extensively," I ventured cautiously.  "It's a big garden, around two acres, and last week I had over seven miles on my pedometer from working in it.  I still aim for five miles a day, though, even when I'm not gardening."

"Ah, the pedometer again.  The only way those steps count is if you are going out to exercise!  You cannot wear a pedometer all day long and then count all the steps you take as a total of exercise steps.  You have to walk the five (and I have told you before, ten, up to fifteen miles a day would be better) STRAIGHT through for exercise, no stopping and starting, for it to count.  IF you walked eight miles a day in your garden, so what?  If I kept track of all my steps in a day, you would be amazed.  No, only the actual straight walking steps count, no others! You have to devote at least an HOUR a day to exercise, and that is a minimum."

Say what?  I'm supposed to walk ten (or more!) miles a day in an HOUR?  Wow.  I'll be breaking some serious speed records if I can do that. 

And/or I only need to garden for an hour a day?  Wow.  I'll be having a pretty sorry looking garden too.

Carl piped up again, "She works very hard in the garden, I know she does.  You can't tell me it isn't work, because I do it, too, and it's tiring.  I don't see where a gym membership would be any more strenuous."

Oh, boy, here we go again.....the Polar Bear picked up Carl this time.

"I'm not saying the gym membership would be any more strenuous!  I'm saying she should quit gardening.  It's not working as exercise to keep her weight down, and she's probably doing more damage to her joints than anything else.  Pushing and pulling, lifting and hauling, and you wonder 'why' you hurt at night when you try to sleep??  Because you are getting up and down, kneeling, squatting, bending, overlifting, all the worst things to do for a body and yet, again, you 'wonder' why you hurt?  No, the gardening is a very bad thing.  Stop the gardening, get a personal trainer, lose the weight and get on with your life."  There was silence for a second and then:

"I do not know what else to tell you.  Do you want me to put in your chart that you have 'fibromyalgia'?  If I do, you will wear that title for the rest of your life and every doctor who sees it afterward will immediately think, 'Ha, another one of those people, who have 'fibromyalgia'."   

(Apparently, I am surmising that the Polar Bear thinks fibromyalgia is a catch-all phrase for a hysterical menopausal woman who really doesn't have anything wrong with her but wants attention.)

After she dropped Carl from her jaws, we both sat and stared at her, dazed.  Stop Gardening?  You might as well tell me to stop breathing. 

Carl said, "She grew up on a farm and was her father's right hand man with all the work. The gardening work isn't something new, she's worked hard all her life."

"So, she grew up on a farm.  Maybe she worked in wet, damp conditions.  Maybe she was bitten by a Lyme tick years ago.  Maybe she was overworked.  Every one is different.  My father farmed a 4000 acre farm, so what does that mean?  She's getting older.  People change.  She needs to stop gardening.  It is doing her no good.  She is getting fatter. And now, the tears.....I think you are depressed.  I really think you should be treated for depression, but I cannot force you to take the medication if you do not want to. You need to get exercise, exercise, exercise and watch what you put in your mouth!"

Yeah, I was crying.  Gads, I'm a sap.  I know.  And for her information, I had been treated for depression for many years, but once my thyroid was properly treated, I was able to go off of them, and I told her so.  And I told her that unfortunately, when I was taking the antidepressants, I weighed more than I do now.   Oh, she said, but there are other drugs out there that don't pack on the pounds, yeah, I know.  Though I was crying, I wasn't depressed.

I know depression, trust me. I garden because I love it.  It is my medication.

No, I was crying because it's safer than whacking a Polar Bear 'upside the head.  It's a more socially acceptable way of releasing tension than assault and battery.  Or firearms.  I didn't want to go to jail.  I just wanted her to stop.  And she did.  Oh, this is just the tip of the iceberg the Polar Bear made us listen to, and so much of it was contradictory.  Walk ten miles but do it in an hour.  Get a personal trainer who will teach me how to lift correctly. 

All this because I needed to have my thyroid prescription renewed and because I ventured to say that I have aches and pains at night and wondered if it was possible menopause might have something to do with it.

  I was ordered to the lab to give five vials of blood (I don't know what she's checking for, she didn't say) and I'm supposed to go to the hospital next week for a pulmonary stress test to see if I have asthma......?........because of my occasional shortness of breath.  I did give the blood, but the rest; oh, I don't know.  Asthma?  (She said she knows the reason I'm short of breath is because I am too porky, but sort of sarcastically ordered the breathing I don't know if I should go through with it or not. Would you?)

I'm not going to quit gardening.

I'll try to eat better.  I'll try to work harder. 

I need a new doctor.

Preferably not of the Polar Bear persuasion.

Now, where's my hog trough?  It's time for my Corn Flakes.


FlowerLady said...

Oh my gosh Karen ~ This has my eyes filling with tears. That lady has no kindness in her and her bedside manner is horrible.

I'm on the other side of menopause, and still have hot flashes, although not as bad as they were. I feel weepy at times, and I have aches and pains. To me it's all part of the aging process.

I try to pace myself with outside work, so as not to hurt myself or wear myself out.

I try to eat healthy too, and we stay away from MD's as much as possible also.

My heart goes out to you and others who get attacked by mean polar bears in their white jackets in their offices, thinking they are gods.

Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

Peonies & Magnolias said...

Oh what a horrible doctor visit. Please find a new doctor before you have to renew your prescriptions again. To even think she would advise anyone to quit gardening - what is she thinking - nothing good apparently and she sure doesn't appear to enjoy life does she.

Enjoy your days in your garden. I have found as I age it is getting harder to do the things I used to do but I still try and try again until it is done.

I hope your week gets better.


Lona said...

The answer is to find a Fat doctor and then you will have no more Polar Bears. LOL!
All kidding aside I get tired of these health freaks and medical people that try to fit everyone into the same peg hole. The simple fact is that people are all DIFFERENT. And the last time I checked skinny people got sick too.
That is the first time I have ever heard of someone telling anyone not to WORK in a garden.
And who has time to walk ten miles a day. Well maybe the same ones that afford personal trainers.
Kiddo I am so mad at this stupid doctor of yours I could smack her for you and I am not a violent person at all.LOL!
Everything starts slowing down as you age. Menopause for some is terrible and they have all kinds of symptoms. It took me ten years to get through it and I was a mess. LOL!
But since you have been prone to headaches and now aches and pains all over when you find that new doctor have them check you for Fibromyalgia. It can also cause all of the symptoms you are having plus the mod swings. I thought all of my aches and pains were from getting older too and I just tried to cope with it until I about went through the roof from the pain when they were doing a simple ultrasound test. My daughter is a nurse and told me to have my doctor check for Fibro, and sure enough.
Since you have dealt so much in farm labor and rock moving etc you may have more going on than just menopause aches and pains.

HolleyGarden said...

I am glad that Carl went with you so he, too, could see how rude this doctor acted. My DH has had a problem finding a nice doctor, too. Finally, he decided to find the oldest doctor he could. Yep, he found one 70 years old. And that doctor is very nice, very understanding, and knows his stuff!

I understand that most doctors these days see people that do need to exercise, do need to cut excessive carbs, and those that would call watering an indoor plant as 'gardening'. But, this is uncalled for.

Find another doctor immediately. You definitely don't want your life in this doctor's hands.

El Gaucho said...

Good gracious what an awful story and what a terrible person. Sorry that you had to go through that. Why do people think that they have the right to be jerks just because they happen to be a doctor. And you may be the best "doctor" in the world, but if you have a bedside manner and communication style like that, you're not going to last very long.

Don't ever give up gardening (though you might want to consider limiting the amount of giant rock movement in the future). Gardening keeps us young and healthy and connected to the Earth and full of delicious fruits and veggies and flowers and all manner of wonderment.

Shirley said...

How awful for you! Definitely don't quit gardening. Gardening is therapeutic, an enjoyable way to pass the time, calming, and exercise! There are several programs in senior's centres (NOT that you're anywhere near that age)that use gardening as therapy, so we know there is value there. Plus you find true enjoyment which testifies of the worth of the activity.

I wish you luck, sweet lady, in finding a great doctor. He/she is out there.

Missy said...

That woman should not be a doctor - just find a new one and never go near her again.

Sandy said...

Oh my goodness Karen.. You do need to find a new doctor, one with a bit more compassion and a heart! I have a Homeopathic- Osteopathic Cardiologist and a PCP doctor who both believe in life and all the natural elements of healing the body, along with regular science and medicine. My Gyn doctor is warm with me in the matter of a woman getting older and cares about my feelings... They tell me that just walking a mile a day and yes working in the garden an hour a day is wonderful for me both mentally and physically... Maybe you don't live in a big city and those doctors are hard to find? we have thousand to choose from in our area. In fact there might be too many doctors here but I'm thankful for them. When you look for the new doctor ask if they are certified in Osteopathic Medicine.
You do what makes you feel good and don't let one sour apple upset you... good luck and love the Polar Bear!

Sandy said...

What's a DO?

According to the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), osteopathic medicine is a complete system of health care with a philosophy that combines the needs of the patient with the current practice of medicine. Doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) practice a whole-person approach, which means they consider both the physical and mental needs of their patients. So look for a doctor with MD,DO after their name.

Gatsbys Gardens said...


I wasn't really thinking of what a bear of a doctor but I was thinking what a great writer you are! You really should be writing a weekly column for a newspaper, like Erma Bombeck. You write about everyday normal occurrences but add that type of pop that prevents one from stopping until the end of the story.


Randy Emmitt said...

Yep time for a more rational doctor. Meg is going through the same things, sometimes headaches last days. Joint aches we both have them too.

xoxoxo said...

oh my... Can I just say what a Polar Bitch?!?!!!

New doctor PLEASE!!! That is total bs. You were looking for HOPE. Will it get better? Of course it will. A gardener does not know the word quit.

africanaussie said...

well my gosh - that was so unbelievable! If ever I feel a little depressed, working in the garden is the best remedy. Lots of people these days are saying that small amounts of exercise throughout the day are better on your joints. Sounds as though that doctor is ready for the compost pile! I am sure you will find a good caring doctor who insists what you need is your own home grown vegetables.

Junebug said...

Oh my, a new doctor is needed! But I have to confess as horrible as your appointment was you had me laughing. You are such a talented writer to turn your Polar Bear Doctor into a great read. We love you just the way you are and don't stop gardening.

Alison said...

What Lona said, especially the part about finding a fat doctor.

Hugs Karen! I would have been crying too. BAD DOCTOR, NO BMW FOR YOU!! Find a new one ASAP.

I have made it through menopause. It does happen. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Exchange Hosting Service said...

lol! that sounded funny!

Zoey said...

Oh, Karen, that Dr. has no bedside manner!

I think you need to find someone else.

Quit gardening? Why would she say something like that? She sounds like a very weird woman!

Briana said...

Karen!!! This is absolutely ridiculous!! Your doctor is crazy, you do not have to exercise more or eat better!! and gardening is much harder work and better exercise than that doctor has ever done. SO WHAT if her father had a farm.... has she ever bailed hay or milked a cow... probably not, she is so narrow minded and absurd!!! NO ifs ands or buts, SHE's FIRED!

Mac_fromAustralia said...

Some people might have the huge amounts of knowledge but they really shouldn't be let loose on the public with it. So sorry. Hope you can find someone else soon.

Rosemary said...

There is no doubt it is time to find a new DR. Gardening is one of the best exercises there is for the body and the mind.... Any walking is considered exercise and 7 miles is so very good many of us don't get even close to that. Run don't walk to a new Dr.

Mac_fromAustralia said...

It occurs to me, not sure how to explain this, I'm not saying the knowledge is wrong nor was I saying it's right, it's just sort of limited (eg, not recognising the physical mental value of gardening!) and applied in a not very kind way. Hope that makes a little more sense than my previous post.

Karen said...

Words fail me, hard to believe, I know, but really, I am so thankful to each and every person who left such wonderful comments! With all of your moral support, I hope to shake off the blues from this silly encounter and move forward. Thank you ALL so much!

Kelsie From Our Country Home said...

I think a red flag is that there is a constant rotation of Drs in this office, you need to find a new one fast...

I think this curret one needs a personal trainer, one with a whip and a chair to teach her some manners...Or perhaps she needs some kind of medication...OH honey I am so angry for you right now...She has no right to treat you or anyone else that way...we fat ppl have feeling too.

As for telling you to give up your garden then stating you are depressed...she sounds a little nuts to me...It is the things we love that make life worth can giving up your love make you happier??

OK *breath in...breath out*...Please find a new Dr that comes with a heart before your next visit...even for the return visit for the blood tests would be good...If you do go back to the same office, try and see a different Dr, don't let the receptionist bully you into going back to her...Tell them point blank you do not like or wish to she her again.

Best of and prayers Kelsie