(If you’re reading this you might also find my article about the doctor-patient relationship useful).
I’m not sure anyone likes going to see their doctor, for any reason. I always get nervous, I never like talking about my problems, I almost always feel uncomfortable. If you have a medical condition that means you’re thinking about a hysterectomy, you’ll probably be making several trips to your doctor’s office. Here are some things to bear in mind to make the process feel a little better:
1. They are there to help.
Helping you is your doctor’s job. If you’re going to see them then they know things aren’t fine, and it’s OK to tell them that. If you don’t feel like your doctor is being helpful, or supportive, you should look for a new one!
2. They’ve heard it all before.
I know, you’ve heard this one before too. But it is true. You’re not the first woman they’ve ever seen who had fibroids. Or the first woman with heavy bleeding. Sometimes it can feel like that because no one really talks about these things, but trust me it’s common, and your doctor is used to speaking to people about it. You’re not weird 🙂
3. Tell them the truth.
I have a feeling this is a female thing… to play down whatever problem we’re having. ‘Yes, doctor, I’ve made an appointment to see you because I seem to be bleeding a lot, but really maybe it’s not actually that bad, maybe it’s not really that much blood….’ Have you done this? I did at the start. I have a feeling women don’t want to cause trouble, don’t want to be a nuisance, so even though we’re sitting in a doctor’s office talking about something very uncomfortable we act like maybe it’s not that bad. And this is a mistake. If you want to get help, to get some kind of treatment, you need to lay it out for them. Here’s a couple of scenarios:
‘Hi, yes, my periods seem to be getting quite heavy these days, definitely heavier than they used to be, could something be causing this?’
What’s the doctor going to say…. well, there’s a fair chance he’s going to say something like ‘well that can happen as you get older’ and that’s that.
But what if you say something a little more honest?
‘Hi, I’m bleeding very heavily on my period. I’m getting through one ultra tampon and a pad every hour and I have to wake myself up twice through the night otherwise I’ll bleed all over the bed.’
Do you think your doctor is going to answer ‘well that can happen as you get older’? Probably not! It’s not a comfortable thing to talk about but they need to know what’s actually going on. If your symptoms are interfering with your life, tell them that. They won’t know unless you tell them. I made a chart using Excel where I coloured in blocks for the days I bled, and used different colours for different amounts of bleeding. It was useful for me and my doctor!
4. Plan your appointment.
Whether you’re going to see your family doctor, gynaeocologist or surgeon it’s very helpful to plan the appointment before you go. Obviously you don’t know what they are going to ask you, or what exams they might do, but you probably have a lot of questions floating around in your head. If you’re anything like me, half of these questions disappear as soon as you walk into the room, only to reappear about 15mins after you’ve left! So make a list of questions the night before, and take them in with you. Any decent doctor won’t mind you producing a notepad, asking your questions and noting down the answers (any decent doctor will be happy to answer any question you ask – if they won’t I’d recommend looking for a new doctor). By using this method you won’t forget any questions you had, and you also won’t forget the answers either – it can all get quite overwhelming and it’s easy to forget exactly what was said.
I hope these ideas help; I know it can be hard going to these appointments but make sure you get all the information you need. You can read all the information on the internet about hysterectomies but only your surgeon will be able to tell you exactly what they plan to do – and they should have no problem explaining it to you.
Coming soon – a printable with questions to ask your doctor at an appointment.