Call if it Hurts

By Lloyd Graff

Today I have doctoring on my mind. I’ve spent the last 10 days in the throes of worry, tests, doctor visits and more tests. I came out the other side with a good diagnosis, but exhausted by the process. And I think of how much worse it would have been without my wife Risa accompanying me for every visit and comforting me throughout the experience.

I also have had capable and caring doctors who explained everything in depth at the University of Chicago hospital.

Still it was an ordeal.

It started with seeing blood in my urine. Not a little, but enough to mess up a bathroom. I figured I burst a blood vessel and it would self heal that day.

Unfortunately, it did not stop and I contemplated a trip to the emergency room or worse. I think I am like most guys, I’m a health denier, often believing everything works out okay and the body heals itself and all is well with the world — except when it doesn’t. As Risa all too frequently points out to me, I almost denied my way into the death penalty in the run-up to my heart attack in 2008.

In this case the bleeding persisted and I emailed my primary care physician to ask what I should do. My doctor is an extremely thoughtful and caring physician and he called me back within an hour of the email on a Saturday.

We discussed the symptoms. I told him I thought it was a ruptured blood vessel and he told me the odds of that were remote. He mentioned infection and bladder cancer as the likely possibilities.

He quickly arranged a CAT scan, cystoscope and a visit with a top urologist at the hospital.

The bleeding did stop after 38 hours. In my next conversation with my doctor he told me that the urologist had told him that with my history of radiation therapy for prostate cancer eight years ago the cure for the cancer may have weakened the walls of some blood vessels which could quite possibly have resulted in the bleeding.

Ultimately, the CAT scan and the scope validated the urologist’s theory.

I discussed the process of fear, reporting, theorizing and diagnosis with my primary doctor on Tuesday. I told him candidly that I felt he dismissed what I told him about what I believed was going on and worried me unnecessarily. I brought up another situation which I thought was trivial, but he and my wife did not. I ended up wearing a heart monitor looking for an irregular heartbeat for two weeks, which I thought was ridiculous, and I was proved correct in that case, too.

My doctor was not annoyed by my questioning comment. He told me that the last four cases he had seen with blood in the urine were all confirmed as bladder cancer.

I shuddered.

Then he explained to me the burden that doctors carry. They know too much. Their job is to err on the side of caution. And they also know that patients get scared and the emotional trauma is significant. They also know there are times when they should not bring up the worst case.

He says he has made it a rule not to tell his family what could be wrong with them because it terrifies them. It’s quite a burden, if one is a caring doctor.

In the midst of this latest medical scare, Risa and I talked to her brother, John, who is an oncologist in Charlotte. I could tell he was parsing his words as we discussed my symptoms, not wanting me to worry more than I already was. He was encouraging about the notion of a blood vessel rupture caused by the 8-year-old radiation therapy.

Being a doctor is a tough life. I empathize with their dilemma about what to tell a patient, yet I also know that the patient sometimes knows more than they do about their own body.

Question: How do you feel about your medical care?

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10 thoughts on “Call if it Hurts

  1. Dave

    Like the old saying says if you got your health you got everything.
    From personal experience I don’t trust any doctor or hospital, if you can stay away from them the better off you are.

  2. Dave Bradley

    I had gone to the emergency room as I believed that some thing was wrong in my stomach / intestines / or gall bladder. In the investigation, they found that I had some lymph nodes that were the size of a golf ball around my stomach. They immediately wanted to do surgical removal of a node for biopsy. My cardiologist would not approve the procedure as I had just got 6 stints about 3 months before. The only way he would allow them to operate on me was a life or death situation. So the oncology people spent the next 2 years (and lots of my money) trying to prove that I had cancer or lymphoma. It was so bad that the insurance company said they would not pay for any more testing. I am here to tell you that those MRIs and Pet Scans are expensive. After 2 years of looking and finding nothing, I said we’re gonna stop looking. They reluctantly agreed. They conceded that if it was anything at all, it would be a low grade lymphoma…. and they don’t do anything for that. They are not the first ones to throw in the towel when looking. I wonder if I was just a cash cow or if they really afraid to say stop we cannot find what we were looking for.

  3. Bruskie

    I suffered from planters fasciitis for over a year before i went to see my doctor, by then I was literally walking with a cane. (talking about men and medical denial!) My primary Doctor as well as the specialist I was sent to kept trying to blame my shoes, I had to keep saying “This isn’t a shoe problem, it’s a foot problem”! Months of prescription anti-inflammatorys put the pain and the cane to bed. Hopefully custom insoles will help it to not return.

  4. Lloyd Graff

    I struggled with plantar fasciitis off and on for many years. Probably half the players in the NBA deal with it. Bad shoes and bad gait generally cause it. Try wearing Crocs and see what happens.

    This brings up the topic of bad knees. The research is showing that meniscus surgery is generally unsucessful in reducing knee pain. That surgery keeps the orthopedic surgeons and physical therapy practice in BMWs. Ice, Ibuprofen and acupuncture
    are safer, cheaper and probably more effective.

    Some modern podiatrists, by the way, are calling shoes “coffins for the feet”. Women’s high heels are daggers of the sole.

    1. Doug Gyure

      I too suffered with plantar fasciitis for many years. I struggled with silicone inserts that I purchased at a boat show for about $275 (isn’t that where you go for medical advice). After losing and finding the inserts over the years I finally lost 1 and never re-found it. I decided this time to see a podiatrist. He wrote a prescription for a good pair of sneakers, Brooks Beast, at about $150.00. But the doctor also convinced me to go to a local store where he knew they would measure my foot with the old metal thing you step on and they check length and width. Where I always bought size 11 in whatever width was available, they set me up with size 12 in EEEE width. I have been plantar fasciitis free for over 3 years now. I haven’t seen the podiatrist since.

    2. Bruskie

      Love the Crocs Lloyd, can’t wear them in the shop though.
      Another great shoe is from Kuru Footwear. They have shoes specifically for plantar fasciitis. I have a pair of their tennis shoes, very comfy.

  5. Bob Ducanis

    Many years ago I seriously hurt my knee playing intramural football in college. It was misdiagnosed by the university clinic doctor as a bad sprain. I couldn’t straighten my leg for 4 months. It became better and I lived with minor knee irritations over the years. 30 years after the injury I was doing some extensive external housework climbing up & down ladder. My previously injured knee started experiencing intense pain. I went to orthopedic clinic and I told doctor about my previous knee injury. He manipulated it and said the knee joint seems in incredibly solid condition. I was sent in for MRI and the results indicated that the initial football injury was a torn ACL ligament and since it was never surgically reattached, it just atrophied away. The knee pain resolved itself and I even avoided minor surgery to clean up a bit of loose meniscus. I went snow skiing without problem. My biggest problem these days is losing flexibility in my legs due to tightening hamstrings and quads.

    As far as medical care, my doctor and my wife’s doctor are going to concierge services. I dropped my doctor as I preferred not to pay $2000/year for the right to be his patient. My wife’s doctor charges $1000 per year and no longer accepts any insurance. I do not blame these doctors at all. I just reviewed my Blue Cross Silver coverage for 2018 and if I stayed in the same plan, my premiums were to increase over 100%. This is in Orlando, Florida. I went to a lesser Silver plan.

  6. Jeff Adamson

    I was diagnosed a year and a half ago with chronic kidney disease and multiple myeloma cancer. I told my local oncologist that I wanted a second opinion and he sent me to a connection he had to a myeloma specialist at Dana Farber in Boston. Both of these doctors have worked together to bring and keep me (so far) in remission. They and their staffs have been professional, courteous and patient centered. There have been a few glitches as I switched insurances along the way but nothing that a few phone calls couldn’t straighten out. All in all I feel like I have been well taken care of by both the medical staffs and
    the insurance companies.


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