Sue's Unladylike Thoughts

June 14, 2002

How knowledgeable do you feel about any prescribed medications you are taking? How well did your doctor/pharmacist explain the function of the medication and any possible side effects? Have you ever felt that you needed to second guess a suggested course of treatment your doctor proposed?

In a day and age where new pharmaceuticals are being manufactured and getting lightening-fast approval from the FDA, I think that we all need to know a lot more about what our doctors are prescribing. We also need to establish a good ongoing relationship with our pharmacists. These professionals, believe it or not, are the ones that know the most about the medications that these doctors prescribe. And with a good history from you, they can ascertain if you are presently on any medications that might interactive negatively with something newly prescribed. They will also assist you in researching a new medication before filling it if you ask them first. Not only is there a concern about medication interactions, but there should also be a concern about the potential side effects that come from taking many medications. If you have any hesitancy in taking a new medication, the time to speak and discuss your concerns is before, not after when the potential for problems has occurred.

In essence, there are times when you have to play your own doctor and advocate for yourself. This isn't always easy when you've been raised in a culture that would have you believe in the 'Dr. God' aura that many physicians display. While they have more education than the patient, the patient is still the expert when it comes to his/her knowledge of their symptoms, reactions, etc. The only way that interactive patient/doctor care is going to become possible is if more patients starting taking that initiative themselves. To do otherwise could put your life and health on the line. If you have a doctor you can't sit down and talk to and expect to be listened to, then it's time to start looking for one who will.

I ask questions about every treatment and prescription prescribed, and if I don't get the questions answered, I start doing a lot of research on my own. Most of us nowadays have a valuable resource within our homes - our computers. You can research any diagnosis, any course of treatment and any medications prescribed with some of the best search engines around right at your fingertips.

Just a couple of months ago, I had the occasion to do just that. I had a doctor pushing the use of Lipitor, a cholesterol-lowering drug, not because my cholesterol was high, but as a preventative. I had heard so many negatives about these drugs, that I refused to make an uniformed decision. And since the doctor was unwilling to inform, I took it upon myself. Consistently during the course of my research, I read about a high incidence of liver damage resulting from the use of this drug. It also recommended every three month liver panels be done to keep an eye out for liver damage. In addition, there was potential for permanent muscle weaknesses if the drug was not discontinued at the first sign of that problem. For someone having any kind of nerve damage, it had been proven to worsen the condition. And the last fact I absorbed was that it was not advocated to be used to prevent high cholesterol, but to treat it when it was present.

After I learned all of that, I then proceeded to go see my pharmacist to see what his insight would be and in reviewing my research and the list of medications I was currently on, he stated it would not be in my best interests to take this drug. When I confronted my then doctor with it, he merely gazed heavenward as if to suffer me and not very gladly at that. He seemed genuinely surprised at some of my findings, but not willing to budge an inch when it came to prescribing it for me. I informed him, I'd take my chances with diet and exercise which seemed to be working very effectively and weren't having a negative impact on me.

It is my firm belief that until we all start insisting on interactive doctor/patient relationships, we will continue to suffer shoddy medical care, damaging side effects and even possible life-threatening occurrences. A friend remarked to me that when your hire a plumber or electrician, they are your employee and you expect them to do the job or they don't get paid. I believe that same standard should apply to doctors. Way too often, the patient is made to feel like the employee, when that most certainly isn't the case. It's time to take our health care up to a level where we will be safe-guarded, without worrying about bruising the medical profession's egos.

April 18, 2002

Over the years, I have developed the habit of spending a little time each morning reading a short meditation from any number of little books I pick up here and there. It seems to help me put a positive outlook on for the day ahead, no matter what that day may hold. Most meditations give me something good to think about. This is the one that I read this morning:

“Remember no one makes it alone. Have a grateful heart and be quick to acknowledge those who help you.”

As most of you know by now, I became disabled about ten years ago from secondary complications due to diabetes. In this morning’s meditation, I paused to remember how I handled that first couple of years when this happened. One of the hardest words I had to learn to utter was the word “help”. Up to that point in my life I had been extremely independent and was always the person that others leaned on. Gradually, I came to realize that there were a number of things I did need to ask for help with. It surprised me one day when I said “thank you” to one of my helpers to hear that person tell me “thanks” back. She was thanking me because I had provided her with an opportunity to give to someone else. I had never thought of “help” in that context, but by doing so, asking for “help” became a lot easier for me. And I began realizing the real meaning of “give” and “take”. Having a grateful heart really does work in both directions.

The other thing that time and some recent losses have taught me is to let people know on the spot how I feel about them. When I use to delay sharing what I felt, often the time never presented itself again. I think it’s very important now each day to tell someone “thank you” or “I love you” or “I care about you.” At at the end of the day when I sit and write in my journal, I have the satisfaction of knowing I’ve done my best with the day given.

Our little community here is a wonderful opportunity to see all of these messages in actual use on a daily basis. Sometimes it a cheery “good morning“, a recognition of someone’s achievement, listening to a problem, learning something new, or just having one heck of a good laugh. I am reminded daily here how fortunate I am to have all of you as a part of my life. For anyone who would suggest that an internet community lacks the up close and personal experience offered offline, I invite them to come and spend a couple of days with us. While my offline relationships are still maintained they enrich my life no more than the genuine friends here online who have become such a vital part of my life. And.....for that I have a very “grateful heart”.