It took years of suffering, unnecessary tests, and numerous doctors before I received a correct diagnosis. One of the reasons was that I had a group of doctors rather than just one. With a small child to care for, my appointments needed to be scheduled when a babysitter was available, meaning I saw whichever one of the partners in the medical practice was available. They were all good, kind, caring physicians. It’s just that none of them had heard all of my complaints. Rather, they each heard just the one or two that were the most troublesome on the day they saw me.
The founder of this practice had been my physician even before my fibro symptoms became life altering and before he hired his partners. Upon realizing that I’d become a frequent visitor to his office, he sat down with me and reviewed all my previous visits with all his partners. That’s when he finally realized what was wrong with me. He called it fibrositis, and he referred me to a rheumatologist for further evaluation. The year was 1976. That rheumatologist and I would stay together until I moved across the country in 2000.
Leaving him was one of the scariest factors in my move. Would I find another physician who believed that fibromyalgia was real? Would I find one who would take my pain seriously? Most importantly, would I find one who would be as responsive? I was leaving a specialist who would either see me or return a call to me by the end of any day that I called him. Could there be another one like that in any other place?
I learned that there are good, caring, responsive physicians everywhere. I also learned that it can take some searching to find one. After experiencing a few disappointments, I developed a series of questions to ask during my first face-to-face meeting with a potential candidate:
- What do you consider an acceptable wait time for a routine appointment? For an acute problem?
- How many fibromyalgia patients do you treat?
- Does another physician cover for you if you’re not available?
- Do you answer phone calls? When?
- Can I email you with questions?
- Will you prescribe opiates for severe pain?
- Are you willing to discuss new research on fibromyalgia that I may bring to your attention?
In addition to the answers to the questions above, there’s also the personality factor to consider. Is this a person who will listen to me? Do I feel comfortable talking to him or her? Will this person respect the fact that I know my own body better than he or she knows it?
The right doctor can make all the difference in how you feel about your illness, especially one shrouded in controversy as fibromyalgia is. He can be the source of comfort and hope on your worst day. He can make you feel justified and worthwhile after your visit even though you were feeling quite useless when you arrived.
If your doctor doesn’t treat you or your illness with respect, it’s time to think about finding a new doctor. If you belong to a fibromyalgia support group, these are the people to ask for recommendations. A chronic pain group is another great resource. Ask your friends, your neighbors, your relatives, your coworkers. Most people are happy to tell you what they think of their doctors — especially if they have strong feelings about them, either positive or negative. Those are just the ones you want to hear about the most!
Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.