I recently had my "mid-residency review meeting" where I sit with an attending faculty member to go over my evaluations, test scores, performance and any other concerns. It is required of all of us once a year. This came roughly a week after the start of my so-called "diabetic awakening". One of the sections on the mandatory checklist for the supervisor is our personal life and any related issues. This particular attending knows me decently well as I recently worked with her on an almost daily basis for a month straight. She started to brush over the topic, assuming that everything was fine considering she knows that I am recently married, recently matched into a fellowship, and seemingly quite in control of my life. I think if this meeting had happened one or two weeks earlier I would have found it extra distressing - being that I was not at all in control of my health but unable to share it with anyone. However, at this point in the meeting, I almost cut her off and dove right into the fact that I was finally getting my health back on track by seeing a therapist and a diabetes educator. I touched on the fact that I had felt like a hypocrite considering I am about to become a Pediatric Endocrinology fellow and dictate the course for other diabetics. I expected her to mull over this point, but she laughed. She laughed at me! And then she shared that she has been a physician for decades, has known for years that a close member of her family was diagnosed with breast cancer and another with colon cancer...yet she hasn't seen a physician for routine mammography or colonoscopy (or a regular checkup) in almost 20 years. The most shocking part about this was my OWN reaction. I found myself reflexively saying, "Oh Dr. X, you really should go in!" instead of saying, "I understand." I was embarrassed by my reaction, but successfully backpedaled when I realized my mistake.
I made the connection that people handle various health stressors in the way I have been handling them, and you have to search from within to overcome it. Doctors and family telling you what you should be doing makes little difference. Doing it with them (if possible) is a better way to go. Had I been a close friend to her or in her age bracket, I might have offered to make our appointments together for moral support. This is a friend role, but it can be modified to fit the physician-patient role. In this journey of my own I am trying to take extra mental notes to put to use when I am challenged by future patients with these same issues. I want to be able to say, "I have been where you are, you can work your way out of it, but you don't have to work alone."