Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Many decades ago, when my father was in his thirties, he began having a problem with his eyes. His vision was OK, but every time he went outside, his eyes teared up and spilled a steady drip of water until he went back inside. He decided to consult an eye specialist. That doctor told him he would be blind within a year. He decided to get a another opinion. The second specialist gave him the same exam the first one did and told him to wear sunglasses when he went outside. He did and had clear vision until he died at age 84.
Several years ago, I noticed a hard bulge on my abdomen. My primary care doctor referred me to a surgeon. He examined me, said it was a lipoma and suggested it be removed surgically. The "oma" part scared me and I asked him what lipoma meant. He said it was a benign fatty tumor. I asked him what would happen if we left it alone. He said, "Probably nothing, It might go away or remain." I then asked him, "If it's benign and there's no harm in doing nothing, then why recommend surgery?" He said, "I'm a surgeon. That's what I do."
When Richard has a symptom, his tendency is to watch it, see what happens over time, and if it gets worse, consult a doctor. My tendency is to call a doctor when I first notice something awry. I figure that the doctor has a perspective I don't, and I'm just getting information and am not binding myself to a course of action. But once I do get the professional opinion, it's hard to deny it and return to ignorance. So I wind up with more anxiety and more medication than Richard does. And he's pretty damn healthy.
So --How do you know when you're in denial and ignoring something critical? How do you know when you're overloading something minor with too much anxiety and attention? And how do you know when to accept a doctor's advice and when to ask for a second and a third opinion?