May 15, 2009

Standing Up To Your Doctor… Naked


I loved Michelle’s response to my post Fashionable Hospital Gowns? It begs the question: How do we take control in a doctor’s office when our tits’n ass are hanging out? Here are some of my tactics.

When the nurse hands me a gown to change into  – I don’t.  Instead, I wait fully clothed in a chair until the doctor enters. (I often work at their desk, which is productive and beats sitting half naked in fear on a vinyl table.) When the doc arrives, we talk about my symptoms/concerns and review labs or scans. Then they leave and I change for the exam.

Some docs hate when I eat up their time with these extra entrances and exits. Frankly, I don’t give a damn. The more comfortable and in control I am at my appointment, the better we will communicate. Good communication reduces the likelihood of phone tag or extra appointments to clear up misinformation.

After the exam, I always get off of the table. I sit in a chair, walk across the room, or if there is no space I just stand up in front of the table rather than sitting on it. I’m a professional choreographer and believe that where you stand in space can manipulate the focus, power, and control of a scene.

Also, if I walk over and pick up my underwear and start putting it on, male and female docs usually bolt for the door and return in a minute or two for conversation when I’m fully clad.

Do you ever think about where you sit or stand and your body language or eye contact during conversations with your docs? How do your docs react when you change up the routine and try to approach things more on your own terms? Are these suggestions practical for your situation?

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  1. Jon Says:
    May 15th, 2009 at 6:48 PM

    i havea g reat realtionship with my oncologist. so when it comes time to drop trow, i tell everyone to leave wife included and just drop them. i have since my diagnosis. had to show all my junk to my doctor, it is no big deal anymore. but in my view having a nonshulant attitude helps me keep control….

  2. Michelle Says:
    May 15th, 2009 at 8:36 PM

    I wish I had this advice when I was first diagnosed. I feel like I might have had more confidence, personally. I have always been a pretty aggressive person when the time comes, and I have no problem asking the questions (like when I had to ask my male PA about vaginal dryness – nice), but having that physical presence might have made me a bit more, well, secure. Interesting. Have linked your blog on mine – hoping to help more people that way.

  3. Missy Diggs Says:
    May 15th, 2009 at 8:41 PM

    Kairol, I do a lot of the same stuff you do. I sit fully clothed in the chair and wait for them to come in and talk to me. Usually they sit down so we are at the same level. I change for the exam and then return to the chair for the consult. I have always felt much more present and powerful like this. I do also dress up a bit for appointments and take someone with me who loves me. I want to remind the doctor that I am a whole person, and it helps me to have the reminder too that I am loved and deserve to be treated well and have my life saved!

  4. Lori Says:
    May 15th, 2009 at 9:07 PM

    Love this post, Kairol. I have a great relationship with my doctor – we are very close and comfortable with one another, so it’s not an issue. But I’m glad you bring this up and in yet another way teach empowerment to patients.

    Also love the photo. If I had such a cute rear, I’d let it hang out of that gown, too. As far as the face goes, you’d have to be a piece of steel not to open your heart to it…
    Always hope,

  5. Michelle Says:
    May 16th, 2009 at 4:31 PM

    I’m glad you liked my previous reply. I find cancer to be a different type of health challenge than other medical issues I’ve faced. Jerome Groopman’s book “How Doctors Think” is an invaluable resource for me. I find that using physicality is less important than figuring out how to structure the conversation and to trigger the doctor’s attention to the issues I feel are most important. Frankly, if I only have 15 minutes, I don’t want 5 of them used while I change in the middle of them. I am aware of the reason hospital gowns are used; that’s why I come prepared to structure the conversation well. I mention the most important items that I am concerned about first, I use words and terms that physicians are listening for (medical-speak) so that we are speaking the same language and they pick up on the severity, frequency and extent of my condition or symptoms, and I list symptoms using medical terms and describe their severity. I help my doctors rule out what could and couldn’t be happening.

    What I find is still occurring in my cancer treatment is that I learn new information at doctors appointments that I don’t expect to hear, which tilts me emotionally at a time that I need to be focused and clear. That’s when a hospital gown helps me to feel less vulnerable.


  6. Luke Says:
    May 16th, 2009 at 5:34 PM

    Maybe if they made it more like a nice day at the spa. You know … light a few smelly candles … provide a nice robe … some nice mood music … maybe have someone rub my feet and stuff.

    Maybe even buy me a drink or six … that way when they leave abruptly after getting me nekkid and feeling me up it would just be like a bad pick up or something. Okay maybe not that part but snacks and a rub down while I wait would be swell. Oh, and definitely a nice comfy robe too.

    Best wishes


  7. Kairol Rosenthal Says:
    May 17th, 2009 at 1:23 AM

    A comment on Michelle’s comment: When I come to my doc with my list of well researched, med-speak laced questions, symptoms, and concerns, I type them up on a piece of paper in prioritized order. This allows my doc to see up front a map of my concerns – the ones that he see are not important he will up front tell me that they are not a concern and why. Then we can maximize our time getting to the meat of the matter. This does not eliminate deeper questioning or dialogue, but rather helps facilitate it. The clock is running the moment they enter the room and it is great to help organize the time.

    When it comes to my doc telling me hard news in an appointment I do the following: 1. Put my emotions aside completely and stay in full gear question and answer mode, and/or 2. I get out a strand of swear words, for example – “Oh my fucking god! This really sucks.” And then I am sometimes better able to refocus.

    Luke – I’ve got a million thoughts brewing in my mind from your comment. I think it will be a whole new post.

    Thanks you all. I love your comments! Kairol

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