Why Getting a Second (and Third and Fourth) Medical Opinion Has Never Been So Important

03.18.2019 Life
Charlotte Farrell
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You’ve been to a doctor’s office before. You sign in, wait for what seems like hours until your name is called, get yourself weighed, and then sit on the table/bed/torture station and try to get comfortable while you’re poked and prodded.

This is a familiar scene that plays out once or twice a year for most, but is more frequent for others. In many cases, patients don’t have a choice. Chronic and acute diseases make hospital rooms and examination tables a common scene, and, although Western medicine has made significant advances in the last 30 years, there are still mishaps and misjudgments that are made in each field.

According to a study performed by the Mayo Clinic, 20% of patients with severe conditions are misdiagnosed — so it’s no wonder that many people are turning to more natural healing modalities and treatment plans in search of a cure or relief. There’s nothing more frustrating for a patient than feeling defeated when something doesn’t work, or even worse, being prescribed treatments with side effects that are intolerable and unnecessary. The disappointment is weakening and a sense of helplessness creeps in, driving most people to continue to see said physician regardless of how many times their needs are not met or relief isn’t achieved. Most of the time, they are doing what they believe is best for their patient… but some hit a wall when advancement is nowhere in sight.

Five doctors said I had something different wrong with me. The first said I had psoriatic arthritis, the second pumped me full of steroids because he couldn’t figure it out, the third wanted to inject me with methotrexate, the fourth gave me three medications that did absolutely nothing but turn my urine green, and the fifth filled my joints with cortisone shots without giving me any prognosis as to what the next steps might be. It wasn’t until a trip to France with my wrists looking like tennis balls, that, out of necessity, I saw a local rheumatologist. She was the first to diagnose me with rheumatoid arthritis, map out a long-term treatment plan to calm things down, and, finally, get me into remission.

While it may sound like I’m bashing medical professionals in the US who have spent their lives studying medicine, that is far from my intent. The goal is to highlight that sometimes docs get it wrong, as with any human being in a professional field. Perfection is not always attainable, and when it comes to people like me who still trust doctor after doctor after getting sent down the rabbit hole time and time again, you have to search for answers outside of what is comfortable or mainstream.

As a patient you have rights — you have the right to speak up when you have doubts and fears without being shamed. You are in their office for a reason, and you deserve answers, so why feel as though you have to adhere to the status quo and do as your told?

If you’re paying so much for insurance, you should be able to ask as many pros as possible about what treatment plan they have in mind, ultimately going with your gut about what you believe you can handle.

My story ends with the French rheumatologist’s suggestion that I remove certain inflammatory foods like gluten and dairy, lessen my alcohol and sugar intake, and add heavy doses of probiotics, turmeric, Omega-3’s, Vitamin D, and adaptogens like ashwagandha. She also told me to prioritize self-care through incorporating massages, acupuncture, and hot epsom salt baths into my week to bring the focus back to my body. (I’m not complaining!) The result is rare arthritic flare-ups and a sense of calm that only comes from knowing that pain is, at least for now, far, far away.

My story’s outcome will not be the same for everyone, but I hope to bring a sense of awareness and confidence to those who might feel too afraid to ask questions and challenge the standards. Take control of your health, because if someone else is doing it for you, then what power do you have over the outcome?

Charlotte Farrell is a freelance writer and editor who loves nothing more than a piping hot matcha latte and topics that explore wellness, fashion, self-care, food, climate change, feminism, beauty, fitness, and travel. She graduated with honors in Communications and English Literature from the University of California, San Diego, and is now based in NYC where she enjoys reading, writing, exploring, and dreaming about gluten-free pastries.

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