Checking in and checking off

medical-history-formMore often than not, when we see a doctor for the first time, we’re handed a questionnaire about our current health condition(s). Sometimes even our existing doctor surprises us with such a list. I’ve been thinking about this recently and about how much and how quickly things have changed regarding my health situation.

Me a few years ago: I walk into the doctor’s office and check in. They hand me a list of questions I need to answer related to my health history. I find a random seat. I know I’ll be quick filling out these forms because there was never anything wrong with me. I read the questions and it’s a breeze for me — some I am even answering without fully reading what they’re asking me, because I am a healthy girl. I answer “No” to all questions asked. Questions like, have you ever had a biopsy? and have you been diagnosed with cancer? Because I answer “No” to all the questions, I get to skip many of the other questions. Done. I hand the completed forms to the front desk receptionist who seems surprised by how quickly I filled out the forms. She asks, “did you fill out the second page too?” I proudly say, yes. I also wonder why she is so surprised. The receptionist quickly dismisses me by asking me to wait to be called for the doctor to see me.

I go back to my seat. I continue to watch others fill out their forms, although they got there before me. I start to wonder what’s going on with these patients who are taking so much time, but I quickly go back to my own thoughts about whether or not I will like this new doctor. I also think about how annoying it is to fill out those forms. Suddenly, I forget about the people sitting across from me taking too long filling out their forms. I wait for my turn to see the doctor while texting some friends to keep myself entertained.

Me today: I walk into the doctor’s office and check in. They hand me a list of questions I need to answer related to my recent health history. I spot a seat where I think I’ll have the most privacy. I sit and read the questions. It looks like it will take me longer to fill out the forms than I had anticipated. One of the forms contains a long list of health problems. Not only do I answer “yes” to some of these questions, but I run out of space while putting down the details of my unfortunate health experiences and family cancer history. I pause in the middle of answering these questions. I start to think how good I had it before. Also, as I answer “Yes” to more questions, I start to wonder what I will be faced with next. I am getting older. How much worse can things get and how soon? I look around wondering who else has had my experiences but I notice people are handing in their forms sooner than I am. I am glad they are OK, I assume, except I am not too far from being their age. Some of the quick people are even older than I am — which adds a moment of confusion for me. I go back to filling out my forms. Finally done. I hand the completed forms to the front desk receptionist who gently takes them and checks to make sure I didn’t miss anything. She smiles at me and asks me to wait for my turn to be called.

I go back to my seat. I start writing down a list of questions I have for the doctor. I also start thinking about the forms I just filled out and wondering if I forgot to include something. If I forgot something, I write those down too so they can update my records. It’s important to tell your doctor everything. Eventually I get called to see the doctor. Suddenly, everyone from staff is smiling at me. “Am I being paranoid? It’s OK if they know my medical history” I say to myself. Then I proceed to the examination room where it now takes an extra 15 minutes to discuss my list of health conditions.

It is surreal how much and how quickly things have changed regarding my health; and how much doctors pay attention to me, now. I went from having no personal medical problems to having a heart murmur, several biopsies, a genetic mutation, cancer, collateral damage from cancer treatments, and other things. Five years ago, I would have never thought I would be one of those patients taking a long time to fill out the medical history forms at their doctor’s office, certainly not at a young age. Life can drastically change in a blink of an eye.

I only hope I get a long break before I have to answer “Yes” to another one of those health problem questions, after all, I am only in my 30’s.

About thesmallc

I'm Rebeca. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32. But there's more to my story: I am an animal lover. I love to cook. I have a wonderful fiancé who doesn't mind walking my rocky path with me. We currently live in New York. ---------------------------------------- “Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” ― Viktor E. Frankl
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16 Responses to Checking in and checking off

  1. Renn says:

    Reminds me of being in school… mountains of paperwork to be filled out from memory and under a time crunch! This past year I changed health plans — which meant I also changed doctors. ALL of them: PCP, Onco, Endo, GYN. I had to deal with a lot of forms. The saving grace? Something I learned to do with my mother’s doctors: When I call to set up a new doctor’s appointment, I ask the office to mail (or email) me the medical forms to fill out. That way I fill the pages out at home where I’m relaxed and not under pressure to complete it all before my name is called. I also have access to my Rx bottles at home so I don’t have to remember that too. I also put a typed-up (and up-to-date) list of all the meds in my wallet so whenever I’m asked (which is often), I don’t have to recall on the spot every Rx I’m taking and risk omitting something. (I learned this tactic from caring for my mom too!)

    • thesmallc says:

      Thank you for the great suggestions. I think I just try to avoid dealing with anything medical until I am already there. But recently, I’ve felt like I am starting to forget things I normally didn’t use to forget (chemo-brain?). So like you, I might need to start writing things down!

      I hope you’re doing well these days. xo

  2. I hope you have a long break too. A really loooooong break. xo

  3. nancyspoint says:

    Hi Rebecca,
    Gosh, reading this made me stop and think about how much simpler life used to be. And it’s not only when we see doctors and various specialists now, there’s also a lot more info to divulge when going to the dentist. I like Renn’s suggestion to have new offices mail forms out to us before hand. That makes a lot of sense. Thank you for another terrific post on a topic many of us relate all too well to.

    • thesmallc says:

      That’s very true Nancy, there seems to be more need to collect information, which I think is important. I am trying not to stress about the future and enjoy the simplicity of today. We can all relate to so many things. Feels good not to feel alone.

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

  4. Kimberly says:

    Hoping for a long long long break from saying “yes” to anything else on the doc questionnaire… For both of us.
    … xx

  5. Yes, I’ve had this same experience and same thoughts. And I had to laugh grimly at your mention of running out of space! I remember thinking–the first time I had to fill out such forms post cancer–about how suddenly there was not enough room in places I used to think were waste of space/lines. No happy medium!
    top that all off with the fact my handwriting is terrible: sloppy, unintelligible, and large!
    So now I just have a print out of history/past meds/current meds and hand it over to bypass all the “forms” , and I’ve learned that irks some nurses, who are just trying to “Check off” things on the computer forms.
    And since all this cancer I had, my mom got diagnosed with a hereditary kidney issue, although no one in our family has been diagnosed with it before (probably died of heart disease, not many of her relatives lived to an old age). So I get to check some kidney boxes too now, even though I haven’t had the issue myself!
    Gosh, this whole post made me realize I don’t like filling out forms! Ha ha!

    • thesmallc says:

      My handwriting isn’t so great either. That’s one reason I dislike filling out these forms, in addition to been reminded of what I’ve been through. I can’t stand the cancer history questions. Not only are the numbers going up for those diagnosed in my family, but we have added a new cancer type to the mix.
      Sorry we eventually have to face some sort of health situation. We do what we have to do.
      Thanks for the comment!

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  7. Ninasusan says:

    Post describes my life!

  8. scottx5 says:

    Sound very familiar Rebecca and it’s very unfair for you to be doing it at a young age–this is an old person’s sport.
    I take a list of medications for the receptionist to copy and keep the little cards that came with my original implanted heart valve and it’s replacement.
    Living with socialized medicine in a rural Canada every trip to the doctor seems like a whole new excuse to fill out forms. Things are kept on record but since no one ever reads the records I just do the form until I get bored. My last exams have included nurses in training, so we’ve done a tour of all my scars while getting ready for exams. Thinking of tattoos with arrows and then I just hand in a diagram. They did one for me at my last heart heart surgery that was a bit crowded, but since then I’ve put on weight and there’s now more room to add the cancer operations.
    I don’t mean to make light of this, and you are right about telling your doctor everything but the care here is incident by incident and history is invisible.

  9. thesmallc says:

    Scott, I always appreciate your humor.
    There has to be a better way than to constantly fill out those forms but I understand you have a challenging situation with your medical care, unfortunately. My wish for you is that you stay well for a while so you don’t have to see them as often.

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