More 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.