The Wrong Doctor, The Right Process
After he shared his summary of my file, I provided him additional information. Expressing my symptoms along this jagged journey felt different this time. It was like having a conversation with a friend who truly wanted to help me. A friend who truly cared. He looked me in the eyes as I spoke, and nodded his head as I answered his questions about my aspirations, hobbies, lifestyle, and diet. “I think it’s severe IBS, but I don’t think IBS can get this bad. I want to make sure there’s nothing else going on,” I stated. He made no targeted assumptions, and rather used the tools in his tool box and expertise to understand me.
“Where does it hurt?” he asked, approaching the table upon which I was seated. I pointed to the left side of my stomach. He pushed into the spot as my neck tensed up from the pain. This was the first GI doctor who ACTUALLY touched me. “Yep, right there” I confessed, “Exactly.”
After a twenty minute conversation he made his hypothesis: “Based on your records, what you’ve told me, and my experience as a surgeon, I can deduce a theory. I make my conclusions objectively and always want you to contribute to forming it. Now let me draw it for you, and you can give me your opinion.”
Tearing open a fresh pack of Expo markers, he turned around to his white board and began to sketch a model of the digestive system. Unlike any other doctor, he walked me through every portion of it in plain english to ensure I could understand his theory. It was as if I was in class, this time, only studying myself. “I think this is what’s going on,” he remarked, “this right here could be the source of your pain,” and circled it in red. “This is a very rare condition, most doctors don’t find it, but because I am a surgeon, this is what I can hypothesize. It often requires a simple surgery to fix.” My jaw dropped contemplating the mere thought of an operation at eighteen. Impossible.
He could sense the shock brought upon my mother and I as the word “surgery” came out of his mouth. “I am not enthusiastic about an operation either,” he comforted, “but I’m making an assumption based on my expertise, again, as a surgeon. At the end of the day, it is your responsibility to affirm or reject my theory. I may be right, I may be wrong, but ultimately, you know your body best. This is what you should be watching for.”
Familiar with my already restrictive diet and the dozens of elimination diets I’ve tried, he made a few suggestions. Again, this was the first doctor who ACTUALLY CONSIDERED MY NUTRITION. “Try these food swaps, and let’s do some testing to see if my hypothesis is correct or incorrect. I want you to research it for yourself, too. We can revisit this theory in a couple of months and move forward from there.”