My Physician Missed A Lump On My Armpit

When searching for a new healthcare provider, it’s difficult to know which providers are competent, kind, and professional. Sometimes, we just have to hope for the best. When I have to visit a new healthcare provider, this is what I hope for.

I hope for someone that will not miss the small things—or even the big things.

When I was in college, I had a big lump on my armpit that was the size of a kiwi. It was so noticeable that my usually calm and laid-back mom sent me to the doctor right away. When I showed it to my doctor, she said, “I don’t see anything.” She didn’t acknowledge it until I pointed at it.

To this day, I am still scratching my head about this incident. Did she think that I was a hypochondriac and assume that I was being paranoid? Did she forget to put her contacts on? Was she tired? Did she even look the first time?  

I hope for someone that knows who I am—or at least doesn’t confuse my chart with someone else’s chart.

When I was pregnant, I saw an endocrinologist because my thyroid was out of whack. His office seemed to be busy because it took them three or more days to answer questions like, “Does the doctor want me to keep my appointment?” When I finally got a call from a nurse, this is what she said to me: “The doctor says that your thyroid levels look good. Keep taking Synthroid.”

I had never taken Synthroid in my life.

I hope for someone that is kind, humble and open to complementary therapies.

A couple of years ago, I was admitted to the hospital because my arm blew up (I had a crazy allergic reaction on my skin). With chin held high, squinty eyes peering down at me, and an expression on her face that said “I am God,” the Attending Physician snidely asked me questions like, “Why didn’t you see a skin doctor? Why are you taking fish oil?”

Due to my burning eyes (my contacts were old and I was not able to get my glasses from home) and lack of sleep from being monitored throughout the night, I was too much of a mess to explain to her that my insurance would probably not pay for dermatological services. I was also too tired to explain to her how beneficial fish oil was for me, so I just responded, “I read that fish oil is good.” With a condescending chuckle, she looked back down at her computer keyboard.

I hope for someone that will spend just a tiny bit of extra time with me if I have questions.

Our first pediatrician was very cordial and pleasant. Unfortunately, she spent most of our appointment typing on her computer and a minute or so examining our child. After the minute or so was up, she said, “Thank you, your papers will be at the desk, take care!” She was almost out the door before I stopped her to ask her a question. She scribbled something on my paper and basically ran out of the room.

I don’t have firsthand experience as a physician, but I know that they are forced to have quick appointments. I also know that some physicians feel as if they have to work so fast that they eventually start to see their patients as products on an out-of-control assembly line. Therefore, I don’t really fault this physician for her behavior. Unfortunately, this might just be an example of our broken healthcare system in the U.S.

I hope for someone with compassion.

I personally know two mothers that recently lost their babies in the second or third trimester. So, when I started having abnormal bleeding in my third trimester, I was very fearful for my baby and almost started crying in the midwife’s office. I was embarrassed of being overly emotional and was (unreasonably) ashamed of being a burden on the midwife.

Instead of impatience or lack of compassion, the midwife took my hand and tenderly said to me, “It’s okay. We are going to figure this out. That’s what we are here for.”

I hope for someone that goes above and beyond my expectations.

When my daughter was sick and our regular pediatrician was on vacation, we visited another doctor with his own practice. When I entered the office, the “receptionist” was on the phone. When it was time for the doctor to see my daughter, the same “receptionist” ushered us into the exam room, took my daughter’s vital signs, examined her and called an outside vendor to order lab tests. A few days later, the same “receptionist” called me to see if my daughter was feeling better.

When I visited the office again, the same “receptionist” was talking to one of the dads in the waiting room. At this point, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut and asked, “Why are you doing everything? Is everyone on vacation for the holiday?” He told me that he could not afford his staff anymore. “In the same way that insurance rates are rising for patients, they are rising for us as well.” He went on to say that physicians will probably not be able to afford to have their own practices in the future.

This broke my heart. This kind physician took the time to call me to see if my daughter was okay, even though he had to be the receptionist, medical assistant and physician for his whole private practice.

Do you have a healthcare provider that goes above and beyond your expectations?

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This post was originally published on April 12, 2019. It was updated on August 7, 2020.

The RESET Button

You know that big red button that says RESET on it? Don’t you wish that you could hit that button whenever you mess up? Guess what? That button does exist! It exists in your mind. Here’s how it works for me.

When I am unfairly harsh with my daughter, I can choose to feel shame that affects my whole day, or I can apologize to her, hit the RESET button, and go on with my day.

Because of my skin issues, I am careful to take good care of my body. When I have trouble keeping up with my health routine and my skin starts to bother me again, I can choose to feel helpless or I can hit the RESET button and start tightening up my routine again.

When I am not as consistent with my business activities, I can get overly discouraged or hit the RESET button and decide to increase my activity for the next week.

If I don’t meet my goals, I can choose to believe that I will never achieve them, or I can hit the RESET button and figure out what needs to change in my life so that I can meet my goals next time.

After I make any kind of mistake—big or small—I can choose to let it ruin my day, or I can hit the RESET button, give myself grace, and learn from the mistake.

Do you need to hit the RESET button? You will be more successful in life if you choose to hit the RESET button sooner, rather than later!

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Kindness Craving

When I was younger, I didn’t think that I had special talents like other people did. I was just the skinny, quiet Asian girl with big glasses and braces. So, I thought, well, if I can’t be really great at something, at the very least, I can be known as “the nice girl”. So, I tried to be nice to my peers.

As I got older, and started to embrace my unique gifts, (everyone has these) I started to care less about being the nice girl. When I was busy with school, work, and babies, I subconsciously told myself that I don’t have time to be nice anymore.

About a year ago, I realized that I was wrong. The world is craving kindness! And you know what? Kindness doesn’t have to take too much time or effort. Here are some ideas on how to show kindness.

Open the door for pregnant ladies, new moms—or anyone, really.

When I was pregnant with my first child, two gentlemen walked ahead of me and opened the double doors on each side of me. I felt like a queen walking through those doors!

When I was a new mom, it was overwhelming to go shopping with my new baby and a stroller. It meant the world to me when someone helped me open the heavy doors in front of me.

Instead of sending a boring text message, send a voice “text” message.

I don’t know about you, but I am on screens so much that I start to hate my cell phone. Instead of sending another monotonous text, send a voice text. I bet your loved ones would love to hear your voice!

Send snail mail.

I have a bad habit of only opening my mail once per week or once every other week because I like to avoid unexpected bills and useless paper. Snail mail from a friend is usually a welcome surprise!

Give someone the benefit of the doubt.

If someone takes your place in line, don’t get all bent out of shape. Maybe she had a lot on her mind and wasn’t thinking when she stepped in front of you.

Smile and be friendly to strangers.

Strike up a conversation with someone and see how someone’s day is going. If you are practicing “social distancing”, you can still do this from a distance.

Say nothing negative for a day.

This is good for the mental health of you and the people that you live with.

Be curious about someone else’s views without voicing your own opinion.

There’s a lot of division in the world—it’s really concerning and heartbreaking! When you have the time, why not sit down with Uncle Fred and ask him why he believes the opposite of you when it comes to Issue X? If you genuinely care to learn, Uncle Fred will probably be happy to share with you, you might learn something, and the whole conversation might bring you closer together. Uncle Fred might even ask you to share your views with him. I struck up a conversation like this with my aunt a few years before she died. If I had not initiated this conversation, I might not have known her or respected her as much as I do now.

For more ideas, check out Shaunti Feldhahn’s book, The Kindness Challenge. What other ideas do you have? I need more!

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Apple Cider Vinegar for Amazing Health

Whenever the skin on my hands becomes overly dry and irritated, I can tell that my gut needs a little help. In addition to increasing my water intake, I have started drinking apple cider vinegar again. I drink one tablespoon of Bragg apple cider vinegar—organic, raw, and made with “mother” enzymes”—in one cup of water before breakfast and lunch. Apple Cider Vinegar has many amazing uses—below are three of my favorites!

Bacteria Killer

In the time of Hippocrates and The Old Testament, apple cider vinegar and honey were used to fight infection and to clean skin wounds. According to one clinical study, apple cider vinegar has antimicrobial effects on E-coli, S. aureus, and C. albicans. It can help the body get rid of bad bacteria in the gut. A healthier gut leads to a healthier you!

Diabetes Fighter

Vinegar helps to lower blood glucose in people that have type 2 diabetes or people that are at-risk of developing type 2 diabetes. One study showed that a change in diet and one tablespoon of vinegar twice per day led to a greater decrease in fasting blood glucose than daily rosiglitazone or metformin use.

Weight Loss Helper

In one study, researchers concluded that apple cider vinegar reduced the risk of obesity in rats. In another study that lasted for 12 weeks, obese human subjects that consumed 15 mL or 30 mL of vinegar had significantly lower weight, body mass index, visceral fat, waist circumference, and triglyceride levels than subjects that did not consume vinegar.

Before you decide to consume apple cider vinegar, you might want to consult with your healthcare professional. Also, be sure to dilute it in water and do not overdo it. Over-consumption can lead to stomach upset, erosion of the enamel of your teeth, a decrease in your potassium level, and other unwanted effects.

What do you think of this natural remedy?

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Our Healthcare System: A Nurse’s Perspective

Before I decided to become a nurse, I wanted to be an attorney. I loved the idea of being better equipped to fight against some of the injustice in the world. When I became a nurse, I loved the fact that part of the job description for nurses included the title of Patient Advocate. So, for today, pretend that I am your nurse—I am your advocate. As your advocate, I want to encourage and empower you to ask questions of all your healthcare providers; conduct your own research about prospective treatment protocols; and always challenge the current healthcare system to improve. Here are five reasons why.

Systems break down and people are far from perfect.

I used to be a temporary employee (assignments ranged from one day to one year) at quite a few companies; despite my relatively young age, I have had a lot of jobs. I have worked at corporations with seemingly caring, amazing leaders and appropriate protocols. But if I was with any company for longer than a week, I would eventually discover that the company had a high turn-over rate, poor training, a lack of communication, a less-than-stellar staff or all of the above. Medical offices and hospitals suffer from the same dysfunction. Therefore, when using the healthcare system, be vigilant; don’t let yourself or your loved ones fall through the cracks of a dysfunctional healthcare system. Do your research and ask questions.

Healthcare workers are exhausted and cannot always provide adequate care to patients.

This is how I felt when I was a bedside nurse.

6:00 PM

It’s so cold and dark outside. I feel like I haven’t seen the sun in awhile. I miss the sun. Maybe if I get hit by a car I won’t have to go to work. Heh. I’m not going to tell anyone that. If I do, they will think that I’m suicidal. I really need more sleep ’cause three hours is not cutting it. Do they have to schedule a two-hour mandatory training session after the night nurses have already been on their feet for 14 hours? I don’t know how Med-Surg nurses do this for so many years. I feel like I’m dying.

7:45 PM

I just have to get through a couple more of these shifts and then I can sleep. I’ll just try to plaster a smile on my face until then. Looks like I have three heavy patients tonight. I have the very loud paranoid schizophrenic in 1218 that threw his bedpan at me yesterday. I also have the 400-pound Mrs. P with a ventilator, urinary catheter, ostomy bag, and stage 3 pressure ulcers. The charge nurse gave me the patient in room 1216 with sickle cell disease. He’s going to need pain medication every two hours and he will need a new IV line. I also have the man chained to his bed—I wonder what kind of crime he committed. Oh well. Maybe the other three patients will sleep—at least a little bit—tonight. I hope that I don’t get another admission tonight. The paperwork will take me forever to finish.

11:30 PM

Finally done passing out medications. I really need to get some charting done or I will be backed up in the morning. Shoot—1216 wants pain medications and Mrs. P. needs to be changed. Her pressure ulcers can’t get worse. I am really not in the mood to be cursed out by her son tonight. I can’t believe 1224 has cancer. She’s so young. I wish I had some time to talk to her to see how she is doing. But there’s never any time for that.

2:00 AM (the next day)

1218 is screaming again. I don’t think that his medication is working. If he starts getting violent, Security better get here quick. I can finally get a little bit of charting done. Oh, wait, can’t do that yet. Julie went on break and her patient with Chron’s Disease needs her pain medication. Better give her that medication first and then I have to help Mrs. P ’cause her ostomy bag is leaking. Gross. I haven’t taken a break yet. I really need to pee.

3:30 AM

1216 is having trouble breathing?! Why am I being paged about 1222? I don’t care that he needs a toothbrush right now!

6:00 AM

The Day Shift is going to be here soon. After all the running around that I did tonight, I hope they understand that not everything will be done. I always stay two hours after my shift to tie up loose ends and help them, but a few of them don’t seem to care. Even the nurse that has been with this hospital a little while longer than me is rude and unforgiving. I have barely done any charting tonight. That’s going to take me awhile.

7:00 AM

Mrs. P’s BP is sky high?? Oh, Mrs. P, please don’t code on me. Please—hang in there.

1:30 PM

Finally in my bed. If someone tries to call me, I will throw my cell phone at the wall.

Science is inadequate and flawed.

Our scientific discoveries are only as good as our experimental designs and the data that is obtained from them. Even if we have flawless scientific designs and data, the information that is communicated to the medical community and general public is often biased and misinterpreted. Why? The data is interpreted by people with bias, conflicts of interest, and flaws.

For some people, money is more appealing than integrity.

If a treatment is being presented to you that does not make sense to you, ask yourself, will this really benefit my health or is some person/organization hoping that my ignorance will help to pad their own pockets? Please note—I don’t want you to be overly paranoid. I also don’t want you to be overly naive.

Our livelihood depends on it.

Despite all the above, I hope that it encourages you to know that most of the people that I have worked with in hospital and pharmaceutical settings seem to be people with above average ethical standards. Unfortunately, it only takes a few bad apples or one bad policy to affect the health of our families and communities. Because of this, we cannot become complacent about flaws in our healthcare system—we must ask questions, do our own research, and work to improve our healthcare system for the sake of our loved ones.

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