When people won't go to the doctor

No, not for obvious reasons like cost, no insurance, or not believing in western medicine.

My friend J hasn’t been to a doctor since who knows when, has insurance, her husband goes whenever necessary. Her mother died of breast cancer and her sister managed to survive it. Yet J hasn’t had a mammo done in ages. She says she’s afraid to pick up the phone and make an appointment, afraid she might hear bad news if she has an exam (of any kind). Our response (from me and another friend “Leah,” who is a registered nurse): The news could be a whole lot worse if there really is something wrong and you don’t get on it right away. J’s husband agrees. And nothing changes.

Friend P is just as bad, if not worse. Hasn’t seen her doctor in at least 3 years, was supposed to get an abdominal ultrasound at that time and never got around to it, has been very unwell lately, feeling sick and coughing almost all day and part of the night, could be an ulcer, GERD, hiatal hernia, etc. and needs to be diagnosed. She agrees that it could be a serious problem (ya think?) and needs to be medically evaluated, swears she is going to call for an appointment, then fails to do so. She has a good job, big salary and benefits, no dependents, no partner, no debts, so it’s not a money thing.

Leah and I have reminded both J and P that Leah’s husband, T, died just last year of a sudden, massive heart attack caused by several clogged arteries…which could have been diagnosed and treated had he ever bothered to see a doctor or even just get a Lifeline screening done. He died at age 61. His dad had died of the same problem, around the same age. Leah now thinks he was just afraid of what he might have found out. He would never listen to her, though. His death sent shock waves all over our neighborhood. Yes, he had insurance, a job, and was going to retire in a year.

These people have as much as admitted that they are probably shortening their lives by not taking care of themselves. J wants to be with her young grandchildren a lot. I just hope she gets to see them grow up.

P thinks her job takes priority over anything else, that the whole company will collapse if she takes off a day or two. She gets in late, works inefficiently, won’t delegate, stays till 1am and then goes home and eats dinner (which surely must be making her problems worse). She is very overweight and looks like hell.
There’s no way to force these folks to see a doc, since they are adults and not my charges.
It’s all very frustrating.

Do you know people like this? Does any tactic work with them?

Could someone go with them to the doctor, drive them and hold their hands as it were? And go out to lunch afterwards.

Hope that they get what seems like a very serious illness, but turns out to be something easily treatable. Obvious symptoms of illness are likely to send them to treatment which will open the door. Unfortunately it’s something less treatable that usually gets them to move.

I’d love it if my father-in-law got a hearing aid.

You know, this gives me an interesting perspective on one of my company’s policies. You get a $500 discount on your employee health insurance if you go through their wellness screening, which includes some basic tests. I hate the whole thing and find it intrusive and coercive - my health is not the company’s business. But I do regularly go for checkups and screenings, and follow all appropriate preventive guidelines. I can see how for someone who didn’t do those things, the $500 discount might be just the incentive they need. I don’t think I know of any coworkers who haven’t gone through the process.

So my suggestion is to offer to pay them $500 to go to the doctor. :wink:

Alternatively, this thread lead directly to my colonoscopy, so you might try having them read it.

One of the most beautiful things about our culture is that is made up of people with a wide variety of personal opinions on how to best conduct their affairs and their lives. Some go to the doctor more often then I do, some less. It is not for me to judge.

Personally, I go to a doctor only if I have symptoms that persist longer than I expect my body to take to heal itself, and if I expect that modern medicine can do anything helpful about it, and the symptoms are troubling enough to cause me intolerable discomfort…

That’s reasonable. But it is good for someone who has never gone before to go at least once to establish a baseline - and to see if there aren’t problems that don’t cause intolerable pain, like my AFib. It never caused me even the slightest discomfort, but it could have killed me. And it was easy to deal with.

My mother kept refusing to on grounds of “that’s for old people” (she was “only” in her late 60s, and of course by definition “her age = young”) until she discovered that her two years younger sister could hear things she could not and I reminded her that we really had been visiting and calling her less often because it made our eardrums hurt. “I didn’t drive myself deaf going to concerts, why should I do it coming to hear through three walls how Jessica Fletcher kills everybody in New England?”

I’ve heard once that one reason married men live longer than single men is that their wives force them to go to the doctor. I can believe it. After many years of not going to the doctor I made an appointment at my girlfriend’s request soon after we got serious.

I’ve never understood the mindset of having access to affordable medical care and then not using it. Now I don’t go to the doctor when I have a really bad cold or something but if I have physical symptoms that are causing me problems, I make the appointment and I go, I also get an annual physical. My Dad has great insurance but he waits till he’s in unbearable pain to go see a doctor. If it was cancer or something I’d want to catch it while it was early and hopefully able to be treated.

The problem is that there are numerous ailments that have absolutely NO symptoms until it’s really too late to do much about the underlying problem. High blood pressure is known as “The silent killer” for exactly that reason.

For women, ovarian cancer is similar. My doctor found a quite large ovarian tumor when I went for a routine checkup. I was feeling wonderful at the time. The tumor had materialized and grown to grapefruit size in less than a year.

Finally, colonoscopies can prevent almost all colon cancers. My doctor told me that while most colon polyps are benign and will never cause a problem, all colon cancers start out as polyps. Colon cancer is largely without noticeable symptoms until it’s progressed significantly.

Sorry to sound like a broken record because I’ve said this in other threads, but my mom knew she had something growing in her breast but never got it looked at or diagnosed. She would go for an annual checkup just to satisfy the insurance requirement but didn’t let them do any kinds of tests or anything.

Her words: I want to go for as long as I can for as well as I can, and then go Home.

She did not trust doctors because many years ago they operated on her and did a different procedure than what they told her they would do (same general outcome, different technique). She was also someone who could compartmentalize pretty well and enjoy life even while this thing was happening. She didn’t want to be a “cancer patient”. In fact she didn’t want to be a patient at all. She did not want to “linger” sick or old. In the ten years the tumor was replacing her breast, my parents travelled all over the world, saw friends, enjoyed themselves. She was very sick for a short time, refused extraordinary efforts, and died peacefully in her sleep.

I would never go if I didn’t have to have meds renewed every year. I hope I have the courage to just die naturally of whatever comes up rather than putting myself through a lot of trouble.

To each his own, but it all depends on the situation, I’m 30, hopefully I have many years ahead of me, it would suck if something that could have been easily treated turned into a lot of trouble because I didn’t feel like going to a doctor. I had a grandmother who died of breast cancer that had spread all over her body and she hid the symptoms for a long time and by time she died she was 88, I can respect that she didn’t want to be put through all that at her age. But some things like say Melanoma are easily treated and have a high survival rate if its caught early, I’d rather get a small piece of skin cut off cause I went to the doctor and got it checked out rather than having it spread and go through chemo and all that stuff and die anyway.

Yeah me ! I could care less about living a long time ! I am DNR . My doctor what to keep me alive so I don’t go . I will gladly drop dead right now if I could .

My mom, a retired director of nurses, was utterly phobic about going to the doctor, she didn’t go for almost 20 years. Her fear made both of our lives a living hell her last four years, all of a sudden dying was a bigger fear than the doctor… quadruple bypass, 80% stenosis in the aortic valve meant a replacement, undiagnosed high blood pressure led to kidney failure, which meant dialysis. It was complete hell, she died terrified and completely sick and broken, and she had the finest healthcare insurance you can have.

My elder brother was like that. He died of it. From what was originally an ordinary lung infection that probably could have been treated with a course of antibiotics and ended up as something “we only see in third world countries nowadays” according to one of the doctors.

And it wasn’t a quick and peaceful death. He agonized hooked up to a number of machines for three months.

Yes, the idea that you’re going to be like gigi’s Mom and just go peacefully in your sleep if you ignore all of your symptoms is a myth. Of course it’s possible, but it’s also possible that you will end up living in agony, unable to breathe comfortably, with lost mobility, or with chronic pain, all for something simple that could have been easily taken care of. It’s particularly unfortunate when it involves loss of vision or hearing. If I (or my parents) had just let my sight go without the simple treatment of glasses, I would have been legally blind from the age of 4. The choice is not between seeing a doctor and needing chemotherapy for cancer, mostly it’s between taking advantage of simple procedures and medications that can make your life more enjoyable and suffering in silence.

I’d be happy to do that, if only they’d make the damn appointments instead of claiming that they “don’t have time.”

My 2002 routine annual gyno checkup probably saved my life. It caught cervical cancer that was just on the cusp of becoming invasive (all previous annual exams had been completely normal). It was removed in a 20-minute outpatient procedure under local anesthesia.

5-year survival rate for noninvasive cervical cancer at the time: close to 100%. For invasive cervical cancer at the time, last I checked: 7%. Go for the damn checkups. I felt fine and had no reason to think I was at risk for anything at all.

Fuck Doctors. Crooks, nearly all.