Hey Doc? Lighten UP!

Judy was shocked when I came back through the swinging doors from the Blue Colony Diner’s bathroom laughing uncontrollably and sat back down at our booth.

“Ummm, Lease?  Weren’t you crying when you went back to the bathroom?”

I nodded, unable to speak or even breathe.  Unable to stop laughing long enough to explain.

My sister was clearly afraid that I had gone over the edge.  And of course she had good reason to worry.  You see, I had met her at the Diner hours earlier than planned, straight from a pre-surgical appointment with my doctor – my surgeon — in Baltimore.

He had, well, upset me.  I cried for the three hours it took me to drive the normal four-plus hour trip.

At the Diner, I told Judy that the surgery I was facing with abject terror in just over a month was going to be two operations, instead of the one I knew about.   Nobody, not one person among all the medical folks I met with, in all the months we’d been discussing my options, had thought to mention that, ummm, minor detail.

I was terrified.

I was pissed.

I was wallowing in self-pity.

So of course I was rather emotional as Judy and I sat in that booth at the Diner.  There, over tears and coffee, I explained the two procedures.  And then, because the reason for the surgery was bowel disease, naturally, I had to go.

The Blue Colony Diner’s bathroom is small with two stalls.  I had gone into the stall next to the wall with the window at the top, made myself comfortable on the pot, and got down to business, when it happened.

I heard a bang above me and looked up to see a ladder appear, neatly centered in the window.  And then I saw a large, work-gloved-hand on the lowest visible rung.  And then a second gloved hand appeared.  And then the first one moved up a rung. The top of a painter’s cap popped into view.

Shit!!!  Someone was coming and I was in no position for visitors. 

I was also in no position to leave quickly because, well, I was having bowel problems.  There was nowhere to hide — by then, somebody was in the next stall.  All I could do was sit there, waiting, watching and laughing.  The fact that the man climbing the ladder would soon look down at me shaking with laughter only made it worse.  I couldn’t stop pooping, I couldn’t stop laughing, I couldn’t finish up and leave.  I couldn’t do anything but wait for the inevitable while watching one hand after another go up the ladder rungs.

Back at the table, I was eventually able to tell Judy what had happened, wiping my tears away.

“This could only happen to me,” I said.  Then I sighed and looked at my sister. “Shit.  I guess I have to have the god damn operations.  Both of them.”

“Yeah,” said Judy taking my hand, “I guess you have to.”

Laughing at the bizarre appearance of a man in the window of the bathroom had let me laugh instead of cry.  It helped me calm down and accept the inevitable.  Let me come to terms with what I knew I had to do.  That yeah, it was two operations.  And yeah, I had to have them or continue to be sick.  Really sick.  The “sighting” let me release my anger and most of my self-pity.  The terror hung around a while longer.

“You know,” I said to Judy as we left, “I don’t know what I’d do if I had a disease that wasn’t funny.  Imagine how hard it is,” I said, “to have heart disease!”

I couldn’t have been more right.  Being able to laugh at my poop problem made it stink a little bit less for me and for the folks who went through it with me.  My family, friends, and co-workers.  Not so much my doctors.  Frankly, they just didn’t get the humor or my need for it.

So when I read an article in the New York Times about an oncologist who jokes around with his patients, I was delighted. I wanted to cheer.  I wanted to shout “It’s about time one of you guys figured this out!”  I wanted to pat the author on the back.

I also wanted to say “DUH!”

You know that I am a fake medical professional.  I am, however, an actual expert patient.  I’ve been going to one specialist after another for 40 years; I’ve had loads of practice.  Still, I swear I can count on one hand the chuckles I’ve had with doctors in a professional setting.  Seriously!  And that doesn’t make facing your illness (and your own mortality) any easier.

Most doctors — especially specialists — seem like they are preparing you for the afterlife rather than helping you be healthy in this one.  Funeral directors act less like funeral directors than do most doctors.  Yup, the Docs are often about as comforting as Charon, rowing you across to Hades.

You really need to take this seriously, missy.

Take my doctors (yup, I’m tempted to add “please”).  They are wonderful doctors, but it’s been hard to find one with a personality until fairly recently.

Dr. C., the gastroenterologist I was seeing when I was really sick in the 1980s, was a terrific doctor.  He took great care of me.  He was knowledgeable about the latest treatments and it was he who recommended me for what was then a new, fairly radical surgical procedure that gave me my life back. I will always be deeply thankful to him.

But he had no sense of humor at all.  He would look at me with deadly seriousness throughout my office visits and procedures.  I was always joking with him; that’s how I act with everybody.  He didn’t seem to get it though.  He didn’t seem to understand that I am funny and that that’s how funny people act.  Or that I might be afraid.  Or perhaps nervous.  Or that I felt completely alone.  Did I mention that I was terrified?

Early on in my treatment, Dr. C. once actually said to me, “Elyse, I don’t think you are taking your disease seriously enough.”

“Is there something you’ve told me to do that I’m not doing?” I asked.  “Am I ignoring any of your advice?  Any instructions?  Any helpful hints?”

“Well, no.  But you are treating your illness too lightly.  You joke about it all the time.  You have a serious illness, Elyse.  You need to take it seriously.  You need to act serious.”

“Oh, you mean it’s not normal to poop every time you take a breath?”  I asked.

He gave me a stern look.

“Dr. C., the only way I can deal with this disease is with humor.  The only way.  Besides, poop is funny.  Not so funny that I want to do it quite so often, but still.  It’s funny.”

From then on for the two years he took care of me, I was on a mission to make him laugh.  It made those serious sessions more bearable.  And when I finally succeeded? Oh it was sweet!

[Dr. C was trying to untie one of those crummy ties on my paper gown so he could examine me.  Instead, he knotted it and couldn’t get it open.

As he fumbled with it, I deadpanned “Good thing you’re not a surgeon.”

His eyes widened and then it happened.  He laughed. ]

Gastroenterologists are a particularly somber bunch, and that, well, that I just don’t get.  How can that be?  I mean, they have their hands and their noses in people’s butts all day, every day.  You would think they’d need a good laugh.

[Only once did one crack a joke.  He finished my rectal exam, and taking off his rubber glove, said:  “My children don’t understand why I enjoy doing that.”  I could have kissed him, but he smelled like poop, so I didn’t.]

Now back to the article.  It’s called “Poking Fun at My Patients.”  Dr. Mikkael Sekeres wrote about how he jokes around with his cancer patients, just as if they might need a chuckle.  Just as if they are normal folks.  As if they might just need the reassurance of normal personal interaction.

Wow.

Seriously.  It may be a medical milestone.  I’m pretty sure that this realization will come as a shock to many doctors.  It’s really too bad they already awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine this year.

Dr. Sekeres has normal joking interaction with patients.  Give and take, a little bit silly.  And it makes them more relaxed, more comfortable.  It helps them to feel that they are people to him, not just a disease in some sort of organic frame.

Here is more of what Dr. Sekeres wrote:

Certain aspects of medical school, like learning the basics of normal and abnormal organ function, or rotating onto specialty services as mini-apprenticeships to recognize disease and treat it, haven’t changed much in 100 years of medical education.

What has changed is the emphasis on communicating with patients, which includes understanding how social and cultural factors and life circumstances can influence everything from disease occurrence to medication compliance. This is a good thing.

 […]

I need to have insight into their lives outside my stark exam room to appreciate how their environments will affect the care plans we develop.

We also learn how patients react to illness, and how a diagnosis like cancer can dramatically alter a family’s landscape, or how a person defines herself.

Serious illness can be physically and financially devastating.  It can also be incredibly isolating because you sometimes feel like the only person with such bad luck, or like you might have done something differently that would have prevented the disease, or that your life sucks and then you’re gonna die. And it’s gonna happen to you sooner rather than later.  Often it’s all of the above in some random pattern you never quite figure out.  It can engulf you.

The emotional burden of illness, though, can be eased a bit if more doctors act like Dr. Sekeres.  Being treated with a smile and a little bit of humor, well, it can make all the difference.

So next time you go to your doctor, especially a specialist you’re scared to see, tell him/her something from me and Dr. Sekeres:

Hey Doc?  Lighten UP!

*     *     *

Oops.  I apparently didn’t make it clear that this adventure, and those surgeries, happened 30 years ago.  I survived.

206 Comments

Filed under Family, Freshly Pressed, Health and Medicine, Hey Doc?, History, Humor

206 responses to “Hey Doc? Lighten UP!

  1. This could not have come at a better time. Yesterday, I had the most hellacious pre-operation consultation for my upcoming tonsillectomy. Some doctors (and in my case, nurse practitioners who have never witnessed tonsillectomies so can only tell you “they’ll take your tonsils out”–how is a mystery) need to be a little better at this part.

    • That’s awful, Speaker7! Just let them know that you have a fake medical-legal consultant on the case. They will straighten right up. Or they’ll go to WebMD and find out how it works. But they never let NP’s operate …

      All will be well with your procedure. The waiting is ALWAYS the worst part.

      Have some ice cream for me!

  2. The real doctors should pay far more attention to expert advise from fake medical professionals like you. Good luck with the surgeries.

  3. My surgeon was pretty straight-forward dead-on serious at first, until I cracked the first joke, then it went downhill from there…you are right, the digestive system and all it’s “gifts” are rich fodder for the joke-prone.

    When my mother had terminal colon cancer, she cracked jokes all the time. We were a little uncomfortable at first, and I think WE couldn’t make those jokes about her condition, but we could laugh with her when she did.

    As a nurse, I liked joking with my patients, but had to be careful. Many patients, who are sick and scared, want to know you are serious about taking care of them. I usually would start with a self-deprecating crack and see how that went over – and would procede from there. Sometimes we’d both be laughing till the tears ran. Ah…good times.

    • It sounds like you take after your mom, Katy! And that’s a good thing. I agree that as a nurse you have to be careful — doctors do too. But I think what many of them forget is that they are dealing with people, not cases.

      Glad you did so well with your surgery.

  4. YES. YES!!! I wish I could make the font bigger to say it. YES!!! I’m glad you have a sense of humor about your situation, Elyse. And I really don’t get why would a doctor advise you NOT to have a sense of humor—as long as you’re following the proper medical advice, it can only help. Whether it’s a bowel issue or cancer or heart disease or whatever.

    This post is exactly why I decided to switch careers and become a patient advocate. Because there’s not enough care in healthcare. Right on, sister!!

    • I guess it is possible to have poop problems and no sense of humor, but it would be a miserable existence. (Although after 40 years some of the jokes are getting rather stale.) As for Dr. C., well he did relax a bit after a while. I think that there are some people who just can’t figure out how you can be serious about something while you joke about it. They are the sadder for it, I’m afraid.

      You’ll have to tell me about your work as a patient advocate. Recently I’ve been thinking that that would be a good field for me to do part time when I retire (12 million years from now) so that I won’t be spending every minute of every day with my husband (and so we can remain married). Good for you doing it!

      • It’s something I decided to do after being an unofficial advocate for many friends and family members. I bet you’d be good at it because you obviously know how to keep a sense of humor, and you’re familiar with the medical drill!

  5. Michelle Gillies

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Believe me I went through a whole slew of boob and bald jokes while doing the breast cancer thing. I have been fortunate in that I have had several doctors over the years with great sense of humour and they appreciated my lack of gloom and doom.
    Robin Williams portrayed a doctor who treated all his patients with humour in the movie “Patch Adams”. Although, the movie may have taken some creative licence the real Patch Adams still believes that laughter is the best medicine.

    • Hey, between the two of us, we have Tits and Ass covered. We could go on the road … but good for you not to get totally depressed. I’m sure your attitude was a big part of your recovery.

      I’ve never seen Patch Adams. It came out during my self-imposed moratorium on medical movies/TV. I should watch it now that I spend my whole life reading about stuff I hope I never get!

      And I agree. Where on earth would we be if we couldn’t laugh at our lives?

  6. Whew! I’m glad you added that last bit that you survived. Otherwise, I’d be sitting here, wondering all night long, “Did she survive that surgery 30 years ago?” I would have been a nervous wreck! ;)
    That’s why I love my doctor, to the point that the next house we own, while working us closer back to Chicago, WILL be within driving range. He’s not an outrageously laugh-a-minute type, but he does a droll style that would do a Brit proud! (Besides, he has ME to do the silly “Robin Williams in low gear” stuff. :D )

    • John, John, John, I wouldn’t want you to lose any sleep worrying about me. When I re-read it I realized that the fact that it all happened 30 years ago wasn’t as clear as it should have been. So I corrected it in snarky fashion. Yep, hard to believe. Me. Snark. Same post. Who would have thunk it.

      Glad you found a doctor who understands you, John. I presume he’s a psychiatrist. ;)

  7. This reminds me of a hilarious moment in my fifth grade classroom, Elyse! We were discussing the upcoming “Lockdown drill”, the least humorous event of the year. It is done annually because we are all aware that one fine day a crazy with a gun could appear in the hallway. I told the kids, “No matter where you are, if you hear this announcement, you immediately go to the nearest room with a teacher in it.”
    Of course, one young wit had to ask, “What if you’re in the bathroom, and you’re, uh, like BUSY?” The laughter went on for a good ten minutes.
    Poop is ALWAYS a good excuse for laughter! I’m so happy that you laughed, and that your surgery was a success!

    • Thanks, Moms. I’m pretty sure I’m related to that kid. I personally expect to be on the pot when the world ends, or when the Rapture comes. Hopefully I will be able to finish whatever I happen to be reading at the time. (People are always asking me how I have so much time to read. I rarely answer.)

      Thanks for your nice words. My surgery was a great success actually. I had 22 healthy years and now have only occasional shitty times.

  8. Dammit. You got me all torqued up!!!! Good thing I read the last line. Whew. I had a dentist named Dr. Sunday – no lie – who, upon my first visit checked out my teeth and exclaimed. “I can’t make any money on you! Go out and drink lots of Coke and eat a bag of Reese’s cups then come back and see me.” He then cleaned my teeth…and didn’t charge me. My kind of medical type.

    • Oh, how I wish I had had a dentist named Dr. Sunday. I am pretty sure I would NOT have a lifelong fear of dentists instilled by my childhood dentis, Dr. Dragon. What on earth were my parents thinking?

      I love funny medical names — I have a list of them on my computer in my office. It all started with Dr. Head, the brain surgeon … As my boss said, “some things are inevitable.”

      • My dentist of years ago (something generic like Dr. Johnson) sent me on to an oral surgeon to get my wisdom teeth removed. By Dr. Hammer. Yeah, HAMMER. And his partner? Dr. Chipain, pronounced “Chippin”. No kidding. And thanks to an allergic reaction to the anesthesia, I woke up feeling like somebody had hammered my teeth out! 8O
        But no worries – I recovered. But think of it this way – if I had NOT had my wisdom teeth removed, imagine how big a smart ass I’d be now! :D

      • cooper

        my first dentist was Dr. Wibblesman. When I was 5 i bit him and he threw me and my parents out of the office. It took me a long…long time to get past the dental fear, but I’ve been lucky and had two good dentists over the past 25 years. Now I don’t mind going at all. Keep looking until you find a good one…

  9. When my husband was dying from cancer, he would crack jokes with the technicians and doctors. When he started chemo, he vowed to make the nurses and other patients laugh. He would tell tales while hooked up to the chemo and, even to his last spoken word, refused to take things seriously.

    I, personally, have been told that I’m the most easy going patient. When they told me my heart stopped when I was pregnant with my last child, I told them it was the fault of the heart stoppingly handsome doctor I saw walk by my room! Then there was a time when I was supposed to be having surgery… I’ll have to blog that story soon.

    Glad you survived.

    • I’m looking forward to that post, Nap. And good for your husband, although of course you have my sympathies on losing him. That can’t be easy, especially when it sounds like he went the way I’d like to go — because things don’t hurt quite so much if you’re laughing.

      And it is great to be a good patient — I think they prick you less hard with all those pokey things if they like you!

  10. Glad to know that you are OK now. As you might imagine, I deal with stress and medical situations with humor, too. Some of my doctors play along and others don’t. Whatever. If the only one I make laugh is myself then so be it. I’m the one who needs the laugh at that moment anyway.

    • That’s probably the best attitude. And really now-a-days I am older and ahem, wiser, and I don’t get so intimidated. But then I’m not your usual patient, and I really think the doctors need to treat patients more like patients and less like in vitro specimens. Because so many people are terrified and/or intimidated by both doctors and illness.

  11. Can I just tell I could barely breathe imagining the bathroom scene…hahahaha. Dealing with my mom’s condition for so long, I can completely relate to the hysterics of that situation!
    I was just at the Gastro doctor with my mom yesterday. Her doctor is actually very easy on the eyes, with a personality. I can’t say the same for the rest of the group…homely would be the best description.
    My mom laughs about her condition, because she can’t go around crying. Like she says “everything revolves around this ass of mine.” Thanks for sharing your story!

    • I may just have to co-opt your mom’s line. A classic! Good luck to her and you revolving around it.

      I can tell you one thing about that story, Tops. If it’s true that your life passes before your eyes when you die, that this story will be on a continuous loop. One funny thing about it, though, is I can’t remember what happened after seeing the top of the painter’s cap appear. I don’t know what happened — did he continue and get buried in my subconscious? Or did he get stopped. Did he hear me cackling and run and hide? We’ll never know.

      Just another of life’s mysteries…

  12. Keep up your great sense of humour, Elyse! I’m sorry to hear about what you’re going through but I know you will prevail! Best wishes to you *hug*

  13. I always just tell myself that doctors need to be serious to get through the bad things they see. But bedside manner needs some serious help. It goes with the job! I have been sitting there crying and there is nothing worse than a doctor looking at you with no emotion whatsoever, no compassion. Glad you made it through!

    • Maybe you’re right Karen, but my vet sees terrible things too, and he is way nicer to our dog and to us than some of the doctors I’ve seen have been. And frankly, illness and death are part of life, and part of why the doctor became a doctor to begin with.

      I don’t worry about myself so much — I often find such doctors a challenge. But 30 years ago when I was younger and more easily intimidated, that was different. And when a patient is terrified, they don’t remember instructions. They remember fear, which is a crappy nurse!

      • muddledmom

        I certainly don’t think it’s a good way to be. Having that compassion and humor is what sets good doctors apart. I’ve taken my kids to specialists before and I can tell you those people did not need to be working with kids. Talk about fear.

  14. I’m glad that even though the operations 30 years ago (presumably) gave you some sense of relief, I’m quite glad you’re still able to laugh about poop. I mean, really, why are we so serious about it. Everyone does it. It’s not like only 1 in 100 people poop — which, could be interesting. Can’t you just see the Proud Poopers Parade!

    One of the things I’ve discovered as I’ve accompanied my soon-to-be 89 year old mom on her rounds of doctor appointments is that doctor’s really do need to lighten up. My mom sees a foot doctor (she’s diabetic, so the doctor has to cut her toenails every 90 days), and, honestly, he is the stuffiest, stoogiest, most boring person. Yeah, ok, so feet can be kind of gross, but, not as gross as poop, so it’s not as if he’s got the worst job ever. I gave up trying to make this guy laugh — he just looks at me as if I’ve got some sort of pox all over everytime I speak. So, now, I just wait in the waiting room.

    • Thanks, John. The surgery gave me a life, literally. I was a very sick puppy 30 years ago (the 1st surgery was in November). I will always be grateful to really good, albeit stern, doctor. My surgery was just beyond experimental at the time and so it was cutting edge doctors who knew enough to refer. I’m very lucky.

      As for your mom’s podiatrist, I suggest you give him a copy of the NY Times article with the co-pay!

  15. You have hit the nail on the head! I have a great Neurologist, he is funny and cracks jokes all the time. Since he treats me for a host of on-going issues related to the shooting we have rich fodder for our annual appointment. Worse, if I have to see him between times.

    Humor is everything

    • It really does make you feel like you’re going to live when folks are joking around with you. I can go in with a hangnail and feel it’s terminal if someone is deadly serious. “Deadly” of course is the operative word!

  16. Doona

    Gastro guys can’t afford to crack even the first smile with patients, because it would be all downhill from there, given the motherlode (pardon the pun) of humor that that part of the organ system evokes. I’m sure they go home at night and shit themselves laughing! Psychiatrists are a different matter. Those guys could afford to lighten up. Of course, if they did, no more prescriptions to write, no more patients.

    • Doona? Wouldn’t a rose by any other name …

      I’d like to believe that these doctors do shit themselves laughing. Somehow I doubt it, though. They are a somber bunch.

      Shrinks are in a whole different kettle. I know you’ve had way more experience than you’d like. Me too. I’ve been waiting for the right time to write a post about my experiences with shrinks. As I think more about the 30th anniversary of my surgery, I think there will be a couple of more doctor posts. And the crazy edition might just be one of them.

  17. You are great Elyse. I, too, approach my doctors with a sense of humor. My GP says he is looking for a ‘red’ examining gown to match my personality. I’m always asking where the Dior one is and requesting one from a designer. It helps to lighten up the environment when things are about to get serious.

    • Don’t you wonder if we folks who do try to lighten things up are in a minority? The doctors always seem so shocked! (And hey, is Dior now into paper?????”

  18. This set the tone for years to come. Glad to hear this was 30 years ago.

  19. Well, thanks for that little end note, Elyse! I was getting seriously worried (after I got over the visual of you in the public restroom doing your “business” while handimen were being handy).

    I agree, doctors can make things a lot worse for us. They see us as problems that can either be fixed, managed, or discarded to someone else’s care to malinger and die. They rarely see the human surrounded by the disease.

    The best question I ever learned to ask any doc was, “How would you treat me if I was your wife/daughter/mother/sister? what advice would you give me? Would you accept this level of care for her?” It got them to see me as a person.

    Now let’s see if this clip works:

  20. Elyse,

    I stumbled across your blog today while looking for another blogger who apparently got banned….. At any rate, wonderful blog entry here, and even though I have not had a chance to look around more, I have a feeling I will like reading your blog entries.

    I have a very severe IBD, crohns, and am alergic to most of the meds used to treat it. To say the least, the past 27 years have been difficult, and painful, with lots of surgeries (11 just on the gut), and multiple hospitalizations. I also lost my sister to Crohns back in 1995.

    Even though all of these bad things have happened, I do my utmost to be as positive as I can, and never miss an opportunity for a laugh. My family is the same way. I belive it to be a survival mechanism, and am very glad to have it. Countless times I have had my family packed out in my hospital room, and instead of it sounding like a hospital room, it sounded like a cocktail party! :D I love laughter, the way it makes me feel, and how for as long as I am laughing, the pain, and problems go away.

    I apologise for taking up so much space, but wanted to introduce myself, and let you know I will be following. My blog is kind of an all over the place thing, but I have so many interests with no place to use them. I have been forced into medical retirement. I just cant seem to find an office that has a toilet, at the desk, or a desk at the toilet. ;) I keep asking “What about the Americans With Disabilities Act”? I guess it does not cover poop. I have some bizaire, and really funny poop stories. Your story here has certainly caught my eye. I have had every kind of poop there is to have. The explosive kind is the funniest! More on this later. :D

    Cheers,

    armyveteran
    mark

    • HI Mark,
      I’m glad you found your way here. I too have Crohn’s (although they originally thought it was Colitis or they wouldn’t have done the surgery they did on me in ’82). Stinks, don’t it? And I imagine that losing your sister to the same disease doesn’t do much for your frame of mind at times. Good for you to fight for those laughs. Because like me, you might just as well ;).

      I look forward to getting to know you better. It really is great to have company in the bathroom … even virtually.

  21. Humor helps break the tension and lighten the load. Smiles go a million miles.

    • Glad you agree, Dr. Kat. I actually know tons of doctors, through my profession (rather than through my butt) and find them to be just like everyone else — some have fabulous senses of humor, others not so much. And I really do see it change. My current GI doctor has a fabulous sense of humor; I can tell because she always laughs at my jokes.

      Your websites look quite interesting. I will be back for some more looks.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  22. Hey, congrats, Elyse! Freshly Pressed! Nicely done. So happy to see you on the FP page. You deserve it!

  23. Hey, not only can you get people Freshly Pressed – you are Pressed yourself. Now if you could just send them my way…

  24. I have always found fake medical professionals to be more knowledgeable than actual medical professionals. We are much more well-rounded in our experiences. I cracked my last serious surgeon by asking him to slice me in such a way as to complete the abdominal-scar smiley face. He didn’t, and I’m still missing part of the smile, but he did put my belly-button back together much better than it originally was, so I didn’t complain. Humor is the best medicine, hands down.

    • You know, these doctors who don’t listen are awful, aren’t they? I have a hideous surgical scar that nobody will decorate. What do they think I’m paying them for???? Sheesh!

      Melanie, I think that the reason we fakers are so knowledgeable is that we’re on the “cutting edge.” (Feel free to groan.)

      Thanks for stopping by!

  25. Congrats on FP, Elyse! Very well deserved. My favorite doc of all time is my ob-gyn. He is hysterical. He takes his time with me, tells jokes often…plus he is incredibly intelligent, competent and reassuring. He’s the whole package. He’s been with me through four major surgeries, never failing to put me at ease before each one. He encourages me to ask questions. He delivered both my babies. He was the one who told me I could get pregnant even with just a fraction of one ovary! (and he was right!) I think I am very lucky to have found a doctor like him.

    • Thanks, Darla.

      You are lucky to have such a great doc.

      Actually, I’m starting to feel really guilty. I like doctors, I like MY doctors. I like the medical community (Duh, I’m part of it!). They work wonders. But when I’ve been most frightened, when I was young, alone and sick, oh boy did I need someone to crack a smile. They all do now that I just have pain in the ass stuff to deal with. Better late than never!

  26. A Table in the Sun

    I SO identify with laughing through the rough spots. I have inadvertently trained all of my children to do so as well. As young adults they helped punctuate my tears with giggles as we watched our nuclear family fall apart from a secretly sociopathic-former GOP frontman-top of his game insurance agent- and part time church leader who just happened to take up cocaine as a habit…and then finally express his opinion through a dandy of a midlife crisis exit. What a whirlwind! Humor kept us together and still does.

    • Well, with sincerest apologies to my late father, who was an insurance agent (although his sociopathy was well known), are you just going to leave me (and anyone who is reading these comments) hanging and NOT tell the story of the former GOP frontman insurance agent???????? Come on. We need a link!

      • A Table in the Sun

        Simply a local frontman. No worldwide scandal here. Just the sadly pathetic demise of a promising business owner, father, husband, and friend. He has completely deleted himself from society and exists only in his own mind.

        • Elyse

          Oh, I’m so sorry, Sun. I have a brother like that. Sucks. Hey, he’s an insurance agent too. Perhaps there is a connection — they went crazy with boredom perhaps.

  27. This is great. I’ve had Crohn’s disease since I was a little girl (I was diagnosed when I was 6), and the only way I can explain it to my friends, and the ONLY way I explained it to my now-husband is through humor. Poop IS funny.

    • I’ve never heard of someone so young having Crohn’s. High school, when I started my life-long rush to the bathroom, was awful. I can’t imagine doing the trot in elementary! Can I get brownie points for letting you know that I wet my pants in second grade??? http://fiftyfourandahalf.com/2011/10/09/comes-around/

      And of course you’re right; poop IS funny. And isn’t it delightful that we are both, ummmm, funnier than most?

      Thanks for stopping by. I see you are on an Adventure in Israel. Cool. I’ll be looking around some more.

  28. GOF

    I was relieved to discover that this was a story from the past and that you recovered from the surgeries. I also admire that you have a sense of humor about doctors and medical treatment……fortunately I’ve never been in a similar position but I’m terrified of doctor’s surgeries and medical procedures. Stay well.

    • I didn’t want to leave anybody wondering, GOF. You know how you can set Word Press to post in the future. I might have been a blogger ahead of my time. The thing about medicine, GOF, is that the drugs are great. The surgery, not so much. C’est la vie.

  29. Love your post! As a doctor-in-training I love hearing about patient’s doctor experiences! (I sometimes think that reading blogs of this nature are more valuable than studying lol)

    • Wait — why aren’t you studying?????

      I’m glad you found my post helpful. I can certainly tell that you have too much sense to become a gastroenterologist. And too much humor. But you really must reconsider becoming a urologist — Dr. PP? It’s a match made in heaven. Much like Dr. Head, the brain surgeon, and Dr. deKock, the HIV specialist.

      Seriously, your heart is in the right place — and while you can’t laugh at a patient’s illness, you can laugh with them at the normal stuff in life and take your cues from them. But then, I suspect you already know that…

      Best of luck and thanks for stopping by!

  30. Doctors seem to have the same mind track when it comes to humor. They never see the humor in anything. Your story is great (not that an illness can be great, but you told it well) especially the ending.

  31. Pingback: Hey Doc? Lighten UP! | birdmanps

  32. This is just so awesome! I was really sick when I was 13. The kind of sick where the symptoms kept changing as well as the diagnosis. It got to the point where doctors thought I was faking or doing something to myself, or that I was pregnant (although I’m sure one of the bajillion test the did was a pregnancy test). Anywhoo, I ended up having surgery and they discovered everything was caused by a birth defect (all my intestines were wrapped around my internal organs and everything was on the left side of my body). Through those 6 months of hell, I had yet to meet a doctor who actually made me feel okay. I’ve grown to hate doctors and hospitals! Didn’t Robin Williams make a (sad) movie about this? Isn’t laughter good for patients! You should start printing this out and posting it in every waiting room you visit! Good post, and good luck!!!

    • Thanks, Vagabond. What an awful ordeal you went through. You’d have thunk that simply going through puberty would be awful enough! I think everybody is LESS humor-prone when a kid is involved. And they are the most frightened of all as you showed.

      There’s a clip above from my friend Lorna of the Robin Williams movie (which I haven’t seen, except for the clip).

      Thanks for your comment and for visiting. Hope your health has not been impacted long term.

      • Vagabond in Service

        Thanks, and not too much. I wish you luck with the surgeries, and hopefully that will be the end of it. Don’t lose your sense of humor, there’s too much to laugh about in this world. :)

  33. Love this! I think humor is a great coping mechanism–I know it’s my #1!
    Thanks for the great story… Sorry for all that you are going through…

    • From your blog name, I’m afraid you win the serious illness prize (I am pretty sure neither of us want that trophy!). My problems are not great right now — because of good doctors and treatments. (And most of my docs really do have a sense of humor. Nowadays it is a prerequisite for me. I’ve learned.)

      Glad you liked the story. I’ll be checking out your blog when the current rush is over! Thanks for stopping by.

      • Thanks, Elyse! Yes, not a great trophy to have on our mantles! I’m hoping that by not having a fireplace or mantle, I’m warding off any chances of getting such an award. Not sure if it’s working, though!–I think the cancer is on to me! :-)
        So glad you have good treatments, good doctors, and that you & they can find humor in the face of sickness–I think it’s really important!

        Yes, please visit my blog when you feel up to it… Good luck with everything–I’ll be reading along!

  34. i had a nice doctor where i lived last but this is a surgeon you speak of not a doc so i would have said
    Yup, the surgeons are often about as comforting as Charon, rowing you across to Hades

    • I’m feeling rather schizophrenic in my response to comments — half of the time I’m saying hey they’ve learned! The rest of the time saying they are humorless curds. But you’re right. Surgeons are pretty bad too (then again, a guy coming at you with a knife and a grin on his fact, hmmmmmm….) The doc who told me I was not being serious enough was a gastroenterologis — and they really are a grumpy lot (except my current doctor who is wonderful).

      See what I mean. Totally schizophrenic. Now I have to write about shrinks, I guess ;).

      • under the skies of arkansas

        seriously though an ER charging $5000 an hour there is something wrong with that

        • Elyse

          Oh yeah. There are serious problems with the whole HC situation. That’s why I’m voting for Obama. Among other reasons, that is. Obamacare is imperfect, but it forms a base for getting at the problem. Romney wants to just send folks to the ER and you and I know, ummm, that just doesn’t work.

          Oops. This is supposed to be a non-political post. Sorry.

  35. Pingback: Hey Doc? Lighten UP! « Zenith's thoughts

  36. I work as a clinic manager in a small family practice office with a wonderful, atypical doc, and it’s not uncommon at all to hear laughter bursting from the exam rooms on a regular basis. We make terrible and funny jokes all day long at the expense of ourselves, the patients, their body parts, our body parts, our clinic…you name it. It is SO important. I wouldn’t want to do it any other way. And dang, in a doctor’s office there are a LOT of opportunites for humor!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Miss. Yours sounds like just the way that doctors offices should be. Unless the laughter is like this, that is:

      • Oh that? We save that kind of laughter for after the patients leave the clinic when we’ve been there for 12 hours, and it goes on and on and on, sometimes puctuated with swearing and hurling boxes of latex gloves and rolls of gauze at each other.

  37. As soon as I landed on your post here, I saw the 77 “likes” and my first thought was ‘I wonder if Elyse got FP’d?’ And sure enough, you did! :-) Which immediately amused me, after your recent post about your ability to get other WP bloggers FP’d – for a price. Lol :-) So congratulations, Elyse! The WordPress FP neighborhood is definitely a classier place when you’re in it.

    I have a great deal of admiration for your ability to use humor as a way to deal with what you’ve been through with your bowel illness and surgeries, and I know that you bring the gift of laughter to others as well, including me. And yeah, the specialists really do need to lighten up, because I’ve seen more than a few times, that facial expression they get while talking with a patient, when they look like they are studying an experiment on a lab rat.

    My PC is a good guy, and after a prostate exam, I told him that I was glad he didn’t have big fingers, and that I checked out his hands during our first appointment, because not having big fingers is always one of the first things that I look for in a doctor. I got a good laugh out of him with that one, and we’ve joked back and forth many times during my office visits with him.

    • Hi Chris,
      Thanks for your unusually short comment ;).
      When they emailed me that I’d been FP’d I originally thought it was for that post about getting folks Freshly Pressed. Perhaps I got their attention with that one! Who knows how the Word Press gods work!
      Glad you have a good GP. I have one that works magic. If something is wrong and I make an appointment with him, whatever it is vanishes as soon as I cross his threshold. I’ve told him about this phenomenon, saying, “Damn, you’re good!” He loves me! (Specialists, ummmmmm, less so.)

  38. I think everyone needs a good laugh, and I’m glad you’re finding a way to cope with the reality of having to go through surgery. All the best.

  39. Great post.

    I think doctors are too nervous to make jokes (some, anyway) because they really don’t want to get sued and some patients have NO sense of humor. They mistake a grim demeanor with looking smart and authoritative.

    And so few of us spend enough time with our docs to get to know them and know that laughter is welcome, and vice versa, in the exam room or OR. I’ve had four orthopedic surgeries since 2000, (none major, except left hip replacement in Feb. 2012 and I’m your age) and only humor gets me through this craziness. I make sure to pick only doctors who look me in the eye, know that I’m a jock and a writer and a feminist (i.e. a person) and treat me accordingly. I even get to first-name my ob-gyn. I know the orthopods’ offices so well (sad but true) that on my last checkup, a week ago, I commented on their new carpeting. The nurse was shocked I even noticed…but it’s familiar territory!

    • That’s true BSB, I didn’t factor in the patients with no sense of humor. I’m sure they have a sobering impact.

      These days, doctors have more of a sense of humor with me, and in some ways it just doesn’t make sense. I work in medical litigation and am married to a lawyer. Guess they are trying harder to keep me happy.

      Good to know you’re keeping those doctors well in hand!

  40. Benedicte

    How I love serendipity! Lovely, lovely post, thank you… the balance of serious to funny was just right. I hope I’m not breaking protocol, but I just wanted to share what I last wrote about (yesterday)… I shared a wonderful afternoon of laughter yoga with a dear friend on the eve of her third chemo session. Laughter really is a wonderful thing! https://simpletangles.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/laughing-the-week-away/

    • Thanks so much for your nice comment, Benedicte. And I don’t know about protocol, or I certainly don’t stand on it if there is any, but thanks for the link — it makes it so much better if you can easily share mutual experiences. Good luck to your friend. Chemo, well cancer, really is pretty frightening and she can, no doubt, use all the laughter she can get.

  41. Sadly, bedside manner is becoming a lost art.
    And I’m with you on humor for dealing with stuff like this.
    It makes it a little more bearable…

    • If it’s bad now, wait until more medicine is done by robots. Oh, wait, that’s already happening …

      Thanks for sharing this (and most) of my stories, Guap.

  42. Humour is the only thing thas gottten me through my recent diagnosis and yes, my consultant also said a similar thing to me about not taking it seriously and making sure I understood that ‘you are ‘ill’ Susan’ with emphasis on the ILL. We sicko’s have to put a bit of light on the matter otherwise me might really end up sick. Best of luck with your operations.
    BTW I’ll be sharing this with my neice who has just started med school…

    • Good luck to you on your treatment, Susie; I know you’ll keep your sense of humor (gallows humor though it sometimes gets to be as we both know!). Try to keep that doctor smiling at least. But I see it as a good sign that he uses your name. Mine usually recognize me by my less attractive end!

  43. I must say, that you are 99% correct! Except for the doctors I work with. We do a plethora of Radiologic Interventional Procedures, I can say that 95% of our patients appreciate the humor/comedy minutes we provide. The other 5% have gone to administration and complained. We have stood our ground. That’s just the way we are in our hospital. We treat our patients like they are our family. So far, we seem to be doing alright on the financial front. AND we all have remained passionate about our work.
    I am ecstatic for your outcome and that you are still pooping around with the rest of us!

    Stay Healthy! Stay out of the hospital!

    • Good for you and your doctor/colleagues to keep people laughing — those machines are quite intimidating and the rooms are always freezing. A little laughter no doubt warms the patients right up. Well, except for the complainers, that is. And you know what they say to do to folks who can’t take a joke.

      Thanks for your healthy wishes — Elyse

  44. So glad you survived to write this awesome blog! I tell my children to listen to what the doctors have to say but they aren’t always right! Wouldn’t you agree?

    • Oh, I definitely agree that the doctors aren’t always right. (I was once misdiagnosed with State IV ovarian cancer and told to get my affairs in order. Ummmm, that was 8 years ago, I have/had no problem. I also have a different gynecologist.) That being said, there is no point in going to a doctor and then ignoring their advice. Argue with them, fight with them, make them give you good reasons why they are right. But if you’re not going to listen, why go? If you don’t trust them, find a new doctor you do trust. Otherwise it is a total waste of everybody’s time.

      Thanks for your nice comment, Segmation!

  45. I loved, loved, loved this! Last week my husband and I drove three hours to take our 15-year-old daughter to see a Pediatric GI Specialist. She was extremely nervous. The doctor tried to reassure her. After his assessment, the he recommended a gastrointestinal endoscopy. My husband is one to joke around. The doctor jumped right in trying to ease my daughter’s mind. We really liked that about him. He reiterated to her that she had nothing to worry about, saying that he does this kind of thing at least 8 times a day. Thanks for sharing your story of survival and Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    • Good luck to your daughter on the diagnosis and treatment of whatever is causing her pains in the ass (whether literal or figurative). It is scary being a kid and looking at those machines, drinking foul stuff, and having other totally humiliating things done to the body you aren’t yet comfortable with. So absolutely keep her laughing. If her trouble is like mine at the bottom end, there is no end to the humor of poop!

  46. laughter pulls everything into perspective. glad you posted this and the comments are hilarious too

    • Elyse

      There is nothing like a post about poop to bring out the funny in all of us, is there! And yes, I’ve been cracking up at the comments — and it does show that laughter works as well as the drugs with fewer side effects!

      I just saw that you “followed” — thanks and welcome!

  47. I was in a different world until I read this last line of this post. :) Thanks for taking us to thirty years earlier. I wasn’t even born by then.
    Honestly, I find it difficult to deal with doctors. My uncle is a doctor; so fortunately I just have to make a call to him every time I fall ill. :) And congrats on getting freshly pressed again. If I remember it right, then last time you got freshly pressed was for the post “Hey DOC!” Am I right?

    • Hi Arindam. Yes, I had to be reminded to add the postscript that it is old news. Sometimes when I’m so familiar with what happened I forget that others aren’t. Oops.

      Thanks for your congrats, Arindam, but SHHHHHHH!!!! My other FP’d post was another “Hey Doc” piece. But nobody else noticed. So SHHHHHHH!!!! (Actually, what do you think — should I do one of these a week? ;)

      • Ha Ha! I am even planning to use the term invented by you “Hey Doc!” while naming one of my posts. So that my dream of getting freshly pressed will come true. :) LOL Yes You should do one of these at least a month. :)

  48. I think compassion is something that is greatly missing from the medical community on whole. Compassion doesnt have to be just feeling for someone, it can be humor or a gentle hand or most importantly, an attentive ear and proper questioning. The unfortunate thing with the medical community today is that insurance makes things so tight that it is hard to have the time or the desire for compassion and quite frankly, compassion hurts and requires much from you so it is easier to shut it off and become as stone! But I will say people respond much better to the later than the hard stone!

    people dont care how much you know until they know how much you care!

    • You make a bunch of good points there, All, thanks. It is difficult to fit everything into a 15 minute visit. That’s why I believe we need to go to a system of medicine where good results earn and poor ones earn less. Sadly, no one ever asks me ….

      Thanks for stopping by!

  49. My son chose to be a PA instead of MD because he wants contact with his patients. Hope that will be the case. He’s just getting started. Be well. Aren’t you just a little “fresh” today?? Lovely. Good for you.

    • A Physician’s assistant? Is that what you mean by PA? I work in alphabet soup and sometimes I guess wrong! Good luck to him. I’m sure he has a big heart. He will do well.

      And yes, the Word Press gods found me. Thanks for noticing. It’s been a busy 24 hours!

  50. I’m glad that you are still here Elyse. I’m still here too.

  51. Wow, Elyse! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed :)

  52. I was just getting ready to comment and saw 500 before me – hey, what’s going on here? Oh yeah, Freshly Pressed! Congrats – it is richly deserved.

    Congrats also on laying this topic and your illness bare with such honesty. Good luck with your surgeries, Elyse.

    I can just see you laughing and crying on the pot in the restaurant. Now I want to know what the guy said when his head finally cleared the windowsill and saw you down below.

    • Oh Peg, so many answers for you. Thanks for your congrats. I was surprised and pleased. I thought they’d forgotten me. But I’m going to choose a better picture next time because Charon is poling me out of the Freshly Pressed picture way too quickly!

      It is often difficult to completely hide poop problems, that’s why I own up to them. They can be, ahem, all over the place. BUT, this episode happened 30 years ago. I am coming up on my 30th anniversary (next month) of the surgery that changed/saved my life. So it’s on my mind. And the article reminded me how important that particular chuckle in the bathroom was.

      Now as to the gloved one (who was gloved WAY before Michael Jackson), the answer is, I don’t know. All I can remember is seeing the gloves and the cap and then doubling over laughing. I don’t know if he climbed up and saw me or not. Or if someone warned him to get down. I don’t remember seeing the face. All I can remember is laughing and laughing and laughing.

  53. good for you … I have a chronic skin condition and sometimes the only way to cope is to laugh, so I applaud you and am o delighted it all went well

  54. Yes, humor would be wonderful when dealing with doctors. It would let patients know they’re human and that they also recognize you as one too.

    It reminds me of a few years ago when I had appendicitis. Usually, it’s a quick trip to the hospital once diagnosed, but we were on a trip to Egypt when I started to become sick. The doctor the hotel brought in misdiagnosed my symptoms as the typical digestive problems that can happen when traveling and put me on antibiotics. After a week and a half, I was still sick and on new meds (I couldn’t keep the other ones down).

    When we got back to Germany (where I lived at the time), I went to the hospital. Turns out, when doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong with you, they have pretty much every doctor come look at you, poke and prod you, and try to figure your case out. I kept wanting to shout “hello, I’m alive and yes that does hurt.” At one point, they though I had ovarian cysts and that they would have to remove my ovaries (quite frightening news to receive). Then the night before the surgery, I was told I would either have a horizontal or vertical scar starting at my belly button. Thankfully, it was the former and now I have 4 scars on my abdomen from the procedure.

    I definitely would have welcomed a little compassion and humor. Luckily, the doctor who took care of me during my two-week recovery was nice and friendly, cute too.

    Thanks for sharing your story and congratulations on freshly pressed!

  55. Laughter IS THE BEST MEDICINE! Thanks I still haven’t stopped smiling, having just arrived back from an appointment with a “specialist”! Congrats on being freshly pressed ~ Mary

    • Shame you didn’t read this before going to the specialist, Mary!

      Thanks for your nice comment. Good luck with whatever ails you and I hope humor can help to carry you through it.

  56. McLerranMD

    Well, as a rural family doc, it’s nice to know there is valid evidence it there that backs up me sharing personal stories about my life with my patients and laughing with them at times. But then I have been known to cry with them to if needed. The hard part about medicine is knowing when to use humor with a patient and when not to.

    • You are one smart doctor, then, Doc. But you’re right as well as compassionate. And I suspect you can tell when a joke is inappropriate too (surgeons joking about shakey hands is never a good thing!). I bet you’re a wonderful doctor.

      • Thanks. I try. Yes, humor in medicine can be a good thing, but it can also be a very inappropriate and bad thing as well.

        The biggest thing I try to remember when dealing with patients is how would I want my mom or husband treated if I were not here. And I try to remember that no one besides a bunch if medical geeks no what words like adenoma means anyway. So, it’s always been important to me to explain things – or to try anyway – in real words that everyday people use.

        Thanks again for the positive compliment. It’s nice to get an atagirl sometimes.

  57. You wrote a page right out of my life. I find myself rating my physicians according to their sense of humor and self-deprecation over all other sweet medical skills. Neurologists? Surely the most uptight of them all. My pulmonologist? He ranks pretty well because we discuss fishing trips, the Colorado Rockies, and other unnecessary topics. I think he is funny in real life, I just haven’t gotten him to break a sweat in his office yet. The funniest physician of all, for me, is my urologist. His jokes don’t just dribble, they roll down the floor. :-) Congratulations on being FP! I loved this post so much I may just print it out and give it away as Christmas gifts to all my physicians!!

    • Why thanks, Joy. And I’m glad to know that there is at least one urologist whose humor flows … Sorry you’re in the club of hanging out with these guys too much though. There are better clubs! I’d like to get into a different on myself.

  58. Congrats on the Fresh Press! I had a feeling someone would notice ;)

  59. Masterfully written piece on the trials and tribulations we go through with physicians. It is probably a good idea to start adding more patient / doctor interaction classes in medical school.
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed …!!!!

    • Thanks, Isadora. I do think they’re getting better. And it doesn’t always work. One surgeon I met with once had obviously been told he needed to relate better with patients. He didn’t have any sense of humor or timing or humanity, actually. He was incredibly condescending and spoke more to my husband than to me. When my husband and I left, he high-fived me and shook my husband’s hand. Ummm, I didn’t go back!

  60. G

    “fake medical professional -and- an actual expert patient”… can’t stop laughing. :)))) gooooooooooooood 1

  61. I’ve had a struggle with cervical cancer in the past and have had many pretty unpleasant office procedures done. My Gyn was an amazing doctor and very efficient and professional, but he too, never even smiled. I am always super nervous when having my pap because of the very brief pain that is required to get beneathe the accumulated scar tissue, but afterwards I am giddy with joy that it is over. The last time, upon completion of a very quick procedure, I just as quickly popped back into the upright position, looked him in the eye and said, “You give good pap!”. Finally, after 20 years of doctor/patient stuff, the man smiled….and chuckled. It made my day! I told him he should do it more often……it’s good medicine. Thank you for your wonderful post today and for making me laugh right out loud with your endearing sense of humor! I’m new to your blog, but can already tell that I will treasure you and your posts! xoxo

    • That’s a great line, Julia. I may have to steal it! Glad you got him to laugh — it’s a wonderful feeling when you succeed, isn’t it.

      Glad you liked the post — thanks for coming by and for telling your story too.

  62. This is one of the funniest post ever! And it’s totally neat that you were able to laugh at the ‘sighting’…cos I KNOW I would’ve totally died of embarrassment right there! :)
    You’re right, by the way. Doctors should probably just have Humor as a subject during their degree years! Or maybe that just kills the idea of humor :P
    And for some reason I really love the last sentence!
    Congrats on Freshly Pressed, you’re amazing! :D

    Check mine too?
    Cheers! :D

    • Welcome, Mango, thanks for coming by. Thanks for your nice comment (and I will absolutely check out your blog).

      I think that many doctors are loosening up, or maybe I am choosing based on how I feel about them (I am very fussy — I only let good doctors man(woman?) handle me).

      As for being embarrassed when the guy was coming, I can always put stuff like that into perspective. When you have hundreds of folks poking around in your but, embarrassment is a relative thing!

  63. I LOVED reading this. You see, I’ve been married for 11 years to a man who in those 11 years has completed med school, residency, and two years so far of private practice as an ear/nose/throat specialist. He has amazing sarcasm and just between you and me, would love to quit his day job to be a comedian or a co-host on the BBC show “Top Gear”. Really, though, just between you and me…

    As a physician counseling patients on everything from tonsillectomies to cancer surgeries, I suppose it is hard for him to gauge his patients’ openness to humor. He uses humor a lot at home to process his work days. I’ve been told here and there that he has a great bedside manner, and I hope that that means that he uses humor sometimes–because he is darn good at making me laugh!

    One of your comments made me laugh out loud–about your joking at your surgeon’s expense when he was fumbling with a knot. I make that joke with my dear V. all the time, because he is something of a klutz at home. I also joke with him that he can perform impeccable, microscopic surgeries, but he doesn’t quite have the hang of putting a ponytail in our little girl’s hair.

    Thank you for sharing this story; not only did it make me laugh, it made me thankful all over again for the wonderful gift of humor my husband has, in a profession that is apparently dying for more laughter!! I also pray that your health is good! Keep writing!

    • It’s so nice to get an unusual perspective on this issue. I imagine that your husband uses his humor with patients in a way that makes them comfortable — that’s such a big part of “good bedside manner”. I am feeling rather guilty for saying that they are all stern, because they aren’t and not all of mine have been.

      It is a pretty fine line, I’m sure. How to tell who wants to hear their doctor joking and who wants to hear only those somber notes, must be a constant challenge.

      Thanks for sharing your story. But my husband is in line ahead of yours for “Top Gear.”

      • Many docs are stern, you shouldn’t feel guilty. Seeing what I have seen, though, of the educational and training processes, I understand why many doctors become not just stern, but bitter and gruff and even angry. It is unfortunate–I think it depends a lot on what that individual was like, what he or she had to rely on, before beginning the path to M.D. My dear husband had me, his faith in God, and a strong family network to keep his head above water during the tough times. His sarcasm, I believe, goes way back in his youth. His perspective is also unique because of his background–he came to this country as a toddler with essentially nothing. His parents learned a trade, learned the language…and now they are business owners and their children are successful professionals. It’s hard to be too stern or joyless, when he has so much for which he is thankful! I think if I ever write a book worth reading someday, it will be about that wonderful, sarcastic, brilliant man of mine. Thanks for inadvertently reminding me of how super he is! And I’m glad that you are a patient who helps the doctors lighten up–YOU are medicine to them!!

  64. I remember when I broke my ankle a few years back. I fell half way down the steps. There were four steps. I broke my ankle on step three. It’s all in how you land. Now, I also severely sprained the other ankle. I felt like I was going into shock.

    I had enough first aid/CPR classes to feel aware of that and to know that shock can be fatal. I was rushing to work, late, and all the neighbors had already left. So I was a little stuck, sitting on the sidewalk at the bottom of the steps, partly blocked from the view of the road by a creeping rose bush in last June.

    I did the only think I could think up. I sat there for a while doing meditave breathing that I learned from a cassette tape of Daoist breathing mediations. It seemed like a strange impulse buy one year, but you would not believe how often those breathing exersizes came in handy.

    It was probably only 15 minutes. I felt like everything was going back to normal. I have always paid very close attention to body signals. So I thought I was in the clear for going shocky. But then I had to figure out how to get back UP the steps and into the house to call a friend to take me to the hospital.

    Once there, I couldn’t stop laughing. I got a lot of strange looks. They thought the right was sprainged the left broken. It was the other way around when the x-rays came back. Some people thought I broke both of them. Finally someone asked me why I was laughing.

    I had two options. Laugh or cry. I was SO much pain. Later, I would discover that the family of pain killers they wanted to give me didn’t work for me and I spent weeks in more pain than I should have. But I broke my ankle falling two steps down. Two steps. I nearly broke both of them. A little more pressure on the sprained one might have done it. The sprained one turned twice as black as the broken one and must have swollen up twice as much too. It was truly amazing to look at!

    There was too much to laugh about and why cry when you can laugh?

    • Oh, Urban, my ankles are both hurting reading your story. Glad you managed to keep your humor during the whole thing (well, mostly!)

      I’m sure you’ve heard People’s Parties by Joni Mitchel

      Laughing and crying you know it’s the same release!

      Besides, crying gives me a nasty headache!

  65. What a post! Great wordplay: “Being able to laugh at my poop problem made it STINK a little bit less for me and for the folks who went through it with me.” Plus, a great message. Let’s get our doctors talking to patients as if they’re real people, maybe remember to tell them the details of the surgery (or surgeries) they’ll be getting.
    Thanks for sharing with such honesty :)

    • Thanks for stopping by and for your comment. I do think that doctors are loosening up — or maybe mine just have no choice ;). There also needs to be someone who will sit down with patients and make sure they really do understand what is in store for them. That’s what didn’t happen with my surgeries — everybody thought I knew. Thanks, guys.

      As for my honesty, well, it’s really easy to be upfront about bowel problems. Modesty and embarrassment are the first things to go!

  66. Great post. Humor takes so much pressure off a seemingly unending situation or a new diagnosis. I’m convinced that most doctors feel overly obligated to talk about the absolute worst case scenario before they finally say something like “But that won’t necessarily happen.” If not for humor, how is a brain supposed to cope with all that information? I’m so thankful for family and friends who have laughed (and cried) with me when life seemed too ridiculous.

    • In our society, the doctors have to tell you the worst that might happen for legal reasons. It is what it is. That’s why those drug advertisements go on and on and on. (Still, even if folks are warned, they sue, regardless.)

      You’re right about the brain processing part. Sometimes it is just too much to handle. And that’s when I’m absolutely gonna laugh.

      Thanks for your comment and for stopping by.

  67. “I survived.” I’m so glad you did, my friend. I greartly enjoyed this important message.

  68. In one of my med school applications, I was asked to list 5 qualities a physician should have. Taking a slight gamble, I listed “humor” as one of them, with the explanation “try getting a rectal exam from an stone-faced grump” (which, like you, I’ve also learned from experience). After reading this post, though, that essay is feeling a bit less like it was a bad idea. It’s good to know that other people out there (and future patients of mine, perhaps?) want their docs to prescribe them reasons to laugh, too. :)

    • They should make you DEAN, Allie, for that answer. I am sure at a minimum it made them look at you again.

      Humor from doctors is probably a little more difficult then when they respond to it from their patients. That was one of the things I noticed in Dr. Sekeres’ article — he joked about normal stuff, not his patient’s cancer. Just kept it so that they were comfortable being with him.

      Good luck — I am hoping you got into medical school!

      And “Allie” was the name of one of my great aunts — one of the sweetest people I’ve ever known. Just seeing the name made me smile. Thanks!

  69. Patch Adams said it best, ““The purpose of a doctor or any human in general should not be to simply delay the death of the patient, but to increase the person’s quality of life.” You’re right, just because the illness is serious doesn’t mean we always have to be serious. What better way to improve a person’s quality of life, then through humor. Great story. Thanks for sharing :々

  70. I’m interning at the surgery casualty department . Last week a patient in the ward died from an embolus and the MO and the CA of our ward gave him CPR for a good 20 minutes. I was the one who checked the vitals later and called the time of death.
    Later me and the other intern doctors were sitting around in the intern room in a somber mood. Someone switched on the TV and a really really old Tom and Jerry cartoon came on. Somewhat later one of us laughed , enjoying the cartoon and we all joined in.
    Yea we do laugh but I guess we don’t show it that much :)
    Great post!

    • Oh dear. For ER trauma folks, well, I think there needs to be a whole different set of rules. The stuff you deal with is enough to send the rest of us over the bend, I think, so, while I bet there is a healthy amount of gallows humor backstage, I am not going to presume to give you advice.

      I don’t know you, but I can feel your dedication in your comment. Thanks from all of us who’ve ever been cared for by you guys, and from our families and friends.

  71. Ah ha … You get the FP on the one that I missed! :( You simply have a way with words in retrospective situations! :)

    • I will not, repeat, will NOT take that to mean you think that I am not forward thinking ;)

      Thanks Frank. You’re excused for missing one. Just the one, though!

  72. You are a Freshly Pressed machine! Belated congrats on this! Well deserved. And by that I mean, you’ve been through a lot of sh*t (pun intended) and somehow make it funny. I still can’t get over the workman with the ladder.

    Oh, doctors. It’s hard to believe they’re human sometimes.

  73. Pingback: Firsts and Lasts…with Elyse from FiftyFourandAHalf « She's a Maineiac

  74. Pingback: The Green Study “Worst Job I Ever Had” Contest: 2nd Place | The Green Study

  75. Normally I do not read post on blogs, however I
    wish to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do it!
    Your writing style has been surprised me. Thank you, quite great post.

  76. Pingback: Passing Through | FiftyFourandAHalf

  77. Luanne

    Elyse, I love how you make a topic like this hilarious. But I feel bad you had to go through this stuff–especially the “public” pooping. No, especially the need for surgery. Maybe especially the surgery.

  78. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so I did both.

  79. This is maybe the first time I read the blog piece, and not the comments, but who has that kind of time today? I’m sure I’m missing some intelligent and uproariously funny opportunities by skipping the comments today, (and I may just have to come back, just for the comments), but wanted to say that I enjoyed (a) Judy’s cameo appearance, (b) the idea of humor being essential to good medical care, and (c) that your writing still kills me, when I turn off the noises in my head long enough to actually read every word.

    I swear, you should write a book. You know you should write a book. Find the time! Write the book! Help us survive this insanity by laughing our way through the loop-de-loops. Very much enjoyed this one, Elyse! :-)

    • And you, my friend, could be a professional commenter!

      I’ve started a memoir on Goliath which focuses heavily on this time period. But I stopped last summer when Cooper died. Now that I have a puppy, I am too pooped!

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