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Expertise, and possible memory failure

Posted Jul 29 2013 12:00am

If you follow me on Twitter you’ll be familiar with the recent home improvements – the ripping out of the charmless old fireplace and replacement with a stove, and the damp course. (Which, for the record, is a tedious, noisy and dusty way to spend quite a lot of money. Yes, I know it will be worth it. Yes, I know it comes with the home-owning territory. Yes, I get that in the long term dealing with damp probably is better value than the holiday to the Italian Lakes now deferred from October to…. somewhen. Sob.)

What’s really struck me is – and I know how banal this is going to seem when it’s written -  how easy things are when you know what you’re doing. And how impossible they appear when you don’t. Alan and I were getting in a tangle trying to explain what we needed to the Stove Man (who, I think you’ll agree, sounds so much more appealing than the Damp Man, although in reality both are helpful and knowledgeable). He said, very gently, ‘Shall I just explain what we would normally do’? and he did and it turned out that everything we assumed was unique/insurmountable/complicated is actually quite run of the mill.

All of which has made me feel a little bit forgiving towards some of the less sensitive people I met when I was being treated for cancer. My life-changing, earth-wobbling, terrifying, new-to-me experience was something that they see day-in, day-out. Our perspectives were different and, in comparison to some of the people they were treating, my little dance must have looked like – well, a little dance.

This is not to say that clinicians shouldn’t be more sensitive, more empathetic, more understanding of their patients. But, perhaps, if I had got that in many ways my chimney-breast was a lot like other people’s chimney-breasts, I would have been a better patient.

Coda:

I wrote this post a week ago, and held back from posting it because I just wasn’t sure of this perspective. I’m still not sure whether I’m right. Perhaps now that I am within touching distance of remission date I am more inclined to forgive and forget – but I’m also wondering how much I have forgotten about how much the dismissive treatment I (sometimes, not often) received distressed me. Hmmm. Thoughts?

July 29, 2013
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