“I don’t mean to alarm you, but she may have brain cancer.”
That’s the scariest thing I’ve ever heard as a parent. Uttered to me by a confused pediatrician after failing to diagnose my two year-old daughter for the umpteenth time, the sentence dashed my hopes and struck fear in me like no other.
It started like this. Two weeks prior, my daughter began vomiting in her sleep. Curiously, she would upchuck like clockwork — three hours after bed. After a few days, she begin dropping weight. Her eyes sunk in. She looked sicker than any of my children had before.
We took her to the doctor. “Might this be a tapeworm or something?” I asked. “No,” was the reply. “We’ve had a nasty uptick of similar patients. Hopefully it’s just a temporary virus.” She sent us home with expensive probiotics. They didn’t work.
We went back. They ran some tests. And prescribed something else. That didn’t work either.
On the third visit, that’s when the pediatrician unintentionally “alarmed” me with such a devastating possibility: Brain cancer. She ordered and inordinate amount of blood tests. Sent us to a special lab. The nurse at the receptions desk exclaimed, “All this work for a two year old!!??”
I took that as scientific consensus. My gut exploded. My heart sunk. “It’s official,” I told myself. “This little gipper is terminally ill.”
It got worse. The nurses drawing blood said my daughter was so sick, they couldn’t find her vains to extract blood. I was distraught. After bringing in one nurse after another, the medical team finally got some blood and sent it in for testing.
A few excruciating hours later, I got the results by phone. “Everything came back negative, so that’s good,” the doctor said. That’s good. “I think she may just have a tapeworm,” she added optimistically. “Buy this over-the-counter drug and call me in the morning.”
I was too angry to confront her about the oversight. But no call was needed. My daughter was doing cartwheels the next day. Wolfing down food. Her color had returned. After a two week ordeal of possibly having brain cancer, she was now a healthy and happy survivor of… tapeworms.
Long story short, we switched doctors. Instead of pediatricians, we now use our general practitioner to treat our entire family. He seems to be a lot more trusting of the human body; more reactive than proactive (ahem, not a hypochondriac like many pediatricians). His laid back style suits us well.
Of course, we’ll use specialized providers should the need arise. But for everything else, I’m a firm believer that the family doctors knows best.
More than anything, the experience taught me how to trust my parental instincts and challenge medical advice more. After all, no one’s a better advocate for my children than their mother and I.
I don’t mean to alarm you, but despite all its wonderful advances, modern medicine is still whack. Tread lightly and carry a big stick. Or something like that.