Doctored to Death

That important Tuesday meeting had to be canceled.   I had to see the ophthalmologist who was going to perform space age surgery to remove steroid-induced cataracts from an eye.  Years of steroid use treating MS flare-ups had made a rendezvous with the laser inevitable.

Can we move the meeting to Thursday?  Sorry I can’t.  I am reviewing the MRI of my lower spine with an orthopedic surgeon to decide what to do about the stenosis and extreme pain I deal with every day.  I just can’t take the pain much longer.  Forget lunch today.  Gotta see my neurologist who then wants me to be examined by a urologist.  Then we will talk about physical therapy.

One sign of sickness is endlessly going to doctors when we need to be working.  Another is when we talk more about our ailments than politics or baseball  or our children.  Then there is Coumadin, my newest drug addiction.  When you are on that blood thinner, you are getting old.  No offense. I am on it, too.

Growing old may beat the alternative, but it is not a happy condition.  Feeling your age? Better see a specialist.  Too often, I find myself dwelling on my difficulties and pondering pain.  Thin lines separate emotions.  Spending a life seeing doctors will make anyone feel old.  When your wife  yells for you  to come inside, that someone from Medicare is on the phone, age isn’t creeping up on you.  It is galloping.  And, of course, that means more doctors.

I feel doctored to death.  That condition makes me regard myself more as sick than old.  Feeling old is in your head.  Constantly feeling  sick is in your face.  In Strong at the Broken Places, I spent days interviewing Ben Cumbo, a young African American college student living with muscular dystrophy.  I asked Ben what part of his identity defined him most, being male. Black, or sick.  I had gotten to know his family and was sure the young man would say being black.

Being sick, he answered immediately.

Seeing a parade of doctors is not like seeing a July fourth parade.  We are not on the sidelines but in the middle of the action.  We are sick or we would not be there.  I once told my friend, the orthopedic surgeon, during the examination of a knee, that  I felt doctored to death.  “I’m sure,” he replied.  “But what are you going to do?”

Excellent question. We can’t live with them or without them.  I am sick of the whole deal, sick, which means I need a doctor or two.  I have an internist, a neurologist, an ophthalmologist and, of course, a neuro-ophthalmologist, various surgeons, a multitude of dermatologists, a new pulmonologist, a gastroenterologist, and now I am interviewing live-in psychiatrists.  And that is just for starters.


23 Responses to Doctored to Death

  1. Brian May 16, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

    Ya gotta admit one thing, though; what’s bad for your health is great for your vocabulary!

    • Richard M. Cohen May 16, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

      Please explain.


    • Anne May 16, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

      Brian – good one!

      Richard, I sure hope those stem cells do their job soon. I’m sorry to hear that you are in so much pain with your spine. Hope the Dr. Can help you find some relief.


    • Carol May 16, 2014 at 8:46 pm #

      Made me laugh out loud, Brian! Thanks!

  2. MimiNOLA May 16, 2014 at 4:25 pm #

    A live-in psychiatrist sounds great, but live-in massage therapist, better. I’m having spine problem too. Yesterday getting ready to go to the doctor, I fell on my tailbone. Feeling that today. The shots he gave me did not work. Visiting doctors seems like a huge waste of time lately. They don’t seem to know what to do other than more tests and pills. Hope to hear about any changes you have from the transplant.

    • Richard M. Cohen May 17, 2014 at 8:17 am #

      No changes yet. The tailbone is a killer. Feel better.


  3. MB May 16, 2014 at 7:25 pm #

    These guys are on my payroll:

    Internist, gynecologist, neurologist*, psychologist*, rheumatologist*, physical therapist*, occupational therapist*, hand therapist*, dentist, nutritionist*, dermatologist, radiologist*, allergist*, ophthalmologist… (*MS related)

    My husband jokes that most of our dates are at some medical facility with the difference being that the physicians are the ones who have their hands all over me.

    We can use a live-in psychiatrist, too, but I think my husband would be the one who benefitted more from him/her.


    (Another great take away from your writing—there’s at least one in every post: “Feeling old is in your head. Constantly feeling sick is in your face.”)

    • Richard M. Cohen May 17, 2014 at 8:20 am #

      How about live-in Ben and Jerry’s, who also dispense mixed drinks?


      • MB May 17, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

        I’ll have a whiskey straight up with a Cherry Garcia chaser—

        I can get used to that.

  4. Joan L May 16, 2014 at 7:53 pm #

    I am so sorry and hoping for “sickness” to stop hurting you. I always say to folks “I’m lucky I don’t have as much pain as others.” Then the screw turns in my deltoid, my eye pain wakes me up, my neck spasms almost throw me on the floor, and my back won’t let me relax. Fudge. I am sorry for sickness for anyone, but some seem to have too much, it’s not fair. I cannot feel your pain, but really want it to stop for you. For everyone. Stem cells, doctors, drugs, something!

    • Richard M. Cohen May 17, 2014 at 8:24 am #


      Don’t worry about me. I am pretty tough. I did work for Dan Rather, who was a constant pain. Life is not fair. We know that. Just keep truckin’.


  5. Carol May 16, 2014 at 8:45 pm #

    From the last post, heard a replay tonight of 2008 interview with Barbara Walters on NPR from Canadian Broadcast Company.

    • Richard M. Cohen May 17, 2014 at 8:26 am #


      Someone emailed me about that. I think M. recorded it.


  6. Laura K May 18, 2014 at 7:01 am #

    You’re correct – the 4th of July parade is much too idyllic an image. For me it seems akin to a military review, complete with obligatory salutes and having to step in line with my comrades, other patients. The ologists in my life are numerous and it appears there are more waiting for their assigned seats in the reviewing stands.

    • Richard M. Cohen May 18, 2014 at 11:32 am #


      You are right. I salute you. Might as well practice.


  7. Kate Aquilino May 18, 2014 at 10:03 am #

    Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
    Now it looks as though they’re here to stay
    Oh, I believe in yesterday

    Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be
    There’s a shadow hanging over me.
    Oh, yesterday came suddenly

    The Beatles

    Here’s one for our generation. Who knew the song was about ms?

    • Richard M. Cohen May 18, 2014 at 11:35 am #


      Wait a minute. Isn’t it about me? Actually, never thought about. Maybe the song is about all of us.


  8. kristi smith May 22, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

    Mr. Cohen,
    I was feeling that my visits with the never ending lists of doctors was a full time job. I was dx with primary progressive 5 plus years ago. When Obama care was instated in January I was kicked off my previous insurance and put on this new plan. Ignorance is bliss, as I was excited to reduce my costs. I soon found out that no doctors in my area take this new insurance and when they do, the insurance covers only pennies on the dollar. Now I am going without 90 percent of my health care, have racked up forty thousand dollars in medical bills, (in four months) and am in constant pain because my meds are not covered. Long story. …longer, I miss being doctored to death. Really think about the alternative. No relief, no answers, and what little peace of mind I once had, gone. I understand the frustrations of spending more time with your neurologist than your spouse, but boy do I wish I had that to complain about now. I love what you Are doing with this blog and I recently saw you talk about hope. It seems the doctors have me what little hope I had. Keep up the good work inspiring people and shining this light on the reality of living with this disease.

  9. Shasha June 13, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

    HI, Yes…People can see many people/doctors, but the best way to heal for me was to research it myself and learn how to heal myself. Eating no gluten (wheat/barley/rye..oats) dairy/soy/sugar/GMO…vitamins/good oils, LDN, Vit D3 5000IU, Vit C, zinc, fish oil, Mg citrate, Nature’s Plus- Source of life multiple and more helps my MS and more. Fish oil thins blood. This diet and the rest helps the immune system. No gluten may help more nutrients to absorb in intestines. The cells are rebuilt and work right again. LDN is like a miracle..may help 99% of MS people but the diet is still needed since it is a low dose. I hope you keep trying. Alternative medicine is awesome. Best wishes.

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