The woman on the end of the phone was so surprised when I asked for a referral to two different plastic surgeons. ‘Taking a bet each way?’ she asked. But why the surprise? After all, don’t we shop around in every other aspect of our lives. If I had a plumbing job I’d be sure to ask a couple of plumbers to have a look. I’d check out the way they were going to go about things, the cost, and of course their attitude. If I didn’t like one, why would I give him the job? Well as far as I’m concerned the same goes for doctors. My body is the only house I live in. So how much more important is it than bricks and mortar? Some doctors have left me feeling scared and deflated, while others have given me such confidence. So I selected the ones that suited me best whether public or private. It’s so important who we have around us, isn’t it?!

Dr Herbert Benson writes about the importance of the doctor / patient relationship in his book Timeless Healing. It’s a fabulous read, I can’t recommend it enough! And he gives example after example of how much the bedside manner matters in our healing. You may be interested to know he devotes a whole section on how to choose your doctor. Because it is our choice, isn’t it?! And one of the most important we will ever make.

 ‘Never give up!’ Marylou Crabill writes in Stronger than Cancer. ‘Sixteen years ago I was given six months to live. My husband and I fired that doctor and sought a second opinion’. Whoa, I love her power. And I remember my daughter reading me a story from Chicken Soup for the Survivors Soul. By the way, I don’t like to use the term ‘survivor’ but that’s a different blog!  Anyway, this book recounts a conversation between two oncologists that goes something like this. One oncologist asked the other oncologist why his results were so much better despite the fact that they were both using the same drugs. And his reply: Where you give out the drugs E.O.H.P., I give out H.O.P.E…

 It’s all in the attitude isn’t it…

I wonder if you’ve ever realised how other people can affect us without us even noticing? And it can be in such simple ways. Sooner or later, everyone’s had the experience of seeing someone yawn and voila! – you’re suddenly yawning too. I even yawned as I was looking at pictures of people yawning to put with this blog. It just seems to plant a seed doesn’t it.

Isn’t it interesting how people can affect us at a deep subconscious level. The truth of this came home to me after Steve and I spent 14 months ‘trying’ to fall pregnant with our first child. A bit over the cycle of disappointment, we eventually decided to have a holiday overseas and look into fertility treatment on our return. So it was we booked 3 weeks away. I was 30 and had never been overseas before. I was very excited! And I guess you won’t be surprised when I tell you that a month after we got back I was pregnant.

Perhaps it was because we relaxed and stopped ‘trying’. But looking back, I now remember my father’s words – ‘make sure you go overseas before you have kids’. And I think the impact of his words are closer to the truth for me. At the time, I didn’t really give them much thought. But a part of me must have. It was as if a deeper subconscious part of me was listening and took it to heart. How easy it was then to give myself permission to fall pregnant once I’d done what Dad had suggested. No doubt the other factors probably helped too.

I noticed the same thing happen as I was going through chemo. The first cycle was easy. A bit emotional, but nonetheless, okay. My beautiful oncologist congratulated me on a job well done. ‘No side effects are compulsory’ he said. He always makes me feel so good. Whenever I visit, I’ve noticed that he waits for me to tell him if I have any concerns, rather than make suggestions as to what concerns I might have. He’s a wise man, and I am grateful for his care. But then it seems I came undone when I went for a check up with other medical staff. Have you ever noticed how some medical staff have no idea about the impact of their words? And it doesn’t help when chemo staff tell you what each drug is going to do to you as they administer it! And so despite my protests, I was asked the usual questions – did you have any side-effects? Did you feel nauseas, did you have diarrhoea? Again it seems a seed was planted. My second cycle was by far the worst I ever experienced. Nausea almost to the point of vomitting, diarrhoea. A complete wipe out. Chemo Monday I called it, the third day after chemo, and it was my lowest point throughout the whole 5 months. This time it hit me pretty hard.

But it didn’t last long. I was fortunate to have therapist friends who worked out what had happened and helped me to get the suggestion of these side effects out of my head once and for all. And I never experienced nausea or diarrhoea again. Each chemo cycle just got easier and easier. By the last cycle I was euphoric! I’d got there and I’d found resources within myself to make it easier.

So now I don’t read the side-effect lists. I pop them away, and if I have a problem I can look into them. I see no point in even entertaining the possibility. After all, how often do we imagine things to be one way, only to find out the reality is something quite different, in every other area of our lives? Each time I have a check up now the medical staff continue to be surprised by my lack of side-effects. But I’m not! And neither is my oncologist. Sure chemo is a physical thing, there’s no getting away from that. But I often wonder how many side-effects occur because a seed has been planted…