A Couple Reflects on Why You Should Attend Doctor Appointments Together
Jessica has endometriosis, and Chris is her partner. Together, they find ways to manage the condition and support each other through its challenges. Below they discuss the benefits of attending endometriosis doctor and hospital appointments together:
What are your experiences of doctor appointments and why would Chris being there have helped?
From Jess: So many things, really. I’ve experienced doctors not believing me or not grasping the significance of my symptoms. I’ve experienced doctors patronizing me and insulting my intelligence. I’ve experienced being dismissed because I don’t want children. I’ve experienced feeling totally overwhelmed by the amount of information shared at an appointment.
Having Chris there firstly would have provided a sense of unity, confidence, and comfort in the face of doctors who haven’t been the most compassionate or polite, I’m not sure I would have received the same treatment had a man been present – I’ve witnessed the difference before.
Secondly, having my partner present would have provided further evidence of my symptoms and struggles. Sadly, my endometriosis symptoms were only taking seriously after an ex-boyfriend came with me to the appointment and shared what he had seen. I’d been going to my GP for years prior.
Finally, having Chris with me would have been beneficial for us both in terms of information. Often I struggle to relay all the information from the appointments back to him, and it’s so important for him to have all the info in order for us to be on the same page.
From Chris: I have only been to a couple of doctor’s appointments with Jess, but I have experienced that you’re not really expected to go in with your partner. You have to make a point that you are joining them. Don’t expect that any questions will be asked to you, and don’t interject when the doctor and your partner are speaking. You’re there for support and can obviously give valid and useful observations, and can remind your partner of things they forget, but it’s about them!
Hospital visits are a bit different. I’ve found that a partner being around is more expected in hospitals and you see lots of couples and families waiting together before surgery. Once your partner goes into surgery, communication is more difficult. I found I didn’t know where Jess was, how long she was going to be in surgery, where to wait etc. There was lots of waiting around, twiddling of thumbs - so be prepared to wait, ask for information, and have your phone with you.
What advice would you give to couples regarding attending appointments together?
From Jess: Firstly, either take a notebook, use a recorder or download an app that records the meeting and stores the info for you (yes, they exist!). Getting hold of previous medical notes is often hard work (in the UK, at least) and I just find it’s difficult to recall everything from memory. It would help you both if you had something to refer to in the future.
Secondly, I would try to go to as many apps as possible together. Often I speak to endo patients whose partners are sort of separate from the life my client is leading with endo. Yet if you’re life partners, married or not, you’ve chosen to share a life together – all of it. We don’t shun away from our partners and leave them to fight diseases like cancer alone, why should endometriosis be any different?
Often what I see is when my clients begin to open up and share with their partners, a greater understanding occurs within the partner and they start to change their views and attitudes around my client and their health. They become engaged and take an active interest. It’s a pretty remarkable turnaround to witness.
From Chris: Yeah, I would just echo that sentiment – that if you are willing to share the rest of your life with your partner, be willing to be a part of their endometriosis journey as well. You may not see the point of going to these appointments as they seem very personal to the person with endo, but you can act as an anchor of support or to provide eye-witness evidence of symptoms. These are both really important roles and will help your partner get the treatment and respect they deserve.
How old were you when you were diagnosed with endometriosis?