Friday, 22 July 2011

Why I love (and hate) going to the doctor

Earlier this week, during my traditional pre-marathon crazy hypochondriac freakout where every niggle and ache must be face cancer or bubonic plague or megadeath, I actually identified a genuine health concern that merited quite a swift trip to the doctor. Nothing major, just a stomach upset which persisted over a few days, but enough to push me towards the waiting room post haste.

Sparing you the details, the doctor was quite confident about the cause and prescribed some pills to settle my stomach. While I was there, in a killing-two-birds-with-one-stone mentality, I decided to mention the pains in my chest, which have been present in one form or another over the last two years but recently had something of a resurgence. It was at this point that I had to admit that I was planning to run a marathon in just a few day's time.
With thanks to

I braced myself for the usual abuse. Doctors hate runners. We are terrible patients, refusing to rest, refusing to do anything which compromises our training. Most of our ailments are caused in some way by running, or could be cured by desisting from running, neither of which we are prepared to accept. Marathon runners in particular must be a nightmare to treat - why on earth are we planning to put ourselves through an ordeal which is guaranteed to put our bodies under excessive stress and trauma? The doctor draws in air through clenched teeth, like a builder sizing up a hefty quote for a small conservatory, and shakes his or her disapproving head, wishing that you stayed relatively fit but didn't go so far as to actually run races.

But nothing happened. My doctor smiled and nodded approvingly. She listened to my chest with a stethoscope, calmly remarking 'you've got a good slow heartbeat'. 'You're obviously very fit'. 'You'll be fine to run the marathon, you clearly know what you're doing.'

Silently I whooped and motionlessly I leapt around the room in joy. A medical professional was endorsing my fitness level and general lifestyle! I wasn't being told off for putting myself through a dangerous ordeal, I was being commended for my clean and healthy existence. I was completely made up.

Because of the chest pains, and just to be sure, my GP referred me to the hospital for an ECG. The process was fairly quick and ruthlessly efficient, and as the technician gazed approvingly at the machine's printout and told me all was well, I wondered whether my doctor had sent me here just to show off how fit and well her patients were. Fine by me.

For those reasons I truly love visiting my doctor. Her respect for amateur athletes is huge, and I feel vindicated and jolly when I see her. But I can't help but notice that she hasn't actually treated my chest pain, other than with compliments. To her, perhaps, because the cause isn't immediately evident and the authority of the ECG is reliable, there must be nothing wrong with me. Maybe she's right.


But what if it *is* megadeath?

Happy hypochondria.


2011 to date - miles: 774.37, parkruns: 6, races: 3, miles biked: 58.38, metres swum: 1225

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