Trial and error. That’s why a doctor’s office is called a practice, right? It’s the reason we say “practicing medicine” rather than “perfecting medicine.”
No one is perfect, doctors especially. Still, knowledge aside, a good physician listens to his or her patients, even if it goes against what they know about illness.
In many ways, seeing a doctor can often feel like being a number rather than a name. Personal experience can attest to the difference between good bedside manner and the opposite.
Tori Geib probably knows this better than anyone. Her countless visits to different specialists for back pain soon turned into a nightmare.
“I saw three rheumatologists to find out why I had this pain, but none took me seriously,” Geib told Health.
She went on to explain that one doctor even wrote off her pain as “depression manifesting as pain in my body.”
From anti-inflammatory medication to steroids to muscle relaxers and antidepressants, Geib had seen the backside of a pill bottle too many times to count.
Still, her pain didn’t abate. It got to the point where she started to question herself, wondering if maybe she was imagining what was going on in her own body.
“I almost felt like I was gaslighting myself,” she said. “Was this all in my head? Surely all these doctors couldn’t be wrong; after all, they were the experts.”
Despite the doctors’ doubts in her, Geib knew her pain was no fantasy. The chronic back pain lasted for a year before she discovered a lump that she describes as a “hard mass” on her side.
Following a mammogram, Geib had a biopsy. Soon she found out she had metastatic breast cancer. “The news was devastating; I remember feeling like everything was a blur,” she shared.
Her oncologist explained that it was in her spine, and the back pain Geib had been having was actually due to the cancer.
“I first wanted to hug my oncologist,” Geib said. “Not because I was excited to have cancer, but because someone finally gave me an answer that explained why my back had hurt so much, confirming that it wasn’t all in my head.”
Sadly, Geib learned her type of cancer was terminal with only 22 percent of those diagnosed surviving five years. The odds weren’t good.
Surgeries and radiation led to more side effects. More pain followed when the cancer spread to Geib’s bones.
Now her life consists of visits to the oncologist and managing medications. “My treatment schedule is pretty rigorous,” she explained. “I sometimes have three or four appointments in a day. But staying alive is my full-time job now.”
Through it all, Geib has tried to use her experience with stage 4 cancer to encourage others and spread awareness. “I work with some advocacy groups like the Hear My Voice program from Living Beyond Breast Cancer,” she said.
Geib has also written for The Underbelly, a website where cancer patients can contribute their experiences and stories to “shine a light in the dark.”
In the end, Geib has asked “What if?” “What if doctors had diagnosed me earlier?” She’ll unfortunately never know the answer, but she can live every day to the fullest and help others feel empowered if they face similar situations.
“I realized I had to keep moving forward,” she told Health. “My advice is to advocate for yourself … Above all, trust yourself; you know what is normal and what is not for your body.”
For more on Tori Geib’s journey, check out her recent article on Advanced Breast Cancer where she shares about “really living” and refusing to let cancer stop her from making plans for the future.
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