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The destructive power of denial
Old 07-21-2011, 11:49 AM   #1
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The destructive power of denial

At the inner city clinic where I volunteer a couple of times a month, in my last session, I saw...

- A 47 year old woman with a breast mass the size of a lemon, hard as a rock, and other gory details I will spare you. At least 2 or 3 years in the making.

- A 30-something man with more than 10 years of hypertension, never saw a doctor, and last month sustained a stroke leaving him with speech and movement impairments.

- A 60 something outdoor worker who finally decided to have a mole on his arm checked out after watching it for a year (probably more). The thing was pigmented, had notched edges, just under a centimeter. He had swollen lymph nodes in the underarm and probably has metastatic melanoma.

I understand the dynamics of denial -- just wish we had a vaccine for it. My 2nd and 3rd year students were aghast.
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Old 07-21-2011, 11:56 AM   #2
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Ouch.

Good lessons for the students, even better for the readers.
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Old 07-21-2011, 01:11 PM   #3
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Oh my.... Fear and denial can be such a toxic mix.

Kudos to you and your volunteer work. They're lucky to have your healing hands and compassionate heart.
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Old 07-21-2011, 01:22 PM   #4
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Thanks, Rich. I guess Denial is the ugly twin of Hope.
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Old 07-21-2011, 01:34 PM   #5
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Well said.

Too much of either is not a good idea.
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Old 07-21-2011, 01:52 PM   #6
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You're very generous to do this, so thank you on their behalf.

OTOH, you don't have to be an inner city denizen to be in denial about such things. Even those with substantial resources sometimes play that game.
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Old 07-21-2011, 02:34 PM   #7
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I remember seeing a show from the UK that showed people with some major problems... they went to this show to get things 'fixed'.... I only saw two people and they had horrible sores etc... and they could go to the doctor for FREE and still did not do it... strange...
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Old 07-21-2011, 02:42 PM   #8
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I know what you mean . One of the woman in my Gym class has a grapefruit size lump in her breast that she is treating with diet .
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Old 07-21-2011, 02:59 PM   #9
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I had a grandmother who kept a lump on a breast hid. It was discovered when she broke her ankle and the hospital doc discovered it. Too late to do anything about it. Lot's of people like this.
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Old 07-21-2011, 03:11 PM   #10
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Lance Armstrong says that one of his testicles was the size of a grapefruit before he went to see a doctor. As I write that, it doesn't seem possible, but that's what I remember from his book.
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Old 07-21-2011, 03:33 PM   #11
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Quote:
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Lance Armstrong says that one of his testicles was the size of a grapefruit before he went to see a doctor. As I write that, it doesn't seem possible, but that's what I remember from his book.
It's possible. He is fortunate that the success rate of treatment for most types of advanced testicular cancer is not that different from early cancer (same holds for most types of Hodgkins, IIRC). Not so for breast and most other cancers.
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Old 07-21-2011, 04:17 PM   #12
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One weekend about 5 years ago my Dad told my sister he had a large tumor growing between his legs. She took him to the Dr on the Monday who found a large hernia in his groin that required an epidural type of surgery to put it right, including a 'net' implanted to hold things in place. The Dr told my sister that it must have been growing for many months and had it been reported when he first saw it, or had pain that it would literally have been a stitch in time saves 9. It could easily have herniated and then he would have been in real trouble at his age of 80.

Even though Dad actually believed it was a tumor he was somehow in denial, and as this was the UK, there was no financial reason he didn't tell anyone.
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Old 07-21-2011, 04:37 PM   #13
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Lance Armstrong says that one of his testicles was the size of a grapefruit before he went to see a doctor. As I write that, it doesn't seem possible, but that's what I remember from his book.
I've seen Lance on extended TV interviews, and from his behavior I find that all too easy to believe. He's a poignant reminder that world-class skills in one area don't necessarily transfer outside of a circle of competence.

He was probably blaming it on the bicycle seat.
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Old 07-21-2011, 06:59 PM   #14
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Quote:
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Lance Armstrong says that one of his testicles was the size of a grapefruit before he went to see a doctor. As I write that, it doesn't seem possible, but that's what I remember from his book.
Are you sure his nuts weren't just glued together?
I hear bicycle riders sometimes do that.
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Old 07-21-2011, 07:14 PM   #15
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Life is a precious thing. I'd bet all of us have been in denial about some obvious problem at some point in our lives. Sometimes it seems easier to ignore an awful situation than confront it. Just in that rare case it might just go away. Hardly ever does though. Thanks for relating this Rich.
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Old 07-21-2011, 08:07 PM   #16
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I see lots of ladies at work ignoring breast lumps, not taking blood pressure meds, ignoring diabetes treatment and diet, etc. It really upsets me, especially when they are raising children.
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Old 07-21-2011, 08:24 PM   #17
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These stories of denial are astounding and sad. One of my best friends has a deep-seated distrust of doctors and will not visit one. She just turned 40 and is at the age when she should really be getting regular check-ups but has told me that she'd rather not know what is going on with her health in case it's something bad.

Her Mother died from cancer in her 50's so you'd think she'd want to do anything she could to stave off any possible health problems but sometimes the human mind doesn't work that way.

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Old 07-21-2011, 08:57 PM   #18
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Many people think the same way. Health choices are personal, and some choices are better than others.
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She just turned 40 and is at the age when she should really be getting regular check-ups but has told me that she'd rather not know what is going on with her health in case it's something bad.
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Old 07-21-2011, 08:59 PM   #19
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I hate going to the doctor, but I always think about the alternative and I go. Two episodes drove that home for me.

Lower left abdominal pain and flu like symptoms for a week turned out to be diverticulitis. My colon should have abscessed, I had a fever and white blood count of over 20,000. I got lucky and had 10 inches of colon removed 3 months later and feel great.

A friend felt bad for a couple of weeks or so. He was too macho to go to the doctor. Just grinned and bore it. He finally went after he could hardly stand. He had an infection. Went to his heart and destroyed it. He died within a week. He was 47. If he would have gone in sooner, they might have saved him.

Doctors and hospitals aren't fun, but like they are better than dying.
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Old 07-21-2011, 10:06 PM   #20
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I admit it, I am chicken about going to the doctor. Even if I am a doctor!
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