Have I ever told you about The Form? My apologies if I’m repeating myself. (I’m told my memory isn’t the greatest lately, but we’ll get to that later.) The Form is a Cancer Centre outpatient questionnaire addressing how I’m feeling spiritually, emotionally, and physically since my last appointment. Some questions are on that ridiculous 1-10 scale. If I’m depressed or anxious or having trouble finding the meaning in life, I note it here. If I’m constipated or short of breath or having night sweats, I check a box. If I’ve been in hospital since I was last seen, I record it. I tell The Form if I need any medication refills.
Imagine going to a psychologist and having to fill out a form before every session. I won’t ask you how you’re feeling; I’ll get you to complete this form so we can discuss it in our appointment. “I see your depression has gone from a 4 last session to a 9 today. Can you please explain?” There is a place for questionnaires in assessment or research, but not in the kind of therapy I do. If a psychologist had me rate my feelings on a questionnaire before we met rather than asking me directly, I’d fire her forthwith.
I must sound like I really resent The Form, and I used to. If you want to know how I’m feeling, ask me. I don’t resent it anymore, though, because I’ve seen the huge numbers of patients that go through the clinic each week, and realize that medical staff need some way to streamline the process. When it’s my turn, they still ask me how I am; they can just focus their questions better since I’ve listed my concerns for them. And they always make time to address any major concerns I might have.
Not only do I accept The Form, J. and I like to have a little fun with it. In fact, over time The Form has become a highlight of our Cancer Centre visits. J. scribes for me and we try to inject humour to keep everyone on their toes.
This is how we approach the task: J. pretends to ask me how I’m feeling, and then decides on the answers herself. Every so often I make her change her response. For example, when she circled “10” for anxiety yesterday and refused to change it, I made her add a happy face beside it. Then I challenged her for checking the memory/concentration box–I just finished our taxes!!–by asking for an example. She said she couldn’t remember any. Yes, we both laughed.
Our favourite part is the list of specific cancer concerns at the end. J. always records the few I have–e.g., should I be worried about the low-grade fevers I’ve been getting lately (no)–and then adds a curveball. Yesterday’s zinger? “Why is she so bitchy lately?” We both thought this was quite funny, as did the nurse, thank goodness.
The Form aside, my appointment went well, my blood counts have rebounded from the infection-related bone marrow strike, and we’re up, up, and away next week. Now if I can just stay healthy through the end of the month….