My French Canadian Doctor

Before I moved from Washington State, I had a Canadian doctor who studied in France. Walking into his clinic was like walking onto a set from an X-Files episode: everything was weirdly out of date and just not right. His equipment was vintage 1970s or looked like it had been cobbled together with scavenged pieces from machines that had quit working. But I loved that man. He’s one of the few people I’ve known who would look you in the eye and tell you the truth. I’m lucky to have another doctor like him now. 

I found my doc after shuttling my previous MD, who was all talk. That was all he did. You know the type: every visit revolved around one question: “So, how are you doing?” If I were an MD, I could probably tell him, but I considered it to be his job to tell me how I was doing. Instead, by the look of his waiting room, he viewed his job as funneling as many hapless souls through his money-making machine as was possible in a day. He probably drives a 1973 Porsche RSR America. Bastard.

Francois was different. He tested for everything each time I saw him and then called me at home later to discuss the results. I liked that he was a proponent of lifestyle medicine. His goal wasn’t to treat symptoms and run people out the door but he wanted to help his patients learn how to live healthy lives. The world would be a better place with more doctors like him. Heck, more people like him in general.

A Fatherly Chat

When I turned fifty, he asked me the sit down for a fatherly chat.

“You’re fifty now,” he said, “let’s talk about the fork in the road.” I was used to his peculiarities but wasn’t sure where he was going. “You’re healthy now, and you have the choice to stay that way. But some of your numbers are starting to elevate. It’s normal but something we will want to address in time.”

“We can do this one of two ways. For most people, I just start prescribing drugs. I don’t like it, but it’s the American Way. You start now with one or two pills twice a day and by the time you are seventy you’re taking fifteen.”

“The other way is to get fit and stay healthy. It’s the hard way. You need to drop about ten pounds and stay that way. You need to keep up with a good diet and daily exercise. But you really have to do it. Everyone tells me that they want to do it, but no one does. It’s up to you.” He gave me the seriously concerned father look.

I’ve never forgotten this conversation and consider it the best medical advice I’ve been given.

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