Pris Campbell

Count Down

Back in May, after two doctor visits, a scan, X-rays and a foot MRI, it was determined that the excruciating pain beneath my left ankle was due to two cysts pressing against a nerve. My orthopedist set me up for an operation the following week to remove them.

Anesthesia would be required, so the surgery would take place in the outpatient section of a nearby hospital. The operation was scheduled for 3:30 p.m., and I was told to be there at 2 for the prep work.

Just in Time

I still remember the thrill when the Roe v. Wade decision was issued. In grad school, a friend had tried to abort with a coat hanger when her boyfriend dumped her and offered no support. I was always careful about contraception but knew a number of women who became pregnant even using it. I never expected to need an abortion but was grateful once I had that option.

Doctor Knows Best

I worked as a PhD clinical psychologist for many years and was respected for my knowledge and hard work. There were exceptions, of course: mainly from the male psychiatrists I crossed paths with. This should have prepared me for my experiences as a patient, when I saw male doctors for health issues. Not so.

It Could Have Been Me

When I was a sophomore in high school, I went with the band director’s son and wife to a weekend band clinic a couple of hours away from my South Carolina home. This was the 1950s, when bench seats in cars were common, so we all rode in the front seat. On the way home, Mrs. Mills suggested we stop in a town forty minutes from home to attend church—not an unexpected suggestion in that Bible Belt place and time.


Prior to my illness, I never had a regular doctor. I felt no need for one. My experiences with my small-town doctor growing up had convinced me that doctors cared. Doctors listened. Doctors would help when needed.

When I was hit with the very difficult neuroimmune illness, myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), I was terrified. The symptoms knocked me into outer space; they were unlike anything I had experienced before.


She was my head nurse on a treatment unit for psychiatric patients. In the course of our work we became as close as sisters. When she developed breast cancer with heavy spread into the lymph nodes, I was devastated but not surprised. She lit one cigarette from the last one throughout those days before smoking was banned.

Stubborn as a Mule

I remember my mother referring to me from early childhood on as “stubborn as a mule.” That trait has held me in good stead when dealing with authority figures or doctors who have tried to talk me into doing something I knew wasn’t right.

The event I remember most, though, comes from my grammar school years. A girl in our class was “retarded” (the term used then), as was her mother. She came to school with her hair uncombed, clothes dirty, and wearing no underpants. Each day at recess a group of boys encouraged her to go on the hanging bars so they could run under and look up her dress.

The Scales Fall Off

I grew up in a tiny town the Deep South in the 1950s. Racism was everywhere, but I was too young to know there was another way. “Colored people” (the term used then) had their own waiting room at the doctor’s office. They had a separate entrance and sat in the balcony at the movie theater. They were never seen downtown; it was an unwritten rule that blacks could only be downtown if they were performing menial labor there.
The “colored people” all lived in one section of town, where they became “n*****s” when drunks drove through, throwing bottles and cans and laughing. I’m grateful I was taught that that was very wrong.
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