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Maria Menounos on Why You Should Get a Primary Care Doctor, Stat

By Maria Menounos | February 14, 2018 | Rally Health

Most people — women, especially — don’t go to a doctor until something is wrong. And so many of us don’t even have a primary care doctor, someone we can go to for general problems as well as advice when we need to see other specialists like gynecologists, gastroenterologists, or surgeons. That’s what happened to me — I was one of the people who didn’t have a primary care doctor. When I was first trying to find out what was causing my splitting headaches, forcing me to miss work and feel so unlike myself, I didn’t know whom to talk to, and that was a huge hurdle to overcome.

For those of you nodding along, who also don’t have a primary care doctor, it’s understandable: A primary care doctor is like a rare diamond these days. In California, it seems concierge doctors — basically, services where you pay an annual retainer to have a primary care doctor — are becoming much more popular. That means even finding a primary care doctor is tough, because with concierge service practices, doctors typically have fewer patients.

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I had a primary care doctor about eight years ago, but she changed her practice to focus on Medicaid patients. So then I didn’t have one. For eight years! I finally found Ryan Aronin, MD, at UCLA, who was suggested to me by my friend and  gastroenterologist Eric Esrailian, MD. I told him that I absolutely needed a primary care doctor, and he said that the man to see was Dr. Aronin.

And, thankfully, I went to him! I went in thinking I had an ear infection, and soon after he checked my ears, he was like, “You don’t have an ear infection, what other symptoms are you experiencing?’ By the time I finished listing all the symptoms, I was like, “Oh my God, I think I have a brain tumor, like my mom.”

That seemed almost unbelievable. But he sent me for an MRI, and thank God he did, because we found the tumor and were able to get it out. I can’t believe it took me so long to get help, though.

Recently, I had time to really look back on the last year, where I was having to leave work because of the pain. Twice, I had episodes where I was in so much pain, I couldn’t describe it: I was really lightheaded, the headaches were so painful. I didn’t know what was happening to me. It felt like my body was just shutting down.  

That’s not like me. I was at work, 15 minutes before hosting my show, and I had to say, “I can’t do this.” And even then, I ignored it. I’ve always been able to do anything; to get myself together. I look back now and realize I really suffered for a long time. And thank God Dr. Aronin caught it when he did, because it was only getting worse and worse.

As women, we often put ourselves last. We only call doctors when we’re sick and need antibiotics. That’s what I always did, and I think a lot of people are like that. We’re busy, and as women, we’re often the primary caretakers in the family. For me, I don’t have kids, but I have my parents, I have my dogs, and I have so many people who depend on me. I’m always busy and having to say, “Sorry, I don’t have time for you, body. What, you’re not feeling well? Suck it up and go to work.”

And we have to change that, because we deserve better. Listen to your body, and don’t let minor problems become major ones. Finding a primary care doctor — one you feel comfortable with, who you can talk to about anything, and who gets to know you — can be a lifesaving decision. So, what are you waiting for?

Maria Menounos
Rally Health