Why is it so difficult to figure out what’s wrong with a person?
A beautiful illustration of this point is on my refrigerator. It’s a cartoon of a man sitting on an examining table in a doctor’s office. There’s a knife sticking out of his back. The doctor looks at him and says, “Hmm…you say you have a sharp, stabbing pain?”
That scene describes almost every interaction I’ve ever had with a doctor.
My problem is for the last year I’ve felt as if I’m being poisoned from the inside out. There’s an electric buzz running through my body 24 hours a day. I have constant pressure in my lower left side.
After trying all sorts of alternative healers, none that really helped, I give into convention. Tired of feeling miserable all the time, I decide to make a doctor’s appointment, always a last resort.
Great idea, right? Wrong. Nothing like feeling miserable AND being patronized by your doctor. That’s where the term adding insult to injury comes from. At least alternative doctors feign caring.
“I have good news!” the doctor chirps as he alights upon the room. “You’re fine!” I feel like screaming I’m not fine and frankly if you can’t figure out what’s wrong with me say that, don’t tell me I’m fine. I stare him down.
“Amy.” He gets serious. “Your blood tests are normal. Everything’s normal.” Which obviously means there’s nothing more to do or look at. He emphasizes his words as if I’m an idiot. “You. Are. Fine.” he repeats, closing the file, folding his hands on-top of it indicating the conversation’s over.
The take-this-pill-to-stop-that-symptom, and this-pill-to-counteract-the-effects -you-don’t-want-from-the-other-pill-I-just-prescribed society we live in is failing me. No pills for me.
I’m not fine so my search for help continues. Someone I know suggests an herbal scientist. “What do you do?” I inquire. He tells me he uses scientific methods to determine effectiveness of herbs for various illnesses. His methods for diagnosis are live blood analysis and iridology. “I read your eyes,” he says with a smile in his voice, “they’re a map to your body.” Fascinating. I make an appointment.
Just as I hang up my new acquaintance Emily calls. I enthusiastically tell her about the appointment. Co-producer of a show on NPR highly coveted by the New Age crowd, Emily knows a lot of these folks. “What’s his name?” “Jim Biscuit.”
“Oh, I know him.” The disdain is palpable. “Don’t go to him. He’s not cutting edge enough.”
“He’s working on a process to regrow teeth,” I remind her. “That seems pretty cutting edge to me.” I also remind her at one time leeches were considered “cutting edge.”
She didn’t even acknowledge I’d spoke. “I’ll get you the names of others,” she says as if I has asked. She’s certain that because of her opinion I’m cancelling my appointment.
Jumping off the cutting edge onto the blunt rim I show up at my appointment with Jim Biscuit. First he sterilizes my finger with Ketel One Vodka, telling me it’s better than isopropyl because it’s not poison, which makes sense. “It’s also my duty to teach,” he reminds me.
Next he pricks my finger letting the blood drip onto a slide and places it under a microscope. Then, on the video monitor, I see a sea of cells. I watch as different shaped objects float around in my blood. I’m fascinated by the little worm shaped parasites pushing to move in and out of cells, finally breaking through after what seems like a gazillion attempts. There’s a whole world in there.
“No need to worry about all the misshaped cells,” Jim assures me. Not knowing where to begin worrying I just look at him. “We have supplements,” he continues. Ta-da! Of course you do, I think to myself. Everything these days comes around to take this pill. It’s either the drug companies or the supplement companies. Pills. Pills. Pills.
As a reference point for my next visit Jim makes a videotape of my blood. I thought it needed a soundtrack, like the theme to Jaws or something; the crescendo rising just as the parasite finally breaks through the cell wall, if we could all just lean that kind of persistence.
Next iridology…it was time to read my eyes. Jim looked intently into my eyes and charted what he saw on a big blank eye map. Upon finishing he pointed to an area he had colored in and told me that he didn’t know what it was, but this spot indicated a problem in my lower left side.
Incidentally, I came in mentioning something like that.
“What is it” I asked.
Herein lies the problem with this type of “medicine.”
“I don’t know,” he answers. “But if I were you I would get it checked by a doctor.”
“Why do you think I came to see you?” I don’t like the way this is going.
“Well I can help you with supplements for your blood, but you really should get that area checked. I don’t want to alarm you, but do it soon.”
What was I going to do? Go back to the doctor and tell him an herbal scientist told me to get my lower left side checked because something showed up when he read my eye? The doctor couldn’t find anything when I had actual pain, let alone some voodoo doctor’s tea leaf reading.
Jim Biscuit gives me supplements and sends me on my way. I figure at least I can get my blood cells back in shape. I tolerate the pressure in my gut and go on with life, thinking something must be terribly wrong but fed up with trying to find out what.
Three months later I was dead. Okay, not really. But, three months later I’m struck with a case of diverticulitis, something I never even knew existed. It’s what happens when the pouches in your colon become enflamed. Jim Biscuit saw it three months earlier in my eyes, but doctors with all their fancy medical equipment can’t seem to figure it out unless one is in the middle of a full-on attack. Perhaps they should work together.
How did I finally figured out my fate? I felt bad enough on a Saturday afternoon to spend the day in bed. The next evening, I was at Thai Restaurant with a friend feeling worse and worse. The constant pressure in my side gradually turned to pain and I couldn’t eat. When I can’t eat, something’s wrong. I asked to be taken home.
I called the doctor first thing next morning and got a late afternoon appointment. I was instructed to go to the emergency room if necessary beforehand.
My appointment finally arrived. My doctor had a what now? look on his face and still thought nothing was wrong with me evidenced by him offering me a CT in a manner equivalent to offering me a glass of water. “Would you like some water? Would you like a CT scan?” “YES, I want a CT scan. Anything that might help. What don’t you get about this?”
I was able to get a CT scan as quickly as late afternoon the next day; my gut could have exploded in the meantime — “If you start to hemorrhage” they said, “go to the emergency room,” but hey, no worries. They were awfully calm about the possibility of my needing a colostomy bag.
As I arrived home from taking the test my phone was ringing. It was the doctor. “You were correct. There is something wrong.” I was not amused.
“You have diverticulitis. I won’t put you in the hospital but get to the pharmacy immediately. I’ll call you tomorrow with more instructions.” He put his nurse on the phone. Pills for me.
I was in bed for ten days on Cipro and Flagyl, mass murders of the antibiotic world. When the doctor called the next day, among other things, he advised me to “talk to a surgeon” about getting part of my colon cut out.
I met with the surgeon for purely educational purposes. I figured it was good practice listening to an opposing view and not replying with attitude. I’m not a fan of elective surgery, especially the where a piece of anything “gets cut out.” I listened graciously, asked a few questions, thanked the surgeon, and exited without taking his card.
I don’t know if I was returning to the cutting edge or just leaving it, I just knew I was time to continue my search for those in the healing profession who look at the body as a whole, not as bit and pieces readily to be removed as the first resort instead of as the last.
Addendum: This happened in 2003. It’s 2017 and I am still 100% intact.