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Posts Tagged ‘doctors’

Western medicine thinks I have IBS. Eastern medicine thinks my eternal fire is cool and needs to be reheated. Whatever the issue is, I’ve been spending a lot of time hanging out with a reasonably attractive GI doctor who I like to pretend hasn’t performed a sigmoidoscopy on me, and a doll-sized acupuncturist who communicates with my body in adept and eerily truth-finding ways.

The acupuncturist and I giggle together at moments like when I talk about existential panic that wakes me up at night and she responds with, “It’s fun! This is a puzzle we get to figure out,” and then realizes how that comes across. Dr. GI and I share a cold room where we each wish the other understood what we were communicating better.

Dr. GI and I had a conversation that went like this:

Me: “I’ve gained 5 pounds since this all began. Which seems weird considering everything has been coming out of my body at an alarming rate. Do you think there’s a correlation – like my intestines are inflamed?”

Doc: “Have you tried counting calories? If you’re gaining weight, there’s nothing wrong with you.”

The acupuncturist and I had a similar conversation.

Me: “I’ve gained 5 pounds since this all began. Which seems weird considering everything has been coming out of my body at an alarming rate. Do you think there’s a correlation – like my intestines are inflamed?”

Her: “I think it’s all related. The dreams, the panic, the physical symptoms – it’s probably due to subconscious and generational stress. Which we’re going to figure out how to get rid of.” When she communes with my body, she murmurs faster than I’ve ever heard a human speak, almost a tranced chant until she looks me in the eye and asked questions like, “What happened at conception that would have colored your life with a sense of pointlessness?” and “What happened at birth that made you feel abandoned and disdainful toward those who don’t like you?” and “What happened at age 2 that made you feel guilty?” and “Whose abandonment are you holding onto for them at age 32?”I tend to stare at her blankly, and she says, “First response/best response” like it’s a poem.

It’s akin to therapy at the speed of light, making me want to ask my parents questions I always assumed I never needed to know answers to, like “Tell me your innermost feelings at the time of my conception so I can perhaps understand why my insides are falling out.”

To appease Dr. GI – or perhaps to spite him – I’ve downloaded MyFitnessPal in order to track my exercise and count calories. Writing down what I’ve eaten is a familiar task, one I carried with me for the better part of my twenties in small notebooks tucked in my purse. I can tell you what I ate on this day in 2007, 2008, and 2009. I’m recording it all now again because I want to be able to go back to the doctor and say “See? I’m not a calorie munching maniac. Now please tell me why I’m gaining weight and how it relates to my intestines.” There’s another piece of me that is worried he’s right.

MyFitnessPal has instructed me to eat 1260 calories a day (more if I exercise) in order to lose the five pounds. The obsessive feeling is familiar. I stare at food like it’s a number, not a taste or an experience. The ” if I can’t figure out how to count calories then I don’t want to bother eating it” feeling while I’m out to brunch is familiar too.

The acupuncturist gives me herbs I can’t pronounce with specific instructions: four scoops, three times a day, an hour after meals or medicine – mixed in warm water. Soak for 30 minutes, boil for 45. Eat more cinnamon. Eat four apples a day.

I’m not sure who is right. All I know is my physical existence feels like it’s been reduced to numbers. On a scale. In a scoop. Minutes of exercise. Glasses of water. Words per minute.

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Being interested in the world of health, men’s and women’s, my ears perk up like a fox who hears a hunting horn when NPR’s All Things Considered starts reporting any sort of wellness news. Naturally, in the last few days I keep hearing these reports about how doctors are now going to be recommending that women do not need to have an annual mammogram until the age of 50, rather than the age of 40. Their reasoning: mammograms do more harm than good.

When I heard that statement, mammograms do more harm than good, I thought, “Holy Apollo, really? What kind of badness? Are they toxic? Is this like X-raying your foot when you have it measured?” I was in the car driving to soccer with my boyfriend, and I’m pretty sure I turned the radio up over something he was saying to hear more. Cell phones be damned, NPR is more dangerous to my driving than having a conversation — I was a hungered wildabeast who had to know the latest breast-cancer prevention news.

Apparently, what the harm in mammograms boils down to two things:

1. There are false positives.
2. These false positives lead to biopsies and possible removal of uncancerous lumps of healthy breasts, and an aircraft carrier load of  anxiety for the women who undergo these procedures.

Those doctors are pretty smart, you know? I cannot wait for them to start applying this logic to other medical tests. Honestly, when they have recommended that I get that damn AIDS test, I’m incapable of having a thought for the next two weeks while I wait for my results. Talk about anxious. And they have more false positives than false negatives with those things — off with the AIDS test head, I say!

Oh, and pregnancy tests! Those are another source of concern for women and men. My heart-rate becomes audible as I’m waiting for the results of that pleasant experience, whether I’ve peed on a stick or simply had blood drawn. And again, like the AIDS test, pregnancy tests are known to provide false positives. Why put couples (or non couples) through that stressful test at all?

Obviously, these tests are doing more harm than good.

Another point that really galls me is the print-out you get with medication these days that lists all the things you should not do while taking the medication and gives a run down of the side effects. Along with the side effects, there is a comment that reads something akin to this — Remember, your doctor has prescribed this medication to you because he or she has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects.  Does not the same hold true for tests? You have the test because the benefit is great than the risk? Wouldn’t you rather have an ambiguous lump removed than wonder if you’re okay? Are there women out there who have had a breast biopsied and thought, “Darn, that was a waste of time?” when they found out it wasn’t cancerous? I think, and I speak with experience not in breasts but in other regions, they were simply relieved. Honestly, my first thought when I heard the why behind doctor’s pushing back the age of mammograms, I sort of thought they were being lazy–or is it the insurance companies that are lazy? If having the mammograms and checking out worrisome areas is not taking up significant time that could be spent on other people, what is the harm?

Granted, I realize that I was born into and raised in the American health care system, and my tendency might always be to be hyper-vigilant and over-treated (and if you add in my hypochondria, I’m a prime candidate to want everything to be checked out), so perhaps I’m making sand castles out of piles of sand here. Still though, based on their analysis of the amount of mammogram harm, any other test is producing the same amount of harm — I find their reasoning to appear fishy and be unsound.

So what is the real reason?

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