I grew up watching Ben Casey, Dr. Kildare and Marcus Welby compassionately care for their television patients. This fictional medical world became my reality because, as I have said before, I was a relatively healthy – if large – child. My medical visits were few and far in between. I can only think of one major illness – other than my marriage – that I suffered through as an adult, that of a particularly bad case of pneumonia.
I tell you this because it’s important for you to understand that I always believed “doctors” were right; that their knowledge was absolute.
Old age has bought me a clarified wisdom; doctors only know what they have been taught. They prescribe and recommend based on what they have been taught.
Old age has taught me I can “Just say no”.
The following is a true version of what transpired in my General Practitioner’s office just this morning.
NOTE: If only to prevent this day ending with me having a headshot of me taken with me holding a card with numbers across the bottom, my thoughts are in italics.
Background: Reason for visit: 6 month “wellness check”, review blood work, and request a prescription of physical therapy for my left shoulder.
Doctor: Good to see you. I see you are steadily losing weight – I am glad you took advantage of those weight loss programs I suggested.
Me: I smile. (No, I did not go to Weight Watchers or to that Quick Weight Loss Program; I lost nearly 140 pounds with acupuncture, Chinese Herbs and clean eating.)
Doctor: Your blood pressure is 123/72. I think we can stop your second pill. You seem to be adjusting to the medicine quite well.
Me: I smile. (I strongly believe that since I have been up to three prescriptive meds a day for high blood pressure, that acupuncture and Chinese herbs, along with meditation have significantly lowered my blood pressure.)
Doctor: I see you need some prescriptions refilled; how is your IBS? Do you need the dry eye medicine refilled? And how are your sinuses? And I suspect you need some painkillers for your arthritis? Don’t you need refills on your sleep medication?
Me: I smile – and here I actually speak: “Thank you for your concern, Doctor, but all of these have been successfully treated with acupuncture, Chinese herbs, chiropractic services as well as nutritional counseling. To be perfectly candid, I’m really not into taking pills – especially since there is an alternative.”
Doctor: Well, that’s admirable, but you need to remember that sometimes you do need “real’ medicines. I have your blood work here – your Vitamin D levels are great, your B-12 levels are great – as are all your labs – including cholesterol and sodium.
Me: I smile. (I suspect that clean TCM eating and acupuncture working their magic again. And what’s with the “real medicine” crack – shouldn’t medicine prevent and cure? Chinese herbs and homeopathic remedies are as real as prescribed meds.)
Doctor: Well, what can I do for you? You don’t seem to need anything from me; how can I help you?
Me: I explain that my chiropractor and acupuncturist have suggested that I have physical therapy for my left shoulder and for my knees. I explain how they have worked on me, how I have had TCM cupping, acupuncture and chiropractic massage. I show her the printout of the exercises I do daily. (I feel bad she feels unneeded but then I remember the Chinese proverb that says “the sign of a good doctor is how many patients he can get OFF of medications, not how many people he puts ON medications.”)
Doctor: She does a cursory check of my range of movement and suggests I see an orthopedic, because a “frozen shoulder” is nothing to play around with. She talks about surgery. She reminds me that almost three years ago I was supposed to have my knees replaced. Don’t I want to be totally pain-free? She can prescribe muscle relaxers as well as pain pills – just in case? Naturopaths are fine – but sometimes, you have to go for the “Big Guns” to treat orthopedic issues. Additionally she adds, “If I send you to an orthopedic, he can inject you with cortisone – eliminating all pain immediately.”
ME: I am still smiling but I admit my smile is more of a grimace. I explain that I do not want to simply mask the pain – I want to eliminate the cause of the pain. I explain that a double knee replacement is not something I want to just jump into – especially since everyone I know who has had this surgery has had complications. Even more importantly, the literature on knee replacements shows that for the most part, the replacements last for 10 years. Because I really do not want to be facing more surgery in my 70’s, I’ll just do what I can without drugs and hope that new developments will come to light within the next few years. I explain that any pain I experience now is handles by the homeopathic remedy of Traumeel. (I am remembering how both TCM cupping and acupuncture – along with physical therapy and chiropractic care – have left me relatively pain-free. My concern now is my range of motion. I am also thinking she should never have used the phrase “Big Guns” because “Big Guns” to me is the equivalent of Big Pharma. And lastly, what part of “not wanting to mask the pain but eliminate the cause of the pain” is such a difficult concept to understand?)
Doctor: Now, she smiles, and tells me I am such a flower child. She reminds me that Traumeel is not a “real medicine”.
Me: I smile. (Again with the comment about “real medicine, no matter how effective! And yes, damn straight, I am a flower child – and proud of it, wilting though I may be!)
Doctor: She then tells me that I am in luck; she can write a PT prescription for both my shoulder and knees because “my codes” match up for my insurance to pay.
Me: I smile. (I am thrilled that some unknown, non-medical person sitting behind a desk has agreed that “my codes” warrant an intervention. Not my actual health needs, not my doctor, but some anonymous, faceless insurance person is deemed to be the person to make my health care payment decisions.)
That was exactly what transpired from 9:30Am to 10:30AM. I am now home and I have scheduled for my PT evaluation. I am sipping my herbs – and hopefully – I will see my acupuncturist this afternoon.
I share this with you because I want everyone to know there is always a choice; that while the days of the TV doctors may be fictional and long gone, one’s resilience and ability to decide for themselves is still very much alive.
And thank goodness my vocal filter is still functioning!