Essay, Reflections

On Sickness and Health…

Today I want to talk about health and healing.  I want to talk about sickness and disease.  I want to talk about living and dying.  And to do that, I want to briefly tell the stories of two very dear friends of mine…

On the one hand is M.  A non-smoker for probably 30 years or so, she nonetheless contracted lung cancer.  Being among the 98% of us, she did not have access to cutting edge, experimental cancer treatments that target only cancer cells, and so had to settle for traditional chemo and radiation treatments, which made her feel a lot sicker.  But she was a fighter, kept an incredibly positive outlook most of the time, and relied on faith, prayer and strength of will to see her through the process.

And she defeated the cancer three times!

But then one day, feeling off, she returned to the doctors to find her “numbers were off.”  After running diagnostic tests, they determined she was having, or might have a heart attack, so they put in a stint to prevent it.  She developed sepsis (a systemic infection), which the doctors eventually got under control.  But while in hospital, she also contracted pneumonia.  The antibiotics they gave her did not touch it, because, as the doctors said, her immune system was so compromised by the cancer treatments, that she couldn’t fight off the infection.

The decision was made to not pursue any other treatment, and two days later, she died.  From pneumonia, though all official claims were that she died from “complications arising from the cancer.”  Though certainly we all understand it was complications from the treatment of said cancer, as the cancer was gone…

When I tell that story, people nod their understanding, almost everyone I know having known someone who experienced the same tale.  We accept that; it’s “how it is,” however sad that might be…

Then there is R.  She has died, or nearly died multiple times, yet she keeps coming back.  And she continues to smoke occasionally.  Most recently, she went off in an ambulance believing she was having another heart attack (she also has a stint in place from a former attack).  Turns out, according to xrays and countless other expensive diagnostic equipment, that she had a collapsed lung instead, though the doctors could not say for certain why.  They thought she had pneumonia, and so treated her for that.  They also discovered a mass in her lung they thought cancerous…

Three days later they released her from the hospital with a boatload of medications, the most important of which (that is, the one that would allow her to breathe with only one lung functioning) was not covered by her excellent insurance for some reason.  They put her on oxygen 24/7, and set up further testing and follow-up to address the likely lung cancer.  That was on Sunday.

She struggled, reeling from the diagnosis, and the reality she might be on oxygen for the rest of her life.  She tried to stay mentally positive, but accepted she was physically helpless, unable to really care for herself.  She started considering end of life options.  She relied on others to “do” for her what she felt unable to do herself…

Tuesday she met with her primary doctor, discussing potential treatment options for the cancer, should it be confirmed as such.  Wednesday she had a follow-up xray in preparation for the scope and biopsy tests which would follow.  Thursday morning she told me something was terribly wrong; even with the oxygen, she couldn’t catch her breath.  She couldn’t decide if she should wait until her scheduled appointment at the hospital later that day, or call an ambulance to go in sooner.  She decided to wait…

When the doctor showed her the xray taken Wednesday, compared to the one taken when she’d first come in by ambulance, he was thrilled to tell her she was completely healed!  The lung was reinflated, the mass/spots on her lung were gone, and there was no pneumonia present.  He called it “spontaneous healing,” to which she responded, “we call it the power of prayer.”

These two women were only about 5 years apart in age.  Both dealt with cancer, heart attack, stint, and pneumonia.  Each dealt with it her own way; one fighting to the bitter end, one giving up with hardly a whimper.  Yet one died while the other lived.  These two cases intrigue me both in their similarities and in their differences.  I sense something for me to learn by looking at them side by side, since both women were important friends of mine, though neither knew the other…

My own experiences with the health care system have left me less than impressed.  I am appalled at their inability to diagnose even simple conditions, in spite of thousands of $’s spent on expensive equipment and tests.  My last encounter with them was in 2008-2009.  Almost two years of my life, and countless money wasted to get absolutely nowhere fast.  In summary, I went to the ER in 2008 when a stomach ache I’d had for weeks became unbearable.  Here’s what I was told:

  • Several doctors argued outside my ER cubicle over who should have the right to treat me first, as there were so many things wrong, requiring different specialists.
  • The surgeon told me I should already be dead, and likely soon would be, because he kept getting overridden in subsequent discussions.
  • I was released after 5 days, and a huge hospital bill with no medication, and a referral to my primary doctor.
  • I was able to work a day and a half, before I was back in the hospital for emergency surgery.  It was too late, as the damage was done.  I had peritonitis from a burst cyst.
  • I required 6 weeks for recovery from surgery that should only require 10 days.  When I informed my surgeon that green goop was leaking from my incisions, I was told that wasn’t right, but it could wait a few more days until my appointment.
  • When I told my endocrinologist, who happened to be director of a local diabetes clinic, that my pancreas was still inflamed, I was told that wasn’t his area of expertise.  For those who might not know, the pancreas is part of the endocrine system, and the primary producer of insulin in the body.  For this specialist to say it wasn’t his area of expertise was an insult to my intelligence, the medical profession, and his patients.  But when I fired him, no other endocrinologist would take up my case, claiming I was a difficult patient.
  • When the joint problems started, and the eye disease, and the medication they wanted to prescribe exacerbated other ongoing conditions, I was told I needed to get another job!  That was my prescription…

Needless to say, I haven’t been back since, and I am often criticized for that.  I am told that we must address the actual sicknesses within our bodies if we are to heal.  And that may be so.  But here’s my point:

My friend M acted as though she was well, because the doctors told her so, when the truth was that their treatments had made her very sick instead.  Meanwhile R acted sick even after she was healed, because the doctors told her so.  And today M is dead and R is trying to make peace with all she cannot do anymore.  And the doctors helped them how?

I have been wrestling with an earache for a couple days now; no doubt a simple infection.  But I refuse to seek treatment knowing that my earache will only give them permission to start labelling all my other health issues.  And I do not want to know.  I really don’t care these days about living forever; I would much rather die in peace.  And if I am truly as “sick” as doctors would have me believe, then sooner is likelier than later.

But I reason I can push my body, push myself, to live what time I have.  And when I cannot push it any farther, then my body itself will let me know.  So far that has not occurred, though it amazes me that I continue day after day, in spite of everything.

I’m sure the “proper” path winds somewhere between these three extremes, but moderation has never been my strong suit.  And today, anyway, I continue to breathe…

Though I might just shove a screwdriver in my ear if the buzzing and the pressure don’t relent soon!  😉


6 thoughts on “On Sickness and Health…

  1. Oh no, got me stirred up on the medical farce. Recently something unusual happened to me: my left leg stopped working and the pain in it was, well, unbearable. Thinking the worst (expect the worst, you’ll never be disappointed is my live-by motto) I broke a 40 year medical fast and had the neighbor drive me to ‘THE Emergency” Typically of BC medical care, I went through the three wickets with the drones behind the bullet-proof glass firing questions and filling forms. Then 3 hours of musical chairs and equally musical rooms until at the end of the labyrinth I was confronted by a zombie who passed himself off as a doctor. So I explained my problem but he needed my medical history. Thinking to make it easier on him I said, “None. Haven’t seen a doctor in 40 years.” Frown. A couple of dozen questions. Finally he plunked himself down on a chair facing me, looked into my face and said with a deep sigh, “So what would you like me to do for you?” Exact words. Never stuck for appropriate responses, I said, “Well doc that’s very simple: fix me or shoot me.” I got “the look” and he said, “Wait here, I’ll need to consult.” So he brought his “consultant” – a somewhat older than him woman doctor. She went a bit further, putting me down on a table, poking, asking questions, frowning at the appropriate places and finally fitting me with a half dozen prescriptions to the tune of $150 and which did nothing more than really upsetting my system’s rhythm, if you know what I mean. So I asked my neighbor what to do and she said, go see a chiropractor. Which I did and after about 20 minutes of massaging and twisting of this and that, “you have a pinched sciatica and this should take care of it, but if you need more, make an appointment and come back in a few days. Go kayaking!” And sure enough, I felt about 20 years younger, dumped the pills and went kayaking. I still feel 20 years younger a month later. So, personally I’m glad I had the opportunity to prove to myself that the medical “profession” is nothing short of quackery, ignorance and doctors are peddlers of Big Pharma’s snake oil medicines. I didn’t have to adjust my opinion formed 40 years ago. I don’t know if there are legitimate non-medical-quackery healthy health promoting medicines out there to maintain our defective Earthian bodies and I don’t care. I’m in sudden death overtime and frankly I’m tired of working overtime. So, as they say up here, “Bring it on!”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is the most beautiful thing I have read in a while. I will reblog it. You are outstanding. You have the magic I saw in you from the git (I’m taking credit for having discovered you, see…).

    Liked by 1 person

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