28 March 2007

The Dangling Carrot

(If you need to catch up on the health issue I write of here, see a previous post)

I had it in my grasp: the answer. After ten months of stomachache, heartburn, and gutache, several doctor’s visits, five different prescriptions, sixteen pounds lost, and two visits to the emergency room, I had it. I had a piece of paper on it that said: this is what you have. This is the cause of your pain.

While grabbing a hold of this provided no immediate physical relief, it was a burden lifted to consider that my mysterious ailments had been brought out of hiding and identified.

Yesterday I found that the carrot I thought I had firmly in my grasp was a phantom, a vapor. How cruel to let the answers flirt with me for two weeks. At my follow-up appointment on March 27, the doctor yanked the carrot out of sight, telling me that everything looks “perfectly healthy and normal”.

Huh? Did I not have a piece of paper on my fridge stating otherwise?

“Do you want to treat this?” he asked me.

“Yes, this is extraordinarily difficult to live with,” was my answer. I made no effort to mask my incredulity at the question.

He says that he believes I have a spastic stomach (which does not take a medical degree to identify; I could have easily told him that myself) and that it needed help to relax. Before I had a chance to ask, I was handed my sixth prescription since this ordeal started and advised that if it didn’t help in a week or two, I was to call and speak with one of his nurses. The time it took for the nurse to take my vitals, to hear this information from the doctor, and to be on my way out spanned about four minutes.

Wha…? Do they take bets on how quickly they can cycle patients out of the office? I had heard this was par for the course with many physicians, especially specialists. Perhaps since my symptoms offered little in the way of anything interesting, I was to be scuttled along to make room for the next set of symptoms (otherwise known as a “patient”).

I had been wham-bam-and-thank-you-ma’amed. My head was spinning; this is not at all what I expected. I had at least hoped to discuss with him treatment for the conditions described on that piece of paper. What about that hiatal hernia? And the gastric mucosal atrophy? Do I have those, or don’t I?

This sort of treatment may make sense to someone in the medical profession, but I left that office scratching my head. Is this really what passes for so-called “healthcare” these days? Having always enjoyed a great state of health, this is the first time I had really encountered what those who are chronically sick must face on a regular basis: feeling like I’ve been reduced to a collection of symptoms; feeling like every pain simply has a new prescription thrown at it; feeling a little deprived of hope, a little disempowered, and a whole lot frustrated.

I wish I had been more adamant with him and insisted that he tell me if the conditions described on that sheet were in fact present realities for me, or whether these were merely initial findings that he had later concluded were false. I wish I knew.

I really don’t have anything against modern medicine, but the more I am in and out of these offices, the more disillusioned I am becoming with how it is practiced. I am not expecting these visits to double as a therapy session, but why can I not have the room to say, “this is how the pain is interrupting my life. I simply want to return to my life”?

It makes me want to stand up and scream: I am more than my medical chart! These symptoms come in a body, and with that body a whole person is attached! I have people I love, things I want to do and love to do, a job, goals to accomplish! Being in a consistently compromised state of health compromises my ability to live fully! Are these things not important?

So I left the medical office yesterday and got the prescription filled. I came home and defiantly set that bottle next to the others. I looked at my mini-pharmacy and thought, there they are: five orange bottles, each of which at one point offered me the hope of relief, if not returned health (one that had been previously prescribed is no longer part of my regimen). The contents of these bottles have not provided me with anything resembling wellness, so my skepticism runs deep as to whether this sixth will be the magical missing link. In fact, I’ve stopped taking most of them since it seems pointless to pump my body full of synthetic drugs that have fallen far short of achieving the purpose for which they were designed.

I have decided that a fresh perspective is needed. I called today and made an appointment for next week with a naturopath (read about
naturopathic medicine). I will be seeing someone who has been recommended by at least two people I trust deeply. I have been drawn to this branch of medicine before because of its holistic approach to healthcare. Where modern medicine tends to focus on treating illness, naturopathy aims to prevent it, embracing the idea that health is the natural state of the body; the emphasis is on treating whole persons as mental, physical, emotional and spiritual beings.

I really am at a loss as how to conclude all this, as I have arrived at no conclusions myself. The answers I thought I had have been replaced by more questions. I feel small, frustrated, angry, a little scared, and a lot like crying. Was it not just a couple weeks ago that after so much waiting, God gave me a long hoped-for answer? I suppose there are lessons even in this: trusting, waiting, waiting, waiting, kneeling with open hands.

I cling firmly to the knowledge that He who made me also holds me fast and trust that perhaps someday, He will use what I currently see as a terrific mess to be a blessing to someone else who needs it.


  1. Oh, Kirsten! I am so sorry. I am screaming with you. I have often left the doctor's office going over all the questions I had meant to ask but had forgotten in the rush of the white coat. Let us know how the naturopath appointment goes.

  2. kirsten- i truly feel for you. isn't it amazing what healthcare has come to?

    sometimes i think the doctors have the routine so downpat, and they know just how to work it so you don't realize that you didn't get to say or ask anything you wanted until you are already outside. that has happened SO many times to me...it's such a whirlwind, and somehow they makes YOU feel guilty if you take up extra time b/c they act like its a bother. but then, when i get the $200 bill for a 5 minute office visit that got me nowhere, i realize that i need to DEMAND their time. it's MY/OUR health.

    i had that happen on a recnt trip to a dermatologist. she did a quick scan and didn't even see the spots i came in for. i had to point them out b/c she was in such a hurry she didn't do a complete body check. my big sis already has had a bout with skin cancer- she had to demand a mole be taken off even when the doctor told her it was nothing to worry about. it ended up being cancerous. if she hadn't listened to her gut, and had listened to the doc instead, who knows?

    now i always take a list in of every thing i want to cover so i don't forget and i make the doctor stay until i'm satisfied that they have LISTENED and answered my questions.

    i'll be interested to see what the naturopath says....you'll have to keep us updated. i believe strongly in natural medicine if it's practiced right. it's been around a lot longer than modern medicine......

  3. Kirsten, let me first say how sorry I was to read this post, both for the information conveyed in it and how you now feel. I felt like I was feeling your feelings, you described it so well. I hate this for you.

    The whole time I was reading the post, I kept thinking, "Alternative medicine. She has to try alternative medicine." And then, lo and behold! You're going to see a naturopathologist already. So great!

    The reason I was clued into the need to consider an alternative approach here is because of all you said about the prescriptions not doing a darn thing and about your need to be dealt with in a wholistic (whole body and soul) way. I work for a Christian book publisher, and one of the book lines with which I work on a daily basis is our health line. And what kind of health books are they? Ones covering alternative (but Christian) approaches to medical care and general health.

    I have been learning so much in the past 6 months (the time I've been at my job) about the health care industry and these other possible ways to approach them. I've learned a lot about prescription medications and how much harm they can do to the body. I've learned a lot, too, about the ideology behind modern medicial practices, which is basically: treat the symptoms, not the source. I can honestly say I never even considered these other ways of beholding the medical profession and our health issues before I started working on these books.

    I really look forward to hearing what you think about this naturopathic doctor. Please make sure to share with all of us!

  4. I feel like I'm overusing this word these days, but here I am going to use it again: WOW. The genuine love & concern displayed overwhelms me to tears. Thank you. I have friends scattered across the country who, through a blog, are being the Body of Christ for me. Fantastic!

    Christin - I was positively fuming once I got my bearings after yesterday's whirlwind appointment. I had a lot of questions to ask, but was a weenie and didn't insist he answer them. Argh.

    BMM - I have heard all these complaints about healthcare before & the need for the patient to be her own advocate, but I never really understood what this meant until I started this journey. I expected "they're supposed to help me, so they will" which is sadly often far from the case. My own aunt (an RN) has told me since Day 1 not to leave until all my questions are asked & I feel like I have been taken care of. The tendency (it seems) is for docs just to want to move on to the next patient. After yesterday, I feel like I better understand the importance of demanding they pay attention to the person right in front of them. Health is not something to be trifled with. Thank you for sharing your own experiences. It is encouraging to know that others have encountered the same thing & can be convincing to the "professional" that something really is wrong, and not to take no for an answer.

    Christianne - my dear, dear friend. Thank you for your kind words. What a tremendous blessing; my heart is swelling with all the encouragement.

    I have been wanting to try alternative medicine for awhile, but held back because of the out-of-pocket costs. Today I realized that I cannot afford not to go at this point. My health is too valuable and clearly, these prescriptions are not doing what they are meant to. I have been doing some reading and learning on modern medicine too & am shocked at what I've learned, especially where pharmaceuticals are concerned. Oy vey! If you have any good books to recommend on the topic (a Christian approach to naturopathy), I'd love to get a list going.

    The naturopath I'm seeing was one my Dad saw about 10-12 years ago, and also recommended to me by my chiropractor, a man of deep faith. They both say this man is a great listener and is not afraid to speak the truth, even if it's difficult to hear. Mostly, I look forward to having my total health addressed.

    Once again, may I say how deeply blessed I feel. It is easy to get so caught up in the present troubles that I fail to take the long view in this. My own mother reminded me today that God will likely use this down the road so that He can use me to be a blessing to someone else. For now, I am the one that is the recipient of blessing.

    Thank you all. I am so glad I read this before I went to bed! :o)

  5. Kirsten, Josh and I are praying for you. We were so happy two weeks ago when we heard there was an "answer." But, we will redouble our prayer efforts and continue asking that God not only reveal the cause but also remove it!

    I have often felt that many doctors, especially specialists (as you mentioned) intentionally use the sterile room, the white coat and the cold examining table as a way of intimidating their patients from asking probing questions. It is a rarity and a treasure when one stumbles upon a doctor who truly listens to his patient, wanting to get the entire picture before jumping to prescribe a try-it-for-a-month-and-let-me-know-if-it-works-because-I -don't-really-think-it-will-but-what-the-hey-I-have-to-give-you-SOMETHING-prescription.

    Please let us know how your visit with the neuropath goes.

  6. Rebecca - thank you to both for your prayers. I count myself to be so blessed by the Lord to have so many godly people praying for me.

    This has been such a lesson in trusting the Lord, a lesson in patience, and a lesson in being my own advocate. It's not over yet, and I am sure there is much more for me to learn.

    You are so right about finding those wonderful doctors who take the time to listen & understand as opposed to writing out scrips left & right. Based on what I've heard about this naturopath, he is this kind of man.

    I will keep you all updated as to the progress once I know more.

    Blessings to you all!

  7. Surely a rough road. I feel so sad about your pain. Praying for you, okay?

    But you, O LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head. Ps 3:3

  8. LL - Thank you. I am humbled that so many I have never met are offering up prayers on my behalf.

    Really and truly, I am grateful.

  9. Feeling for you, Kristen. Praying for your healing and wholeness, knowing God will be glorified in your life.

    "“He prayed as he breathed, forming no words and making no specific requests, only holding in his heart, like broken birds in cupped hands, all those people who were in stress or grief.”—Ellis Peters

  10. Beautiful quote, 23 Degrees! Thanks for stopping by, & I echo my thanks to you for your prayers.