I like to get to the root cause of issues; to solve puzzles. If I look to any reason why I became disillusioned with Western medicine it is probably that particular trait. Twenty four years ago my youngest son Scott, a few months old at the time, was beset with ear infections for which antibiotics were prescribed…and prescribed…and prescribed. Finally, tubes were placed in his ears. I became disillusioned because the only explanation given is “some babies' eustachian tubes are shaped such that they become susceptible to infection”. But why does the infection start in the first place? Frustrated because I felt we were dealing with symptoms not causes, a friend recommended a naturopath which was a rare find at the time, particularly living in Salt Lake City. He explained what the cause probably was (allergies), tweaked his diet, prescribed some herbal supplements and Scott's ear infections were a thing of the past. Neither of my children needed antibiotics for years after that and this was the beginning of the antibiotic craze.
Actually, the seed of disillusionment was probably planted way back in 5th grade. I had a wart on my finger and I remember hearing on the radio of a person who got rid of a wart by imagining it away. Every night for a week before falling asleep he imagined that place on his finger without the wart. Instead, he saw the spot but saw it with smooth, normal skin. In my sweet innocence, unencumbered with the collective society’s belief system, I decided to do it and it worked. My wart disappeared…easier to do when young because we don’t have decades of experiences telling us what is or isn’t possible.
At the same time I was dealing with Scott’s ear infections, I also read a book by Carolyn Myss called, “The Anatomy of the Spirit” which resonated completely with me. As a medical intuitive, she worked closely with a Harvard trained doctor, C. Norman Shealy, MD. She could “tune in” to a patient's body and discover the illness. She found that “every illness corresponds to a pattern of emotional and psychological stresses, beliefs, and attitudes that have influenced corresponding areas of the human body.” For me, her explanation for why things can go awry in our bodies made perfect sense. (Ironically or coincidentally, twenty years later part of my tool box as a personal coach would include modalities that could address those stressors.)
Over the next two decades multiple experiences left me traveling further and further from the Western model of healthcare. A few personal examples:
- One winter when I was 36 I experienced multiple sinus infections. Why now when I never got them before? Refusing antibiotics, the sinus infections were solved with a change in diet. I had been a vegetarian, more like a bread-a-tarian. I cut out the bagels, began the Zone Diet and the sinus infections stopped.
- When I was 40 I experienced chronic heartburn and an endoscopy showed no abnormality and a PPI was prescribed. The bottle of Prilosec occupied a place on my bedside table as if it were part of the interior design. But why was I experiencing the heartburn? After two years of trying many solutions the heartburn finally went away with the solving of an emotional issue. (Anyone experiencing chronic heartburn I would ask, “What issue exists with a loved one that is very important to you yet you feel powerless?)
- At 48 I ended up in the emergency room with abdominal pain. The doctor thought it was diverticulitis. It was. Did I really need the CT scan to prove his diagnosis and two antibiotics to solve it?
When I found the lump in my breast at 49 (2009) and the subsequent biopsy showed it was malignant, it was after:
- 10 years of annual mammograms that all came back negative for breast cancer including the one I had the week before I felt it.
- 3 ultrasounds in the preceding 18 months that showed the lump as a “benign cyst”, including the ultrasound I had the week before I felt it.
- Every factor the Western approach (Mayo Clinic) said“helped” reduce your chances of breast cancer didn’t help me. I’ve never been overweight, no one in my family has had breast cancer (other cancers, but not breast cancer), I had and breast fed two babies, I’ve been physically active all my life, don’t smoke, didn’t use birth control pills or have hormone therapy, limited my alcohol consumption, and ate organic. They also suggest limiting radiation exposure. Mine came from mammograms, X-rays and the CT scan.
To be perfectly honest, my conclusion from the experience I had with my original diagnosis was “they (Western medicine) don’t know what they’re doing.” With my cynicism cemented, when it came time to decide how to treat the cancer was I going to trust them with my life? No. I researched alternative approaches to healing and with the assistance of a naturopath and naturopath oncologist I employed an alternative protocol. Although my cancer marker went down, in early 2010, with the recommendation of my oncologist I had a lumpectomy.
As I entered my 50s I had become righteous/rigid about alternative approaches to healing. Righteousness in any form is ugly, divisive, lacking in compassion. Unless I broke a bone or was in an accident I saw no reason for managing health from the Western perspective nor did I see any reason anybody else should either. For the most part I silently judged. On a visit to see my mom in October 2014, I accompanied her to an appointment she had to see her oncologist. As we entered the facility draped in pink banners, pink ribbons, and pink writing, ironically, it was Breast Cancer Awareness month, I found my stomach churning. It was extremely uncomfortable for me to be in the building. I saw people with no hair, others in wheel chairs with ports protruding from their chests, gray pallor, somber, moving slowly. I wanted to run out of there screaming as fast as I could. I was in a foreign land; one I had told myself I would NEVER enter willingly. I was so opposed to radiation that I was the one you saw at airports willingly subjecting herself to searches to avoid the screening devices. Chemotherapy…don’t even go there….Oh the judgement and proclamations that come with righteousness…
Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Six months later, May 2015, found me visiting the foreign land again...and again...and again. This time it was my home town not Peoria IL and it was me, not my mom who was entering a Cancer Care facility. Wes and I were meeting with the radiation oncologist to review the results of the bone scan. I was still nauseous so I was lying on the exam room table, Wes was sitting next to me, the doctor across from us. I had no interest in viewing the bone scan image showing all the places the cancer had metastasized. Through our conversation the doctor knew my aversion to Western medicine and matter-of-factly stated, “I don’t know what your decision is going to be in dealing with the cancer, but what I do know is that if you don’t radiate two spots, one on your right hip and one on L4 your future ability to walk is in jeopardy.”
Radiation or my ability to walk?