(Continued from Part 1. This concludes the article.)
I don’t pop pills to feel better. I rest. I have adjusted my surroundings to work for me. I have no problems turning down social offers if I know I can’t do them. I used to say “No, I can’t” and mumble an excuse, and now I simply say “No thank you!”, with a smile, and not feel the slightest guilt, nor do I have to explain myself to anyone. When the pain feels unbearable, I go into a reclining position and rest for as long as it takes for the pain to subside. You know the old saying, “unless you’ve walked in my moccasins…”. While I wish I was 100% drug free, I still take allergy medicine and OTC naproxen sodium. I carry with me an emergency inhaler should I ever need it.
DISCLAIMER: I do realize there are injuries, illnesses, and disabilities that require pain medications. I, in no way, begrudge anyone, nor do I advocate for withholding, pain medications from people who really need them. Deep, abiding, pain is something I don’t wish on even my enemies. I pray that those of us who can go without will extend grace, kindness, and assistance to those who need our help.
GETTING TO THE RIGHT DOCTORS
There are many illnesses that can be managed by diet, exercise, and environment, however there are some illnesses that absolutely require a traditional medical intervention. In my case, I researched all that I could by reading medical studies, not just articles about medical studies. It took me a long time to do this, but I kept at it until I understood as much as possible about my various bodily failures. I studied my blood test results and followed every detail until I understood what they meant. When I met with my doctors, I had a list of questions and concerns. Some doctors were better than others with their “bedside manners”. I had a particularly horrible experience with one doctor and would leave her office in tears, every time.
I joined a support group of people who had my particular kind of cancer and found the name of an expert who was highly appreciated by her patients. She was a literal lifesaver for me. I finally found an arthritis doctor who specialized in the type of debilitating arthritis I have. I even went to see the “psycho” therapists/psychiatrists that I was recommended to see. I’m sure they have helped people, but they weren’t helpful to me. The doctors always like to rule out “psychosis” when someone is experiencing multiple illnesses, just to make sure you aren’t making anything up! LOL. Actually, they’re there to help you navigate your emotional and intellectual way through serious illness. I didn’t find them helpful, personally. I just wanted answers. Not having answers was more frustrating to me than anything else.
I’m not fond of the way our medical system handles patients like me. And it may be more of a factor of Insurance companies than the doctors themselves. First, I had to see a General Practitioner, and do all kinds of blood work. I had to put up with the holier-than-thou attitude and off-hand remarks. Then I was referred out to an arthritis specialist, who also did all kinds of blood work and x-rays. That specialist referred me to a cancer doctor, and finally the ball got rolling, but not until I found a more experienced doctor in the rare type of cancer I had. That doctor was located at a major teaching hospital with a renowned cancer center. Oh! And somewhere in there I saw another renowned cancer doctor at another teaching hospital who ordered a full body MRI, which my insurance subsequently denied ($6,000 irritation)! I was pushing my way into appointments until I could find the answers I wanted. It was a ton of work and I fully understand when people throw their hands in the air and give up. I wanted to. I did have cancer treatment that spanned a full year and I do believe the treatment brought me into a manageable “remission”, and that remission is still holding. Praise God.
STOCKING UP ON MEDS AND DISINFECTANTS
All that to say, if you need traditional medical intervention, then get it. You’ll need one or more advocates, and you’ll need some prayer warriors too! In absence of life-saving intervention, I stock up on all kinds of medical supplies, but they don’t include any controlled substances. I have found that I can control pain by modifying my environment and lifestyle. And that’s such a pain!! LOL. But, you get my point. The people who don’t or won’t understand are not people you need in your life. It’s more of a mental game than anything else. It took me a few years to get the hang of it. If I push myself too hard, I end up in bed for days. Sometimes I will push myself to get a garden planted, knowing full well I’ll be “down” for a while afterward. Or, I simply mete out my energy, one garden row at a time. It’s worth it to me and I enjoy, and plan on, the downtime afterward, in spite of the pain. This is the time for reading a very good book or studying a particular subject or watching an old movie.
Because I am immune-compromised from the cancer, I keep a full array of cold and fever medications on hand. I also keep an array of vitamins (Vitamin C, B3, Zinc, etc.). I’m not big on supplements because I attempt to get those from the foods I eat. Cancer patients learn a lot about “nutrient-dense” foods and I’m glad I already knew a lot about that. The problem for immunocompromised individuals is that a small cold for someone else, can turn into full-blown bronchitis, pneumonia, etc., for me. Bacteria on a packaged salad from the grocery store can make me sick within 12 hours. Deli meats? Forget it. Buffets? No. Never. If I eat out, I stick to foods that have been well cooked and arrive on a very hot plate. I’ve learned how to keep my environment and interactions with others “sanitized”, if you will. Because of that, I keep a lot of hydrogen peroxide on hand and use it as my disinfectant of choice. Every doorknob, toothbrush handle, countertops, etc., gets sprayed down regularly.
Your medicinal stock-up plan should be tailored to your family’s needs, but don’t forget the antifungals, antidiarrheals, calamine lotion, triple antibiotic ointment, good ol’ soap bars, etc.
ORGANICS AND MEDICINALS
I’m a huge advocate of organic foods and medicinal herbs and teas. I believe that the American diet is terrible for your health. Processed foods are loaded with genetically modified corn and soy – neither of which our bodies were intended to process. Not to mention, processed foods are loaded with sugars, salts, and some things that were created in a food lab and have long unpronounceable names. I know too many people, people I grew up with that have experienced debilitating illnesses way too young – in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. In my parents’ generation, not nearly the percentage of people got that sick. In my parents’ parents’ generation, they all lived into their late 90s with precious few health problems to speak of. Of course, those folks were farming people and that was before the advent of Round-Up and GMO crops in widespread use. Not to mention, processed foods make us very fat without even trying.
I am in the habit of purchasing organically grown meats from local ranchers, organically grown foods that either I grow, or buy from local farmers. I don’t allow processed foods in the house. Ohhhh, yes, there was that time I was expecting family to visit and bought a bunch of cereals and crackers, and man did I start feeling cruddy after eating that junk. I purchased a variety of organic, herbal, teas in bulk, and blended them together – they serve as my daily liquid intake. One tea, in particular, that I never go without is Mullein. Mullein is supposed to help with the respiratory system and I can vouch that it keeps my respiratory system well.
I feel confident now that I could survive a good, long, time even in the face of adversity, even in the face of nagging pain. As I’m writing this, my body is yelling at me, and so, I will take the time to care for it as I would care for a friend. I urge folks to study their own bodies, get what traditional care you need now, clean up your diet, plan to manage your own health, don’t stock up on processed and genetically modified foods – in short, when the time comes that we are denied, or don’t have access to, traditional medical care, we can be confident that we’ve done all we can to safeguard our health.
And one more thing… the most important in my mind. I am prepared to meet my Maker. Should the time come that I need a traditional medical intervention again, and it is not available to me, for whatever reason, I am prepared to let go of this earthly body.