I have a small set of metal letters I purchased for use in pottery. Using the W, an M can be made by turning the metal letter 180 degrees. In this sense, these letters are truly opposite. Okay, not all Ms are opposites of Ws. Still…close enough right? By this point, you are likely wondering, “What do these letters have to do with an appointment at the Hai Shan Clinic or fundraising?” You’ll see!
I have to be honest that I did not want to go to my last appointment at the Hai Shan Clinic. I had some nausea and difficulty eating the night before. Plus, I am taking a new medication called low dose naltrexone and was afraid that it might be contraindicated with some of the Chinese herbs. I worried that it might be seen as a bandaid, one that would obscure whether or not I was actually responding to treatment I have been receiving.
The long drive to this clinic on winding roads to upper elevations in my current state was not appealing. It is a beautiful, scenic ride with a lot of twists and turns, and a scary descent at the end as we reach the destination. In my state of mind, that did not sound appealing. It feels a little like being on a carnival ride at the end that probably would be an adrenaline rush to many people. We arrived early that day, walked around a little, and then went into the comfortable office to wait for Dr. M. Dr. M is a licensed acupuncturist, a naturopathic physician, has bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a Masters of Science in Oriental Medicine. More importantly, Dr. M is a kind, competent, patient physician that is constantly seeking information. His knowledge is evolving, rather than static. This is the best kind of doctor.
He came out shortly and called me in. He is a good listener, and I am talkative, so that is a good thing. He asked how I was. Mumbling a little, I said, “I have had better days.” Initially, he thought I said things had been better. I clarified that I have had better days than I was having at the moment mixed with some good days. Reassuring me, he said, “Let’s see what we can do to make things better.” He seemed attuned to my issues, asking if I was having palpitations and congestion. He asked about my pain and noticed my lower energy level, examined my tongue, and used “pulse” diagnosis.
This inquiry caused me to look back to when I first came to the clinic in the fall of 2011. I recalled that I had worried about making it from my car into the clinic. It is not even ground, there are steps made of landscape rocks, and my body and feet were in agonizing pain. Walking on this surface was challenging for me on my first visit. I did not have a wheelchair yet, and it would not have gotten me over the modest steps. A clinic where most take off their shoes at the front entrance, I had reluctantly asked if I could leave mine on due to pain. On the drive to the clinic that first time, I couldn’t even appreciate the beauty of the area, because I was “caged in pain” and consequently, not mindful of the scenery.
I explained to Dr. M that I was aware of how much improvement had occurred since I first came there, mentioning that I had gone off pain medication fully. He was pleasantly surprised and he let me know that I had achieved a lot outing that medicine. As time passes, we tend to forget improvements, but it is hard to forget the misery I have experienced over the years. However, since my treatment begin, a lowered pain level became the “norm.” It is this benchmark that I use to measure how I feel on a daily basis. Since my last visit, my pain level was higher when looking at this new baseline.
There is a diagnostic machine used in this practice to check for allergies, how remedies work with the body, and to test medications, foods (amongst other things) to see if they are beneficial or not. It is used along with clinical skills in treating a patient. I had brought my low dose naltrexone and asked him to test it. I added that I was not going to say what it was and wouldn’t discontinue it regardless of the outcome. He seemed to like this challenge, asking me not to tell him. He concluded that it was not harmful. I was relieved to hear this news, because I didn’t want to hear anything negative. Then, I told him it was low dose naltrexone. Contrary to what I thought, he was pleased that I was trying it, seemed excited to watch as I continued, and he was familiar with it. We freely exchanged what we knew about it, something I can rarely do with “regular doctors,” and he concluded it was a good idea to use it.
Eating has always been a challenge for me, and I have been experiencing some issues recently particularly as I continue my journey with dietary restrictions and learn about eating to ease the symptoms of autoimmune disease. At this point, my diet is free from wheat gluten, corn, soy, dairy, and refined sugars. Artificial sugars and cheap oils are also excluded. I have heard about a lot of diets, but the words “Paleo diet” and grain free diet are the two things I have heard about the most lately. When hearing about these diets, I usually am told that our “ancestors” ate in this fashion, particularly with the Paleo diet. The conclusion is that if we follow suit with this diet, our health will improve. Since embarking on big dietary changes, I will not dismiss information that could make me well even if it is uncomfortable to hear. As I talked to Dr. M, I wanted to find out what he thought about grain free diets and gliadin, a protein found in all grains.
I explained that I had tested positive for one genetic marker of Celiac disease, DQ8, and Dr. M asked when I found out. He was not aware of that information, because I had seen his colleague when I gave the results. Dr. M found it in the chart. I also explained that another issue had been found in my blood, IgA deficiency, which had complicated reading the typical antibody tests for Celiac. At this point, I told him about the grain free diet. I voiced my frustration with those that suggest we follow the diet of our ancestors, because I have to wonder a few things. Which ancestors shall we choose to emulate? More importantly, how do we know their lives were so healthy anyway? I noticed a smile on Dr. M’s face during this discussion.
Then, I inquired as to whether or not other grains could be an issue for me. Usually content, he looked concerned that I might eliminate other grains, noting my weight and commenting that this would lower caloric intake. We discussed gliadin, and he listened as I explained that my research had revealed that the gliadin in rice and corn, were not the same as in wheat, barley, and rye. Again, most doctors wouldn’t even care about my thoughts, and I know this from experience. He treated me as a partner in healthcare, valued my thoughts, and considered the information. It was refreshing to converse openly with a doctor that was willing to look at things objectively and not act like he “knew it all.” After careful consideration, the conclusion was that outing other grains not specifically containing wheat gluten was not a good idea.
With careful attention to detail and clinical assessment, he methodically chose the next herbs and supplements I would use next. He took the time to explain to me about treatment with herbs, noting that while still medication, it was simply closer to the original plant source than traditional pharmaceuticals. Dr. M and I talked about many other topics, and unlike Dr. W, he was familiar with everything I asked about. We discussed a complex genetic mutation, the MTHFR mutation, the benefits of magnesium glycinate to the nervous system, and magnesium stearate. Not surprisingly, he knew this was a lubricant used during encapsulation of supplements to prevent ingredients from sticking to the equipment. This allows for rapid and easier manufacturing, but not without potentially harmful effects.
Our dialogue opened the door to examining my strange folic acid and vitamin b12 lab results, something that has been dismissed by many doctors, including Dr. W. He provided information to help me choose and take b vitamins properly, explaining that anemia can occur if methyl b12 and folate aren’t taken together. As much as I have written, I could write more about the informative nature of this appointment. This had been a pleasant visit, and Dr. M left me with encouraging words. We talked about my fundraising and blogging. He even supported my fundraiser, showing an interest. Then, he said something very kind and encouraging. He said, “You should have a blog. You’re an artist.” I responded, “I do.” Then he said, “I know you do and I want to reinforce that.” A potter himself, I took this as a high compliment, even with my low self-esteem. This provided a sense of hope, especially because much of my life has been filled with criticism.
Late 2011 and early 2012 had brought new diagnoses to my life. My eye doctor, a good Dr. W, discovered Sjogren’s syndrome, giving me some recognition of the obvious misery and illness others had looked away from. Shortly thereafter, another provider, who shares my first name, diagnosed secondary adrenal insufficiency and later talked with me about the bloodwork revealing I tested positive for Celiac genetically. She had not believed the genetic test would come back positive.
I have had many medical doctors, but I want to discuss one doctor in particular, Dr. W (the negative and dismissive one). Rather than discussing any particular appointment with her, I think it is best to expose her modus operandi, or method of operation. I will do this by talking about my experiences with her at different appointments.
It is hard to distinguish one visit from the next when I go here, because the appointments have a rigid structure. Patients can count on Dr. W’s tardiness. On one occasion, I waited one and a half hours with two or three other patients behind me while the secretary slept. Then, the doctor acted shocked and unethically confided in me, placing blame on the ill secretary while revealing her employee’s personal issues. I felt Dr. W was responsible and thought a clock or hourglass would suffice to solve the issue. Despite being this behind, even if a patient contracted the plague, this doctor would fully expect him or her to show up or be charged. This is from a doctor that is minimally 15 minutes behind at all visits. She can be heard joking and talking while your time and life are disregarded.
Once called back into the dungeon of an office, she sits down looking less than interested in seeing me. Paradoxically, she sees herself as instrumental to the care of patients, having an inflated sense of self. At each visit, Dr. W takes notes on a sheet of paper with two holes punched allowing it to be added into the chart. She asks me to tell her what medications I am on, even though the list is practically a carbon copy of the medications noted on the identical form from the former visit. I have told her that nothing has changed more times than I care to mention. Like an ant that is following a trail to nowhere, she goes though the motions. It would be more efficient to go through what you have written down from the previous visit, take a photocopy, and note any changes. Plus, it would keep her more on schedule. Some of this behavior is done in an attempt to spend the mandatory time for insurance billing. Once, when I could barely sit up in a chair, she kept me there an extra half hour, and I believe, this was because her other patient did not show. This permitted her to make a little more money.
A stark contrast to Dr. M’s approach, Dr. W has a condescending, inattentive demeanor. She makes downright rude statements often accompanied by inappropriate facial expressions and gesturing. I have witnessed her mistreatment of other patients firsthand, and she has gossiped about patients to me, which is totally unethical. Her office is a “sterile” one, and most patients would go running from it if it weren’t for their bad insurance. I fall into this category and obtaining quality treatment is a challenge.
I detest going to the insensitive confines of her office, but I still go, like a lamb off to the slaughter. I saw her about 3 months after my diagnoses, and despite the news of autoimmune issues, I had a more hopeful outlook. I wanted to return to school at some point and told her this. I thought I needed her to sign paperwork, because I had been declared “totally and permanently disabled” in 1995 and a small student loan was written off due to my fibromyalgia. I filled her in on my diagnoses since she asked how things had been. Near the end of my special time with her, I opted to ask about returning to school in the future. Her response was shocking, demoralizing, and sucked the hope right out of me. She told me there was no point in returning to school, adding that with my illnesses, the diagnoses would keep coming in, and things would get worse and worse. The basic message was, “It is all down hill from here.” After conveying that message, she handed me a prescription for a large amount of medication without a thought. I was despondent, and what she did not know, is that I had considered “end of life” decisions just months prior to this. I had crawled out of a deep hole of despair, and she instantly crushed my newly found hope. In this state, I momentarily considered that perhaps she was giving me this prescription to end the misery. Luckily, I had Dr. M, and three other providers to offset this negative and horrific treatment. Without that, I am not certain what might have happened.
When I have discussed severe sleep, weight, and pain issues, she showed no signs of concern. At my last meeting with her, I brought up low dose naltrexone and that I was no longer on opiates. Voluntarily coming off of opiates after over 10 years and when one is struggling was a tough journey, and I feel a good doctor would take special notice of that accomplishment. She said nothing in response to my news and just wrote it down on auto pilot. With regard to low dose naltrexone, she asked me why they would put me on that after I came off opiates. She was not familiar with it as a medication and seemed to put it in the same category as an opiate. I would think she might know the medicine, because naltrexone has been around a long time and she is an M.D. after all.
I have discussed the fact that my vitamin b 12 and folate were high, hoping that she might shed light on this in the past. She never so much as took an educated guess, and that is what the scientific method is based on. If a doctor doesn’t know something, he or she should be inquisitive and refrain from making conclusions without research. It is okay to not know something even for a doctor. This makes me think of the work of Socrates. He had an awareness that he did not possess certain knowledge, and he did not pretend to know more than he did. He concluded that this is why the oracle had said he was the wisest. That was his wisdom…that awareness.
Now, I have to discuss letters again. Society has the utmost respect for the letters M.D. Other letters along with these two help to heighten a provider’s societal status, but the letters M and D side by side bring with them one of the highest levels of prestige. Only Ph and D bring more to the mix in my opinion. Sure, society is evolving and in certain circles, the disciplines of naturopathy, Classical Chinese medicine, acupuncture, and even knowledge attained at “lower levels” of schooling are highly regarded and gaining respect.
As I wrote about my experiences with these two doctors, I could see that Dr. M has way more knowledge than Dr. W, and Dr. M conducts himself in a professional, polite, compassionate, and dedicated manner. For many, the multitude of letters after his name do not begin to compare to Dr. W’s, M and D. I have heard and seen the skepticism toward my treatment. One person in my family, who taught medical students and nurses, has mocked my treatment.
As pointed out above, Dr. W is able to work the system of our insurance industry without question. My insurance does not pay for any alternative services even if they work. Gobs of money can be and has been poured down the drain on useless treatments wasting countless years stalling diagnosis. This is what brought me to the public to raise funds for treatment. In order to get well, I need to see doctors that “think outside the box.” Even the M.D.s that lean this way propose treatments that are not covered by my insurance or they usually don’t take my insurance. Effectively, I have no other choice than to ask for help in order to save myself and my family.
It is important to note that there are many people with high degrees that are not like Dr. W. Dr. M certainly has a high level of education as I described above. There is nothing shabby about having BS, ND, MSOM, and LAc after a provider’s name. The clinic founder and director holds a PhD and is highly trained and educated. I want to emphasize, however, that I do not believe degrees make a provider what he or she is. It is what a person does with the information they are taught in whatever discipline that helps him or her to provide help to patient. Interdisciplinary teams benefit by having members from all walks of life, degree or not.
Here is my thought though, I had not gotten anywhere in years with traditional medicine. In a few short months after seeing Dr. M at the clinic, I was getting out of my house, more functional at home, and riding a bike by the following spring. That speaks volumes about Dr. M compared to Dr. W. Like the metal letter, these doctors are polar opposites in their approaches and knowledge. Not only is M not less than W, but M > W for sure. Unlike a math or logic problem, where I would have to write out all my steps in order to come to show the end result, it was pure observation and analysis that led me to my conclusion this time.
When a person has been ill as long as I have and has many recalcitrant autoimmune diseases, the importance of having a good doctor cannot be overstated. While asking for help with fundraising is hard to do, it is a crucial step attaining care that should be available to any patient enduring a tough battle. Please donate if you can, using the donate button on this site or the Youcaring link here: http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/cheryl-s-medical-fund/40186