Monday, February 21, 2011

Taking care of myself...My love/hate relationship with doctors.

For most of the last 20 years I have been at war with my body. If its not my skin, its the muscles, if its not the muscles its my organs, if its not the organs its the spine…and so on and so on. I'm captivated by Science and yet modern medicine pisses me off. Saddled with the worst pain of my life in my 20's and given drug after drug and procedure after procedure with no positive outcome does that to you. I came to loathe doctors. I've been diagnosed with Gastric Reflux, Migraine Headaches, Endometriosis, Eczema and a slew of others. It was one big guessing game and I was the guinea pig they poked and prodded.

The worst of the worst Doctor story was a day back in 2001.
I sat in a doctors office with severe abdominal pain. He was treating me for a bad car accident in which I was driving home around 11 or so at night, when a car slammed into the side of my car throwing it over the median and into upcoming traffic. It was a old car, no airbags. I was actually about a foot short of hitting a metal utility pole so it could have been worse. The driver had just left a Bar and pleaded with me that he'd had 2 DUI's and couldn't risk a third. Why on earth he thought I'd take pity on him was beyond me, he asked if he could just give me some money and have his friend fix my car. I had managed to climb out of my smashed up car, dazed and in shock and saw one of my wheels rolling down the street. I remember saying, "Your friend can't fix this! My car is twisted!" As he tried to leave the scene, the cops pulled up.
My lawyer had hired this doctor…this should have been the first tip off. This man was a real tool. Day after day, week after week, my pain levels never lowered. It wasn't just my back and neck but my abdominals. I was originally told my stomach was bruised by the seatbelt and the pain would go away soon. But it never went away, it got worse. Here I sat in a cold room gripping my stomach, on the verge of tears and waiting for Dr. IHaveNoTimeSeeYou see me. I waited for what seemed like hours shivering and longing for a heating pad and a baseball bat to knock myself out with. Then I heard the nurse say my name in the hallway. The Doctor started yelling at her that he didn't have time to see me…that I was fine..and that I was making up the pain for pain meds. At that point I don't know what was stronger, the pain in my gut or the rage building in my head.

The door flew open and he walked in immediately accusing me of not really being in pain. I was crying now and this only infuriated him. He insisted I needed to go to another doctor because this was probably a "family doctor" kind of thing and had nothing to do with my car accident which was the only treatment he was being paid to treat me for. I explained this all started from the car accident and he said the pain would go away. "Fine, I'll do a pelvic exam, I don't know who is going to pay for this!" he yelled. I should have walked out right then but being shy and 21 years old I didn't know that I could. So this monster proceeded with doing a pelvic exam. I don't know that you've ever had a pelvic by someone who is not only enraged but also holds a special loathe for you but I don't recommend it. Its just short of sexual assault. I got dressed after, left the building crying and never went back. I didn't even sign out.

1 year later I was diagnosed with severe endometriosis. I had been in and out of the hospital with the same pain I'd been enduring since the car accident. I had great insurance and as long as I had no answers I kept seeing new specialists. At this point, I couldn't even wear pants, it hurt for anything to touch my stomach, even the elastic band of my underwear was painful. I wore loose dresses and spent my evenings in a hot bathtub drugged to high heaven. The only reason someone caught this diagnosis was because I collapsed at work. I gripped my stomach and fell to the floor in the middle of the lunch rush at the Bank I worked at. It felt like burning hot liquid was rushing over my insides. I remember thinking my appendix was rupturing and I was about to die. I wasn't ready to die and not at this stupid Bank! At the hospital watching them rub the ultrasound on my belly, they said a cyst on my ovary had ruptured and there were 3 more about a quarter size, 2 on one ovary and 1 on the other. The scar tissue in my abdomen was everywhere and pulling and tearing then healing and wrapping around my insides. It was no wonder I was in so much pain. It was like a bomb went off in there. They scheduled a laparoscopic surgery to remove some scar tissue and as much as the disease that they could. I felt a relief to know what was finally wrong with me but the relief was only temporary. The doctor had very few answers for me. They didn't know much about it at all other than it might be a new autoimmune disease. They could only offer me two possible treatments…surgery, possibly every other year, or go on the Pill which might help by regulating my hormones. I explained the Pill wasn't a possibility because I'd had horrible side effects with it 3 years prior and I'd tried all the different kinds and doses and so that was a no go. He almost showed concern in his eyes now as he said then they could only treat me with pain medication. I then asked the question I really didn't want the answer too, "What about children, can I have children?" He looked at the floor. He took a long sigh then said, "You can always try, but…."and he trailed off.
It took months to heal from the surgery. No way I was having this every other year. I wasn't able to lift anything over 10 pounds so I always had to call my male co-workers to come over when we had boxes of change come in. Laughing was the worst! I had to roll out of bed in the morning…things you forget your abs do for you. When I was healed from that, the original pain had lessened. Sex was still horribly uncomfortable. I don't know how I endured it really. It was like jabbing a giant bruise.

A few years later I saw a Naturopathic Physician. My dad had paid for the appointment thinking that maybe they could help me. I thought what the hell, I've tried everything else, and went. We talked for hours about everything I'd been through, what I'd been diagnosed with, what I was eating, my emotional state, my marriage, work, exercise…everything.
She did some realignments which was pretty much every part of my body…from a tilted pelvis to my hip being out…to my shoulders, and several ribs. I'd never been been to a Chiropractor either, with all the physical therapy I'd had from 2 car accidents in my life and this was the first time? This was all very new to me the fact that I was walking funny and everything was out of place for God knows how long. I felt about 6 inches taller when I left. =P Hmmm, perhaps this was why I couldn't sit in a chair for longer than say 15 minutes.

But the best suggestion that day was this…."ya know Sarah, Soy is a natural Estrogen and Estrogen fuels your endometriosis. Why don't you cut out the soy and lets see what happens."

I went home and studied Soy for days. It was a natural Estrogen. In fact if my Endometriosis was a Gremlin, then Soy was the giant swimming pool of water. I was drinking a Chocolate Soy milkshake everyday before my Tennis lesson…I was eating Edamame with every meal. But it wasn't just the obvious…Soy was in EVERYTHING. It was hiding in Chocolate bars, in cans of soup, in anything packaged and processed. This was going to be harder than I thought. During my research I also discovered a chartroom where a woman mentioned that anytime her husband ate something with soy in it he complained of a migraine soon after. WHAT?? Could this be the blame for my migraines as well? So I went cold turkey. I'd been getting debilitating Migraines at least 3 times and week. The first week I went without soy, they stopped. I think it was 6 months before I got another migraine. The abdominal pain also went away. I don't know that my endometriosis is cured as I haven't had another ultrasound and examination but I've only experienced that kind of pain a few times in the last 10 years! After Soy, I gave up Wheat, Red meat, fast food and refined sugar. With those went the Eczema, the gastric reflux and every other discomfort I'd been enduring my whole life.

<-----"Eggplant Sandwich"

I go in and out of my severities…I will occasionally have some bread at a restaurant and I let sugar back in after a little over a year of cold turkey. I now only buy organic raw sugar or honey. I've also made the decision to only buy from the health food store and the farmers market. Its not always organic but I try to the best of my ability with my budget. I know organic can be pricey but would you rather give your money to the massively wealthy chemical companies or the local farmer?

Because all that cheap food has a very steep price and its your health. I have never felt better in my life. When my whole Branch at work got the flu this year and I mean every last one of them and they had everything from fever, to infections, to vomiting and were out from 3 days to 12 days…I was sick for about 24 hours. My body fought it off with the help of a lot of Vitamin C and Echinacea and I was exhausted after but I healed very quickly.

On a side note….my dogs have the same diet. They used to suffer from skin conditions, arthritis, stomach issues, fleas and their hair falling out. They now eat natural wheat, soy and sugar free food that I top with Flax seed oil. I stopped all chemicals treatments they tell you to put on your dogs skin but tell YOU to wear gloves while doing it. My dogs problems have all stopped. They have full healthy coats and at 12 and 7 years old, they act like puppies again and are super soft!


  1. By eating more often, your body is always in the position of having what it needs to abdominal exercise.

  2. I kind of had a similar thing happen with my asthma... after 25 years of it getting worse and worse and several doctors, with even the good one telling me that I would probably just have to live with it... (and I'm here to tell you I couldn't, because I couldn't do ANYTHING - no laughing, no hugging, no exercising, no going outside) I only got better after I started to ignore my doctors and treat myself. Yoga. And Naturopaths. And Accupuncture. Whatever I could think of. In the end, the major change I needed was diet and a knowledgeable ayurvedic doctor to teach me about it. I needed less dairy, alcohol, and sugar, and more spices in my food.

    I'm really not as strong-willed as you, because I *love* eating all that sugary crap so much that I eat it anyway. So I still have ongoing mild asthma and allergies, knowing that if I could eat what I know I should eat I would have almost no asthma at all and much less allergies. I actually managed a fantastic diet and yoga practice for a while, and had great sustainable results, and then thought to try slowly introducing those treats to see if I could handle them in little doses and still feel good. I really can't... but haven't been able to convince myself to stop. I should have just kept it up after I had the habit established the first time.

    Small steps, I guess. At least I eat more veggies and less crap, and can do most things and still be able to breathe... wish I weren't so helpless against yummy brownies and such though.

    But seriously, how hard would it be for any of my other doctors to have told me that maybe I should just *try* cutting out the dairy? I mean come on... it's not exactly like the dairy/asthma/allergies link is arcane knowledge. Most of them are far too programmed into the 'pill treatment only' mindset to be as effective as they should be.

    At any rate...
    This was an interesting post. I didn't know that about the soy and the estrogen. My best friend is allergic to soy, and she is hard to feed. I feel kind of bad for her and how difficult it makes her diet habits. Why do they have to put soy in everything? OMG.

    I hope your blessings come triply after all the hard times you've been having!

  3. Ugh! Im so sorry! The doctors don't suggest it usually because A) they actually don't know or B) they don't make any money off that recommendation. When I was diagnosed with Gastric Reflux after being taken to the emergency room from throwing up blood, as soon as I got out of surgery they gave me a lunch of fried food, apple pie and a soft drink. Really!?!?! Everything on my plate were things that would aggravate and worsen my condition. I confronted the nurse about it and she said she guessed she could take it away but I'd already been charged for it so would any of my visitors want it. lol

    On the it the way your body processes sweet or is it just actual refined sugar? I wonder if you would have a hard time with agave, or honey or maple syrup. They have a AWESOME brownie mix at whole foods that is gluten free that I love.

  4. I don't know about the sugar. I suspect it might be in the processing, because alcohol bothers me way more than any other kind, and white seems to be a bit more aggravating than brown... I should try to cook with the substitutes... haven't thought of the agave... not sure how to do that, though. Maybe Google will tell me!