Sunday, January 10, 2016

Objects in the Mirror May Be Fatter Than They Appear

Last week I maneuvered a routine health check-up without getting arrested, which was a major milestone for me because I have a medical procedures phobia, an irrational terror of hospitals and needles, and an oppositional defiant disorder that manifests when I encounter health professionals. A question-authority light blinks on in my brain the minute a doctor makes a health recommendation. Don’t take this the wrong way. Some of my best friends are doctors. My rational mind knows that most doctors went into the profession because they want to help people stay well, and if people are sick or suffering, they want to help them feel better. But when I enter a doctor’s office, an evil genie emerges from my psyche, hijacks my manners, and co-opts my genteel personality.

Since I am enthusiastically healthy, and since my last primary care doc skipped town eight years ago (I swear it was not because of me), I kind of sort of gave up on an annual exam. Recently I began to feel deprived because I don’t have a nice family doctor to call in a medical emergency. Besides, after the yellow-jacket fiasco last summer (my blog about that eventis required reading for all my friends), I will have to renew my Epi-Pen prescription in July and I don’t have a doctor to do that for me. A friend of mine who’s a doctor (see, I really do like doctors) told me about a new woman doctor in town who is the same age as my daughter and who grew up around here. So decided to go see her so I could have my own bona fide family doctor again.

My visit to my new doctor began with the receptionist handing me a release form to sign. Because I fear that doctors want to rip out one of my kidneys when my back is turned, I am skeptical of release forms. Sure enough, I took exception to the first item on the release, which gave the docs permission to do any procedure they felt necessary in the course of treatment in their office, including X-rays, blood tests, and electroshock therapy. I informed the receptionist that I didn’t feel comfortable signing the release because I wasn’t willing to sign over blanket permission to do any procedure. Fortunately, the receptionist was patient and clearly found me entertaining. She reassured me that they would not strap me down and do a procedure to me without my consent. She suggested, with admirable calm and a touch of whimsy, that I write on the form that I didn’t consent to that particular item. There is a special place in heaven for kind receptionists who humor eccentric old ladies. The other items on the form passed muster so I signed and was good to go.

Next a junior medical provider took me down a corridor to a massive scale that could have weighed a small cargo truck and asked me to step on. I walked onto the scale wearing my rain boots and winter jacket, with my large handbag over my shoulder, and carrying my lunch, several library books, an umbrella, and a box of my grandmother’s good China. Without a moment’s hesitation, junior noted the weight of the whole lot on my chart, rounding up for good measure. I asked her if she thought I should go on a diet and she offered to weigh me again without the umbrella. Now I know what my weight would be if I ingested four library books and the good China.

Junior took me to an exam room where she took my temperature by waving a wand across my forehead, which made me wonder what else she may have done secretly with the wand, and I became suspicious that she had done a procedure to me for which I had not given consent, like maybe a liver transplant. I resolved to take this up with the whimsical receptionist on my way out. Junior checked my blood pressure, which was a perfect 120/80, and she commented that she doesn’t see that very often. I offered her an organic tangerine. She referred to my information in her computer and asked me if I was taking my Epi-Pen as prescribed. I told her I carry it with me at all times, but, unlike a pill, it’s not that kind of prescription. I offered to show it to her, but she hastily declined, as if I had suggested something obscene. The Epi-Pen is kind of phallic, but not scary-phallic; sheesh. She told me the doc would be in shortly as she backed out the door.

While we’re waiting for the doctor, I will share a quick rant that explains why, despite the fact that doctors are light years beyond me in their understanding of biochemistry and anatomy, I do not trust their recommendations. Doctors are trained to treat disease, mainly with surgery and/or pharmaceuticals. They do not receive adequate training in nutrition, toxins in the environment, and how to prevent disease. Most of the research docs study in medical school was bought and paid for by Big Pharma (i.e., pharmaceutical corporations that profit off drug sales). To support my assertions here, I want to quote Dr. Marcia Angell of Harvard Medical School. Dr. Angell is the former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. In 2009, she published an explosive article called “Drug Companies and Doctors:  A Story of Corruption” in the NY Review of Books. Dr. Angell says, “The pharmaceutical industry has gained enormous control over how doctors evaluate and use its products. Its extensive ties to physicians, particularly senior faculty at prestigious medical schools, affect the results of research, the way medicine is practiced, and even the definition of what constitutes a disease.” Case in point is the ubiquitous use of statins, handed out like candy, and which are not the harmless magic bullet Big Pharma profiteers would like us to think they are. Stash this away for a moment as I will come back to it. Now here comes my new doc.

My new doc, I’ll call her Doc H, entered my exam room. She took the time to chat with me, then asked me some health questions, and she checked my heart with her stethoscope. She pronounced me healthy, said she would be happy to be my “regular” doctor, and that she would renew my Epi-Pen in July. Then she asked me why I have not had a mammogram recently. I told her that my biggest risk factor for breast cancer is radiating my breasts with mammograms. She looked at my health records and agreed that was probably true. (Points!) Then she asked me why I had never had a colonoscopy. I told her I’d rather go hunting with Dick Cheney than have a colonoscopy, that I don’t believe in them, that the prep for one trashes the immune system (it could take years to undo the damage), and that I think in the future bona fide research (if we can ever find any of this stuff) will show that this procedure is dangerous, especially for the elderly. She told me she was required to tell me that if I didn’t have a colonoscopy then she couldn’t tell me whether or not I have colon cancer. Since she can’t tell me whether or not I have brain cancer or pancreatic cancer or stomach cancer or knee cancer, it doesn’t seem like a big deal that she can’t comment on the colon cancer. And since I have no symptoms of colon cancer I have no reason to believe I have it. But if I do have cancer, and I were to trash my immune system prepping for a colonoscopy, I would ruin my chances of producing enough natural killer cells to destroy the cancer before it could get a foothold. I try to be a positive person, but I have no qualms about hating on colonoscopies. Doc H took my tirade about colonoscopies in stride. (Points!)

Next we talked about labs. I have not had any lab tests since the Clinton Administration. I would like some lab tests. I’m curious. Of course, I’ll have to get past the needle part without hyperventilating. I wonder if they would let me bring my cat with me to the lab to calm me down. Doc H wasn’t sure what tests would be worth doing since I’m so healthy. I chose one from Column A and two from Column B. Thyroid Panel. A1c (to measure blood sugar regulation). Test for vitamin D and vitamin B12 deficiency (since I’m vegetarian). C-Reactive Protein, which checks for inflammation that can impact heart health and arthritis, among other things. So far, so good. But then Doc H said that if the C-Reactive test shows inflammation she can prescribe statins for me. As you may have guessed, “statin” is my trigger word.

Big Pharma has brainwashed the medical community (and everyone else, it seems) about statins. I’m Jewish, half my cousins are cardiologists, and they all heartily (excuse the pun) approve of statins. How long will it take for real information about statins to reach the health care community and ordinary people? Statins have serious side effects. For one, they interfere with the ability of the body to process cholesterol, which is critical for brain health. New research is exploring the link between the rise in statin use and the rise in Alzheimer’s. I find this a no-brainer (ha, no excuses for that pun). Our understanding of fat, cholesterol, and heart health is changing rapidly. Fat does not cause heart disease. Sugar causes heart disease and is the culprit for most of our health woes. Good quality fat is an important part of our diet. Instead of gambling with taking statins, people need to eat properly. So when Doc H said “statin,” I went off like a firecracker. Blam! Steam poured out my ears, my eyeballs turned into pinwheels, my hair stood on end, and a speech bubble appeared above my head with the caption “Ah-whoo-gah!” Fortunately, I did not get hauled away in a straightjacket.

Doc H redeemed herself by informing me that the five pounds I have gained since I joined the gym is probably muscle mass, and it’s a good thing. It was worth the whole doc visit debacle, statin meltdown and all, just to learn this. Yay. I’m not as fat as I thought I was, objects as they appear in the mirror aside. I’m muscular. Pass the dark chocolate. I love my new doctor.

Devil bear at the lab. 
Is the cutesie bear supposed to make the needle look less menacing? 

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