I am so not good at being sick.
I'm even less good at going to the doctor. I didn't go very often for many years, save for the occasional checkup. Probably because I grew up watching people popping a pill, or a handful of them, for any little thing and still always seeming to be sick—I went the opposite direction. I've taken less medication over my lifetime than some people seem to take in a month.
This less-than-passionate reliance on the medical profession and prescription drugs served me well over the years. I developed relatively healthy habits—no meat (including fish or chicken), low-fat dairy, lots of water, no smoking—and it's paid off. Aside from body aches and pains from sitting in front of a computer too much, I've been sick little in my life. I've never been in the hospital. I've never had surgery. I don't get a lot of colds. I've been blessed.
Until recently. About a year and a half ago, I started having problems—in effect, what amounted to the worst menstrual periods one could imagine. Agonizing pain, hemorrhaging, stress attacks.
Because we were in the third year of a very intense start-up period for this newspaper—and I had been working seven days a week almost since we launched—I first assumed my system was just out of balance. I started tweaking my diet and trying to exercise more, including taking more time off.
But the problem kept returning, I got weaker and weaker, and I began to fear what it could be. I didn't have a doctor—at first, we couldn't afford health insurance and, besides, finding a doctor is a stressful event for me. Why? Let's just say I don't dig doctors who hand me handfuls of prescription samples and try to cut on me as the first resort. And of course, maneuvering today's health-care system is sheer hell.
Finally, last spring, I was ill more than I wasn't, and it was affecting my life in every way. I was flat-out sick. I had never really been flat-out sick, so I had to find a doctor.
I wanted what is called an "integrative" physician—a real doctor who believes in natural remedies and promoting wellness, not just cutting and drugging. This type of doctor is becoming more popular around the country—think Dr. Andrew Weil—but I couldn't find one here. Then, one day as I was lying in bed in miserable pain, I heard a radio interview with Dr. Joseph White of the Optimum Health Institute. I'd done enough reading on wellness and integrative medicine that I realized he might well be the real thing.
I made an appointment. A couple visits and sonograms later, we found out what was wrong with me: two fibroids, which are basically non-malignant tumors. I was anemic because I'd lost so much blood. My cholesterol was slightly elevated, probably because of my other health issues, I learned.
The good news was that this condition is not life-threatening. But for many women, including me, fibroids have a way of making life miserable. I was surprised to learn about 75 percent of women get fibroids—yet it's only been in recent years that medical researchers have started focusing on what causes and prevents them. Go figure.
The treatment stage was what endeared me to my new doctor. His first instinct, and mine, was not to cut them right on out of me; many women are advised to get hysterectomies—hysterectomies!—at the first sign of a fibroid. And Dr. White didn't give me a prescription.
At least not for medication. He prescribed mega-iron to get my anemia under control (which Blue Cross won't pay for), and he recommended a supplement regimen and lifestyle adjustments to see if we could get the symptoms to calm down. He was thrilled to hear that I do not eat meat—a major problem for hormone-related illnesses like fibroids—and he advised me to cut way back on dairy, and to choose only non-fat, organic milk (no problem, I was there already). He told me to cut out the "whites" (white flour, sugar, enriched pasta and rice, salt) and trans-fats, of course, and eat more soy. He wanted me to exercise, do yoga, walk—the motivation I needed to get back in a routine.
He also put me on a supplements routine that included omega-3 fish oils ("but, I'm vegetarian," I whined as he glared back, insuring me that my health was his biggest priority). He upped my Bs, A, C, E to help with stress (which, if not kept in check, brings on fibroid attacks). He put me on Ashwaghanda, an Ayurvedic ginseng, to help with stress.
He also told me I should convert to natural products that didn't contain "xeno-estrogens"—especially petrochemical-based products—that throw my hormones out of whack. He also put me on a regimen of progesterone, and advised me to do herbal cleansing to get all the muck out of me.
Finally, he told me to work less. Eek.
Of course, I went home and did what I do to solve any problem—read a book. This time, Dr. Christiane Northup's women's health books told me that my new doctor had done exactly what he should have done to help me deal with my fibroid problem (and she reiterated that, if the program didn't work, surgery would always be an option). My health was in my hands.
Months later, after some ups and downs, I'm feeling better than I have in years. The anemic fog has lifted, and my blood is energetic again. I'm back in yoga classes, walking and going to the Y (need to go more). I'm drinking water, and taking my supplements. Religiously. I'm off the iron supplements (which my system didn't dig), I'm eating more fruits and vegetables, I have fewer bad products around me. I'm reading more, including spirituality texts, and I'm taking more time off. Really.
Meantime, I've met so many women who have suffered from fibroids—and not a single one of them has told me that they were advised as I was to take control of their own health rather than have surgery. I feel very, very fortunate to have found just the kind of doctor—no, wellness partner—who fits my lifestyle and beliefs right here in Jackson.
Ladd, somehow I missed this sidebar. Thanks for sharing this information. Your case sounds so much like mine and I was not aware of Dr. White and his practice. I will try to get an appt. with him very soon. Again, THANKS!
You're welcome, Justjess. As you can tell, Dr. White has made a big difference for my health. And it really is about taking control of your own health and habits.