This topic is a sensitive one. I don’t mean in any way that doctors don’t know what they’re doing, nor that they don’t server a valuable purpose in society. I need to clarify up front that I am not a doctor, not do I purport to be. I don’t even have the answers for me and my family, so I certainly don’t have the answers for anyone else. What I do have, however, is an enquiring mind, many books, the internet, and a wealth of health-related motivations to figure out what makes us tic.
So, with our slew of ailments, why don’t we spend more time in the doctor’s office? The answer boils down to two simple reasons. First of all, in the absence of a medical aid plan, we’re better supported by excellent nutritional supplements and being careful. This means we avoid smokers, stay away from sick people wherever possible, don’t eat things that make us sick, and don’t engage in dangerous activities. Dull? Perhaps. Safe? Pretty much.
Secondly, I was brought up to distrust doctors. My brother has Cystic Fibrosis, and Papa Bear, Goldilocks and I are all carriers. From an early age we were taught that an expectorant cough syrup would kill our sibling, and a doctor who prescribed this was a quack. We were introduced to the possibility that doctors could be quacks, and encountered proof along the way. This proof included my gluten allergy being misdiagnosed as anorexia (a diagnostic process that wiped out our medical aid and in fact led to an eating disorder, but that’s a subject for another post). My mom’s giant ovarian cyst was labelled hypocondria and my sister’s projectile vomiting was put down to teething. (In fact it was a serious lactose allergy). Goldilocks’ Tourette’s Syndrome was misdiagnosed ADD, and the ADD treatment made Tourette’s worse!
Not having much to spend on medical “professionals”, we prefer to be informed before parting with our cash, making sure we get the best chances for a successful diagnosis in each case.
Without our pick of hundreds of medical professionals attending to our various ailments, I almost invariably turn to my good friend Google. Now, I’ve been researching my and my family’s health for over twenty years. I know what is relevant to us and what is not. I enter the symptoms and see which causes match our circumstances. Then I choose the easiest, cheapest, safest-sounding solution, and give it a go. If it works, I know I was right. If not, it’s back to the drawing board.
This is a frustrating, slow and time-consuming process. Given the rate at which I charge clients for my time, I don’t know if it’s much more affordable than going to see a doctor. Sometimes, when I feel as though I’ve drained every relevant drop of information from the depths of Google, yet I find myself no closer to a solution, the sense of despair is almost overwhelming. I want to give up, and hand over the reins to someone older and wiser, telling me what to do.
However, I have had more success looking things up than I have being hustled through crowded, germ-infested waiting rooms. I also know my and my family’s bodies much better than I would if we relied on someone else to tell us how we work. I have the satisfaction of not having spent hundreds of rands’ worth of grocery money on medications with as many side effects as, if not more than, the conditions they supposedly relieve. And to tell the truth, I haven’t been able to find a single doctor here who believes in the remotest connection between diet and disease. When I’ve explained our family’s success in living gluten free, I’ve been met with cynical patronising grimaces – without fail. How can I trust my family’s health to that?
At the end of the day, the reason we don’t go to doctors unless we’re beating at death’s door, is because there’d be no point. And so we muddle along, trying to figure things out as we go. Have you had success with your medical practitioner?