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Conspiracy Theory

4 Aug

Big Pharma wants me dead. Ok, so it wants me alive but doped up on medications because a dead patient = $0. No, I’m not crazy, I’m not paranoid, and I’m not schizophrenic (insert off-color joke about how I used to be, but we’re ok now here…), I’m merely frustrated at the reality of my current situation. If you are short on time and would rather skip to the TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) version, I’ll sum it up for you:

IT IS CHEAPER TO STAY SICK.

http://rlv.zcache.com/the_doctor_of_the_future_print_poster-r175396a9f4b34ab5bd7689610cd7ea90_abjlc_400.jpg

It would be cheaper to allow Big Pharma and the insurance company to treat my chronic illness. It would also be deadly.

When I first started overhauling my diet and had my initial consult with the local functional MD and things began looking up, I was ecstatic. I thought, “Why doesn’t EVERYONE do this??” Why can’t other patients with similar chronic illnesses take the time to research and realize that nutrition is a vital part to wellness? It became frustrating reading social media statuses from sick friends who continued to eat processed foods, fast food, sugar, and other crap despite failing health. Now that I’m exactly 4 months into my healing journey, the reality of the situation is crashing down on me and I’m realizing just how twisted our healthcare system really is. The honeymoon phase of, “Wow! I’m feeling better…Could this work?!” has come to an end and I’m learning little by little exactly what I need to do in order to restore my body to a state of wellness, and it is frickin’ EXPENSIVE.

The other day I took the time to calculate exactly how much it is currently costing me in supplements to continue on this journey and the result of my itemization sent me into a whirlwind panic attack for 2 days.

For posterity’s sake, allow me to share said itemization:

  1. Metagenics – Ultra Flora IB – 30 Capsules
    Cost per month: $51.06
  2. Metagenics, Zinlori 75, 60 Tablets
    Cost per month: $21.50
  3. Enzymedica – Digest Gold – 240 capsules
    Cost per month: $27.60
  4. Vital Nutrients Glutamine Powder 8oz. 225 Grams
    Cost per month: $8.14
  5. Designs For Health – Magnesium Malate Chelate 120 tablets [Health and Beauty]
    Cost per month: $6.25
  6. Heritage Store Castor Oil
    Cost per month: $4.67
  7. Enzymedica – CarbGest – 60 Capsules
    Cost per month: $40.80

Totally monthly cost: $160.02

I tried to rationalize stopping some (or all…) of the supplements I’m currently taking and attempted to convince myself that maybe they “aren’t helping that much”, but the truth of the matter is that they are invaluable. My body is in such a state of disarray that it truly needs the extra support I’m giving it right now. I have read up on healing with whole foods and I am implementing as many as possible, but the food budget isn’t any better, especially when my body can tell the difference between organic and conventionally processed chicken (and reacts violently to the later)! I am attempting to take comfort in knowing that it won’t be like this forever, especially with my fiancee on the hunt for a better job in a more specialized field (that will likely result in a cross-country move), but the fact is that I need an overwhelming amount of nutritional and supplemental support right now and it’s impossible to manage the costs on SSDI.

None of the supplements or treatments I have implemented are covered by my insurance because they are deemed “not medically necessary”. My diet is incredibly restricted because it needs to be, but while most on a budget are able to vegetize a few meals per week with rice and beans, I’m SOL because grains and complex starches send my body into insanity. Even the functional MDs I’ve consulted with in the past 4 months have had to be paid entirely out of pocket. Dr. Guru’s consultations alone have been hundreds of dollars and yet she and Dr. L have been the only medical professionals able to help me make any sort of remarkable progress. The number of chronically ill friends who have tried alternative treatments and have made progress is remarkable, but when the money runs out, they go crawling back to Big Pharma and their disease kicks in full-force.

The bottom line is that it’s just not cost-effective for Big Pharma if doctors actually, oh, I don’t know, GET ME WELL! The crazy thing is that it’s costing me under $1K every month to work on healing my body to a state of functional wellness. If I stopped doing everything I’m doing and went back to being “the problem patient”, insurance would be paying for:

  • meds for my neuro issues
  • meds for GI issues
  • ER visits for dehydration and electrolyte imbalance (because of the constant IBS symptoms)
  • ER visits for intense stroke-like episodes that need to be evaluated to make sure THAT isn’t the time I am REALLY stroking out
  • routine CTs/xrays/MRIs
  • tri-monthly bloodwork (and we’re not talking about your run of the mill CMP here)
  • hospitalizations (my most recent hospitalization was upwards of nearly $40K)
  • more meds to treat the symptoms of the underlying metabolic dysfunction that no one could accurately diagnose
  • even more meds to treat the side effects of the meds used to treat the symptoms!

Is anyone else noting the insanity?? How does this even make SENSE? Why would the healthcare system be content paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars per YEAR to KEEP ME SICK when they could advocate a nutritionally-based, comprehensive approach for a FRACTION of that cost? Our society values complex, elusive medical conditions that have no answers. The answer is not more drugs, more procedures, more tests, and more money. The answer lies in understanding how our metabolic pathways function and how we are poisoning our bodies with processed and genetically modified mutant veggies. Why do we think we can put crap into our bodies and expect to live long, healthy lives with the understanding that we can just run to the nearest MD for a pill to throw at any unpleasant symptom that may pop up?

Financially, things would be a hell of a lot easier on me if I let Big Pharma and the insurance company foot the massive bill it would cost to keep me “alive”, but as Dr. Guru pointed out – I would be dead by 30 because my condition was deteriorating THAT rapidly. It is mind-boggling to me that I can know, learn, and understand exactly what my body needs to repair itself so that I can (hopefully) becoming a fully functional, productive member of society again (and scamper off to med school…), but what I need to accomplish this feels so out of reach. The amount of stress this situation causes is surreal and stress is one of my worst enemies! I am learning to resolve that I will simply trust that the best possible solution will work its way out and that in the end, all will be well…including me.

How many doctors does it take?

22 Apr

Because when we don’t know what’s wrong, we just blame the patient.

I grew up in a medical family and became accustomed to medical jargon at a very young age. You have pink eye? What? Oh! You mean conjunctivitis! I watched my dad study for exams and followed him around the hospital on days off and weekends while he saw patients. I watched how he interacted with them:  politely, professionally, listening, and taking notes about whatever brought them in. I became jaded as a result of this experience assuming all doctors treated their patients like people.

And then I met Dr. B.

My first glimpse into what constituted your average, run-of-the-mill physician began in the winter of 2008 with a neurology consult to figure out what, exactly, was going on with the strange symptoms I was having. I remember thinking I had some sort of communicable disease that I was unaware of because the man couldn’t have been any less personable. He practically climbed over me to sulk into the corner as far away from me as possible. Without ordering any imaging or tests, he prescribed a calcium channel blocker and a triptan, citing “Bickerstaff Syndrome”, a rare migraine disorder, as the cause of my discomfort. I did well for a few months and then the episodes started picking up again, only this time with greater force. I was losing my balance, falling, and feeling generally out of touch with reality during them. I went back and explained the problem hoping we could try a different medication. Instead, he told me I was to blame. “You need a psychiatrist,” he said, “you’re depressed, anxious, and dissociative.” Wait… What? I glanced around the room wondering when he had suddenly morphed into a qualified psychiatrist. That’s right, I’m so depressed I’m falling to the floor! I left that appointment humiliated and when I recounted the conversation to my PCP shortly after, he put a phone call in to the neurologist to let him know he was an asshole (ok, so I may be paraphrasing a bit here) and he referred me to another. Dr. H, or should I say his PA because I only ever saw him once during a 2 year period, really wasn’t any better, but at least neither of them blamed me when they had no idea what was going on.

Unfortunately, my experience with Dr. B wasn’t isolated. In late 2008, I began feeling incredibly run down. The fatigue was overwhelming, but the strange thing was that I was waking up feeling as if I’d run a marathon. Remember that mile run you had to do for gym class as a kid every year? I would wake up feeling like I had done one of those without stretching properly. My PCP realized something was definitely up, but since I was due to have the “magic birthday” (the one where you get booted off your parents’ health insurance), I was forced to find another. Reader take note, when a crisis hits, it will serve you well to have an established relationship with a PCP!

First there was Dr. M who thought I might have MS. When that didn’t seem to fit, she diagnosed me with possible “fibromyalgia”. After her clinic nurse and staff made a huge clerical error with my medical history, I sought help elsewhere.

Unfortunately, Dr. K was no better. She flat out called me a liar and told me no young person develops such a complex myriad of symptoms overnight. Wanna bet? When I called her office after a 3 day bought with terrible constipation and GI pain, she refused to write a prescription for an anti-spasmodic until I could see a GI doctor. Guess when the GI doctor’s next available appointment was? Let’s just say I’d need to poop WAY before then…As Donald Trump would say, “Dr. K, you’re FIRED!”

Fortunately, I was finally able to settle into the office of a more competent and understanding PCP, but he wasn’t exactly skilled in the micro-managing department. I had to learn to self-advocate, which probably wasn’t a bad thing, but I often wonder if we could have solved the mystery had we dug a bit deeper, sooner. Regardless, this PCP loved to refer out because nearly everything was “not really [his] thing”. He also loved to blame everything on anxiety. He had this unusual intonation when he’d make the suggestion too. I’d be allowed to talk for about 15 seconds before he’d interrupt to ask questions and then state, “It sounnnnnds like anx-EYE-ity”. *sigh*

I became quite skilled over the years at screening my team for potential idiots, so a recent experience caught me rather off guard. Last month I was able to get back in to see my former (wonderful!) PCP and without missing a beat, he referred me to see a new GI doctor because supposedly, he liked to “think outside the box”. Now granted, my case is complicated, and I know that. What I didn’t know was that I had been scheduled to see the physician’s assistant (PA), because if I had known, well, I would have canceled the appointment! My PCP’s office was trying to be helpful and scheduled the appointment on my behalf, and unfortunately I didn’t know what was going on until I was sitting in the exam room.

Generally, PA’s tend to subscribe to their assigned physician’s line of thinking, so I settled into my chair and hoped for the best. Guess I didn’t hope hard enough because this girl had to have been fresh out of school and was as green as the balled up dollar bill crumpled in my jean pocket. She looked at me and said, “Hasn’t anyone diagnosed you with IBS? Because that’s what you have.” Really? I had seen three GI specialists, had multiple tests over the course of 4 years and I need a PA to tell me I have IBS? Apparently, she missed the memo that IBS = I Be Stumped.

When I declined the offer for the colonoscopy and medication (because who says, “Oh yes, I’d love to have you stick a camera up my butt, look around, and give me dangerous anesthesia in the process!”) and explained I wanted to find the cause of my symptoms, she said, “We don’t do that here.” Um, I’m sorry. What, exactly, don’t you do? “We don’t find causes. We do butt-cameras, pass out pills, and get people feeling better. We aren’t in the business of analyzing diets and we aren’t in the business of finding causes.” (Again, I’m slightly paraphrasing, but the scary part is only SLIGHTLY!). We chat a bit more, she criticizes me for following an “over-the-top” diet, rolls her eyes when I explain the diagnosis of leaky gut from Dr. A, and tells me there’s nothing wrong with my pancreas, so I shouldn’t be on digestive enzymes.

I felt my temper rising and my irritation beginning to boil over because I hadn’t dealt with this level of closed-mindedness in quite a long time. Sensing my irritation, she asked, “Do you want to schedule a butt photography session with the doctor?” I looked at her and said, “If the doctor subscribes to the same train of thought regarding patient care that you do, I have no interest in returning to this office.” I asked for my medical history forms back, apologized for wasting her time, and left. Sometimes, you just have to know when to walk away. And when to call the office manager. This was a time for both.

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