Friday, July 4, 2014

As I Was Saying...

Life recently dealt me some curve balls that necessitated a blogging break. But for me blogging as an emotional outlet blogging is hard to beat. That, and the longing for fellowship with my cyber friends is calling me back to my blog, although I have no idea how frequent my dribblings will be.

I see I left off talking about how science is often put on a pedestal. It isn't that I am anti-science. Not at all. However, I am one of those who believe the "modern scientific worldview" isn't necessarily the final answer. I'm a thoroughgoing skeptic.

Along this line, I have been paying increasing attention as the years roll by to the subjects of health and healthcare. I'm getting more intimately involved in the details of my mother's health issues and her ten doctor-prescribed medications. My younger brother (early fifties) is now on seven doctor-prescribed meds and happens to be married to a nurse. He is forever urging me to get to the doctor and "get checked out," even though I have no apparent health issues other than normal wear and tear of my age. My last physical (admittedly a few years ago now) showed me completely normal for my age.

Not to get al TMI or anything, but I have, as is common in men my age, a slightly enlarged prostate gland. My brother, however, is taking a prescription for that. His doctor also put him on treatment for decreased testosterone. He also takes pills for cholesterol, for high blood pressure, for pain after a recent neck surgery, for anxiety, and for I don't know what all else. My head was just spinning by that time. I told him when I do choose to see a doctor I want to see a doctor and not a pusher. Sometimes I wonder if that is even possible anymore.

I had a severe prostate infection several years ago which I dealt with by going to the doctor. After a rather painful examination (which left me bent over the examining table, clutching the other side in pain while shouting obscenities), I was given a butt-shot of antibiotics and then a course of oral antibiotics. I was back to normal within a few days.

Last year I started getting those same symptoms again and recognized what was heading my way. I went down to the local pharmacy and examined their over-the counter prostrate health formulas, settling on one that I have been taking ever since (which I am not going to plug here), purchased some Vitamin C (and took several times above the RDA), and also picked up some cranberry pills to flush my kidneys and hopefully prevent a UTI if I didn't already have one (which is what I thought might up at first). I "cured" myself within the week.

Now I don't write this to encourage others to do as I did. But I would urge everyone to keep abreast of what's going on in the world of medicine and healthcare. And I would ABSOLUTELY SUGGEST YOU TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR OWN HEALTHCARE and not just place it uncritically in the hands of physicians.

When I saw my brother this past weekend at the emergency room as we were there with our mom (I called him off his job), I noticed his hands were so swollen you couldn't see his knuckles. He couldn't bend his fingers but with great difficulty. His ankles, he told me, were swollen as well. "What's up with that?" I asked. I was informed his doctor had recently changed his high blood pressure medicine. His doctor advised him to check back with him in six or eight weeks. I suggested he not wait that long. Heck, I guess he now needs a prescription for a diuretic (his other hypertension pill supposedly contained one).

I may be wrong of course, but I remember a time before my brother got "in the medical system" that he didn't take medicine. He is now grossly overweight, which suspiciously started about the time he began treatment for his "low-T." Hmmmm. Now, to be honest, like many of us older folks, he had packed on some extra pounds over the years, but after his testosterone treatment he seems to be working towards a job playing Santa at the malls.

It has been my experience with friends and family that once the doctor gets out his pad and starts writing these damned prescriptions, inevitably one will follow another. This med has side effects that require another med, and so on. That's another thing I do. When I'm with my mom at the various doctor's offices she goes to I can't resist reading the magazines there, with all their fulll-page ads for many wondrous treatments that are available now via the wonder of modern science. Then there among all these sleek ads with pretty pictures of people living "active" lives, supposedly after treatment with the wonder drug, and the large type extolling the virtues of said treatment, there will be some small print which lists possible side effects. Man! Ever read those? Hell, the cure is sometimes worse than the disease.

Perhaps this sounds like an angry screed against modern medicine. I don't mean for it to. But I do think modern doctors are too into treating symptoms and not enough into basic health building, as per nutrition, for example. Simple correctives probably get overlooked because it's simpler to prescribe a pill (and then another and another to deal with side effects).

If my brother had lost twenty pounds before he got "into the system" might that have lowered his blood pressure enough and improved his cholesterol readings (and here I will state that I have come to question much of the modern thinking about how cholesterol affects coronary disease, but that's another story) that prescriptions would not have been indicated?

Again, I don't blame the pill pushers totally because I believe we have minds of our own and allow ourselves to be duped into thinking there is a shot or pill that will take care of any problem. Advertising sways us (not just with medicines, but everything) way more than it should. I don't care for such string-pulling and turn a skeptical eye towards all advertising (just what do pretty girls have to do with automobiles, anyway?).
In a time when people find "jogging in a jar" an attractive substitute for actual physical activity, and taking supplements easier than actually eating right, it doesn't surprise me that there are so many pill junkies around. When I was growing up people were taking acid and smoking pot to get their kicks. Now prescription painkillers are the big deal, and "pill mills" flourish because of it. And I have personally known people who made their living, or at least supplemented it, by going to the various doctors who blithely supply them meds which they turn around and sale to others for a profit.

Now I started out in the system and just found myself increasingly at odds with my doctor. But wait! He is an authority. Shouldn't I trust him totally with my health? I don't feel so inclined. It's like the old joke:

Q - Know the difference between God and doctors?
A - God doesn't think he's a doctor.

Once during a physical I complained of some occasional chest pain. I felt (and ten years later still feel) that I was correct in attributing it to certain activities on my job (moving around a hand crane loaded with coils of steel weighing hundreds of pounds). My doctor insisted I take a Thallium Stress Test. I know, I know, better safe than sorry. But I just felt I knew me and my body at least a bit better than my doctor did, so I flatly refused. Doctors certainly don't like it when you disagree with them! I'm still here, by the way, and haven't been treated for heart disease.

The only recommendations I will make are that everyone should take an active part in their health maintenance and health care. Stay informed of what's going on. Stay in tune with your body. And for heaven's sake, take all the all the latest breakthrough reports in the field of health with at least a moderately skeptical eye. Learn enough about nutrition to make wise choices in the nourishing of your body. Walk and/or perform whatever exercise is practical in your circumstances ( my 81-year-old mom is wanting to learn Tai Chi; so cool!). Finally, I'm one of those who believe in the placebo effect. A healthy mind can assist in maintaining a healthy body.

Back in the "olden days" people didn't run to the doctor every time they had a sniffle, pain, or ache. And people still managed to make it to old age, despite the modern BS that we are living so much longer these days and "75 is the new fifty." (My great, great grandmother, a full-blooded Cherokee, lived to be 105, and most of my grandparents and great grandparents survived well past the biblical three score and ten years - and I don't think my family is unusual) I question the value of many medical tests, especially the idea that we should constantly be looking for the next health crisis lurking somewhere in our system. That can get really expensive. So can so-called preventive medicine and "borderline" illnesses. Oh, well, that's my rant for this time.


  1. You're back! I was worried about you, my friend. Now I've got to read your blog ... I haven't read it yet; my bad. :) Happy Independence Day!

    1. Hi Doug, and thanks for your concern. I'm doing okay, just needed a break because of the circumstances. Hope you had a great 4th.

  2. A good rant! My grandma took up Tai Chi after age 80 and loved it.

    I remember handing out pills as a nurse on a geriatric floor. So many pills. Looking back, our work load was so full. Think of the more hands-on and emotional support could have been given if we hadn't been doling out pills for such a large chunk of our shift time.

    Just a thought but how is your brother's kidney function? You don't have to answer that question.

    Speaking of placebo, I think one of the best placebo's is listening to those who are ill but modern medicine does not take the time to do so.

    1. I think you are so right about placebos. It seems that modern medicine is getting almost totally impersonal, except for the occasional office visit - which itself is limited by time constraints.

  3. I was just wondering where you were the other day Doug, good to see you back.

    And I would ABSOLUTELY SUGGEST YOU TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR OWN HEALTHCARE and not just place it uncritically in the hands of physicians.

    I TOTALLY agree.

    In fact, I pretty much agree with everything you said here. :)

    1. Alice, it's so nice to know I was missed by my friends. I've missed all of you, too, and hope to get back to reading my friend's blogs as well as doing more writing myself.

  4. I'm in agreement with you also. My husband gets mad at me for not getting regular checkups. I just tell him if I think something is not right then I will go to the doctor. I try to eat fairly healthy and I walk every day as my therapy instead of taking meds. Im almost 65 and do not take any meds or supplements. Maybe I'm just lucky healthwise.

    1. Sylvia, you are an inspiration! I no longer have a regular doctor because I got tired of butting heads with him. Medical testing and snipe hunts get very costly. I listen to my body and look for symptoms the same way I listen for strange noises and odd feelings in my truck as I drive down the road. It's not fool proof, to be sure, but there is something to be said for "if it's not broke don't fix it." I am not willing to start down that road of endless medicines, at least not yet.

  5. Nice to see you back Doug, sorry about the hassles.

    It seems a lot of modern medicine is designed to allow us to alleviate the symptoms of poor living choices like over-eating (almost everyone in advanced western countries overeats at least a little), under-exercising, over-stressing and over-use of chemicals in plastics, adhesives, detergents, etc, that affect us more than we know. Some of these things we can change as individuals, some we need to change as a society. Making the changes would reduce our need for various medicines, as you note.

    But we also grow old, and in the last 5-8 years I have required several procedures that have definitely made life easier, perhaps simply allowed life. I am very thankful for them. Our medical system in Australia is excellent, affordable, universal and a wonderful thing for those of us getting into our later years.

    1. Thanks, unkleE, it's nice to be back. Glad things are working for you folks in Australia. Our system - like so many things in our society - has pretty much become just another money-making scheme. It's profits over people and that is just awful.