Monday, March 14, 2016

Alternative Medicine

"Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity." - Hippocrates

Lupe trying to understand the organic
juices at Whole Foods
If you've been following my blog for awhile now, you probably know that I've written about this before. "Alternative" medicine is always a hot topic in the chronic illness world, and it's come up in a few conversations the last couple of days, so I decided to return to it today and provide my most recent opinions on it. (I often sway back and forth on what's best, but I think I've finally reached a clear position on the subject for where my health is now). 

First off, what is alternative medicine? As defined by Wikepedia (don't question my reliability here lol) "Alternative medicine is any practice that is put forward as having the healing effects of medicine, but does not originate from evidence gathered using the scientific not part of biomedicine... or is contradicted by scientific evidence or established science. It consists of a wide range of health care practices, products and therapies, ranging from being biologically plausible but not well tested, to being directly contradicted by evidence and science, or even harmful or toxic." 

It goes on to list everything from traditional Chinese medicine, to acupuncture and even chiropractic therapies (WTF?!). Basically, alternative can constitute anything not prescribed by a certified M.D. at your local American hospital or clinic. 

In the last 8 years, I have tried a number of these alternative therapies. Some with great success, others...not so much. 

1. Acupuncture- wonderful and amazing for my heartburn, GERD, joint pain, lowered my blood pressure and helped with insomnia. Did nothing for my Raynaud's or fertility issues. 
2. Homeopathy/Naturopathy- Seemed to help with general fatigue..but had to get off of all the pills and tonics because they made me physically sick to my not on it long enough to reap the benefits. 
Silent Yoga Retreat 2015
3. Teas and Smoothies- Helped with digestion, increase some vitamin levels and helped with energy at times. 
4. Yoga- excellent for joint pain, swelling, insomnia, fatigue, and stress relief.

Some of these I continue to rely on for my general well-being, but I would never again, and I repeat...NEVER again discontinue use of my western "toxic"(as some people call them) meds in favor of one of these. NEVER. 

The one time I tried that....I literally almost died (the pericarditis...remember that?). My body is literally attacking itself. My body is chronically inflamed. The only thing that my body responds to is anti-inflammatory drugs. (I cannot speak for others, I speak only for what I know of MY body).

Pills I take a day...
Yes, are there natural remedies like ginger and tumeric that are anti-inflammatories? Definitely. Do they actually work on the amount of inflammation raging through MY body? NO. (I would need pounds and pounds of tumeric and ginger to calm the inflammation attacking my lungs, joints, kidneys and heart). 

Here's the hard truth, my decision to choose predominantly western forms of medicine lies in two basic facts: 

1. Finances. Alternative medicine simply isn't covered by my insurance. Should it be? HELL YES. But it's not. So, spending money on alternative medicine has actually cost me MORE than my toxic pills/meds. I went to a homeopathic doctor for three months on the recommendation of my cardiologist. In those three months I spent: 

$150 per visit (x 3)
$300-350 for the vitamins and tonics a month (x 3)
Total: $1350 

My insurance deductible for the year is $1500. When I reach my deductible all my meds are covered. There is no way I could afford homeopathic medicine as a long term solution to my problems.

My acupuncturist was phenomenal. BUT, how much does she charge per visit? $60 a pop. Also NOT covered by insurance. To reap the true benefits of her therapies I would need to go once a week for the first three months. (you can do the math) 

My specialist visits cost me $55 a pop but those are once every 2-3 months, and again, once I reach my deductible...NO COST. 

Rituxan Infusions...saved my kidneys and my sanity
2. Life Saver. Western medicine has literally saved my life, on more than one occasion. Alternative medicine, while saving me from myself (mentally and emotionally), has never been what I turn to when something is seriously physically wrong. In other words, I don't start practicing yoga or drinking tea when my tachycardia feels like it might give me a heart attack. I go to the ER. 

Here's the thing, when you suffer from internal organ problems that are serious, alternative medicine doesn't work as quickly as modern medicine does. I do believe these other therapies CAN work, if you have that kind of time. For me, however, my body attacks itself so quickly and with such force that I would be dead before the herbs and vitamins and chakra balancing had time to work. (Literally, if I lower my prednisone dose from 7.5mg to 5mg, within 24hrs I will have at least 3 mouth ulcers and two swollen joints.) 

Also, here's a little secret...those three months I saw the homeopathic doctor..guess what? He told me to STAY on my regular meds. So, on top of taking the 20+ pills, juice, nasty oil and vitamins he gave to take three times a day, I STILL had to take my "regular" wonder I was sick to my stomach! (I literally threw up in my car one day while driving...didn't even have time to pull off to the side of the road...not fun)

So who really knows what was helping me..his concoctions, or my doctor's???

Do many people have a sour taste in their mouth when it comes to modern medicine, of course they do and they should. The insurance business in this country makes me sick to my stomach. Big pharma should be brought down and we all need to take a closer look at how these drugs are made and tested. If I could, I would never take another pill again. But I am not afforded that luxury. 

Know what luxury I AM afforded? The luxury of having been born and living in a first world country during the 20th and 21st century. 30-50 years ago, scleroderma was a death sentence. Thanks to modern medicine, it isn't anymore. I need my meds to survive, to thrive, to keep writing, inspiring and living my life. I'm not going to denounce and hate on one of the key factors that makes this all possible for me.
My meds...Walgreens makes a lot of $$ off me!

Trust me there have been plenty of times I don't follow my doctor's orders completely because I know how to listen to my body and my body tells me "F" this. (I currently take less of my meds than are prescribed and my doc and I have come to the understanding that that's ok) Not all doctors want to force meds on you, but you have to find the right ones. The ones that care about YOU as a patient and will listen to you and try to work with you. It took me awhile to get there with my team of docs, but we're finally at a place where if I don't feel good about a certain med, we try to ALTERNATIVE. Sometimes it simply means taking a lower dose, trying a new drug in the same family, or doing nothing at all and waiting to "see" how my body responds and what the blood results show. It's been empowering and life changing to be working with docs who care about me as a human being and who they themselves hate insurance companies and big pharma. I know not everyone has had that experience, but don't be discouraged. Keep looking for that doctor that will listen to you and work with you. And...if you can't ever get off the meds and just drink tea...don't feel bad about that either! We all have to listen to our own bodies and do what's best for each of us. 
At the Silent Yoga Retreat 2015
I have no shame in my game. I will pop my pills and be on my merry way. 

But, I also truly believe in a holistic approach to health. What does that mean? That I will take my meds, do yoga, eat as well as I can, go to acupuncture when I can afford it, smile often, laugh hard, meditate, pray, love and follow my dreams. The mind and body connection cannot be denied, and I know that when all the pieces of my life are working in harmony I feel better overall. 

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