26 December 2009

Yes! At last, a real conversation with a doctor!

On Christmas Day, I got a great present -- an extended conversation about the issues of healthcare reform... with a real-live doctor. This guy is a recent addition to the family, the freshly minted husband of my partner's niece. He's doing his residency at a local hospital, and he's working in internal medicine. He's got an osteopathic background, which I find fascinating. Nothing against AMA docs -- MD's -- but yesterday I had an actual discussion with a doctor about the innermost workings of the body, how it fits together, how it interconnects, and what some of the root causes of disease and healing are.

He also said something I haven't ever heard an MD say -- that the human body is built to regain balance and to heal.

Most of the MDs I've ever talked to, have held to what seems like a "party line" -- we don't know enough about the body, it's a mystery, nobody understands it for sure, and medication is the one sure way to address issues that come up. Now mind, I'm coming from this from a patient's point of view, and I could be completely wrong, but that's just what I hear coming from the allopathic ("regular" mainstream medicine, as we often think about it), versus osteopathic camps.

Anyway, this doc and I had a great discussion about the ills of this new healthcare reform process we're all going through at the moment. I say "we're all" because we are ALL affected by this change. No one will escape it -- except apparently the people who are creating it, who have their own medical benefits package that will apparently be unaffected by this legislation.

I don't pretend to have all the answers, and I'm sure I'm lacking some really critical information. The whole issue is huge and vast and complex and as varied as the humans who are influence by it. And by the end of our conversation, in which he laid out very clearly all the different reasons we should all be deeply concerned about this, the bottom line for me was that when it comes to my health, I cannot -- and will not -- surrender ultimate control to anyone except myself.

Washington is going to do what it's going to do. Insurers are going to do what they're going to do. Doctors are going to do what they're going to do. I have no control over them. I can offer some ideas, but the systems which are in place which gave rise to the conditions we are facing right now are simply too vast and too intricate to influence on my small scale. Fixing what's broken will take time. A lot of time. And after my discussion with the doc, I can assure you, I'm not holding my breath.

Now, I could fret and worry and concern myself over the impending doom of healthcare reform. But I'd rather do my own healthcare reform, and take matters into my own hands. I'd rather have myself to thank (or blame) for my health and happiness. I'd rather be responsible for my own well-being, not depend on an official governing body to "help" me. The chances of any government agency being able to truly help me are slim to none. Certainly, it helps to have insurance for specialists and extreme situations. But for overall health and well-being, I'd rather take those matters into my own hands.

I actually have been, for many years. About 20 years ago, I had an extended bout with extreme, crippling, inexplicable joint pain. It wreaked havoc in my life at a time when I "should" have been getting on my feet with a career and savings account, and all the seeds of my future adult life. I was unable to work full-time, I was unable to do much of anything, aside from rest and move slowly from one carefully selected activity to the next. The experts -- and I went to some of the best in the nation -- were unable to offer me any conclusive answers. And the medicine I was on was playing even more havoc with my life.

Ultimately, I had to stop seeing them and take matters into my own hands. Change my life. Change my diet. Quit smoking. Start taking care of myself. Get my act together. Get on with my life, pain or no pain. And I did. It wasn't fun and it wasn't easy, but I did it. I've still got intermittent issues, but now I know how to handle them, and I do. I track my daily health. I exercise regularly -- as in, daily, not several times a week. I don't just watch what I eat -- I actively manage my health with the food I eat. And I don't expect anyone else to supply me with The Secret to a long and healthy life. I pay attention to what long-lived people do. I study what folks do to stay physically and mentally healthy for 100+ years. I make a point of tracking my progress with issues that come up. And I don't quit working towards improving what I can. There's no end to what I can improve. So I'm usually well-occupied.

I have been blessed to not have to deal with cancer in my body. I have been blessed with a strong constitution and an even stronger will. I have been blessed with good sense (for the most part ;) and a desire to do better the next time. And I've been blessed with an insatiable interest in useful information that I can put to good use.

I'm fortunate with what I started out with -- but if I didn't make the effort to do something with it, it would all go away. Determination and willpower and constant improvement don't happen on their own. Even the largest reserves will wither, if not attended to... and the smallest speck of potential will expand many times over, if given the proper attention and priority.

I still have a lot of thinking to do about my conversation with the doc, yesterday. There was a lot that was said that I need to noodle through. But when all is said and done, the thing I'm taking away from that discussion is that the government is really NOT my preferred healthcare provider.

I am.

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