How will I get through it

(Image not mine)

Recently I wrote about how too often we reach straight for some pills to take care of some reoccuring symptom without thinking twice about what we can change in our lifestyle in order to decrease the occurences of those symptoms. It sounds like I hardly take any meds…and at risk of sounding hypocritical, I do want to confess that Allegra-D and Ibuprofen totally makes my world a better place.

It’s to the point that I wonder how I will survive hay fever season, colds or headaches when/if I get pregnant and cannot take these pills. OMG.

I do honestly try my hardest to not take meds…during allergy season (which is pretty much from February to November for me) I’ve done nasal rinses and avoided super grassy/flowery areas…but hey, I live in Vancouver…it’s grassy and flowery for a MUCH longer period of time than in Alberta. And I didn’t move out here just to stay indoors all the time. Even the indoors presents its own host of allergens that wreck havoc on my sinuses. What can replace antihistamines or decongestants??

As for headaches or PMS cramps…I do first try hot water bags on the tummy, drinking warm teas, massaging my head and related trigger points. I don’t take pain killers “in case” I feel pain later. But at the end of the day, if it interfers with my ability to fall asleep at night…I’m taking an ibuprofen. I ❤ ibuprofen. Granted if I do get pregnant, I won’t have to worry about cramps…but headaches…gah. (Actually Mrs PR says I can take Tylenol…which is good…but I like iburpofen better.)

And then there are the colds…like the one I have now. So far I’ve survived with only a few teaspoons of Buckley’s as well as throat lozenges but if I can’t take any cough meds and it’s a really bad cough, then what? The Vaporub stuff doesn’t work for me. I am stocking up on Vitamin C, garlic extract, Cold FX, oregano oil…but there’s still going to be colds. Or worse, the flu.

I know, cross that bridge when/if I get there….but boy do I dread the day I cannot take meds.  Skywalker must dread it too as I’m a bit of a big baby when under the weather. =)

Faith AND Medicine…my reply

Mr Why, thank you for your email…I really really appreciate your insights and sharing. Your email has brought up some thoughts that I probably need to clarify further as well.

I totally agree with your view that faith and medicine works TOGETHER. I had struggled with it because some view it as in opposition to each other. I didn’t believe that should be the case, but I also didn’t know how it fit with each other. I think your explanation of it really brought it together for me…though I probably was not as eloquent in expressing it. ha ha. I also believe that whatever God does/doesn’t do, there is a purpose in it…to shape us to be more Christlike…and to bring glory to Himself. It absolutely calls for our obedience.

In my particular experience with endocrinologists and some doctors regarding the treatment of Graves, RAI or surgery was really the ONLY option that was ever presented to me. Yes, right away I took the PTU and beta blockers to bring my system under control as quickly as possible, but then RAI kept getting pushed in my face. “When can we schedule the RAI” “You should considering the RAI soon.” “Well, you’ll need it sooner or later.” And that made me kind of angry. This why I keep saying the endo just wants to “nuke/destroy” my thyroid. It’s the easiest thing for them to do, they don’t have to deal with it coming back. It gives them 100% success in “curing” me. I suppose I could use the term “permanently disable” instead. =) But it doesn’t make for as good a read.

I asked about dietary changes and the two endocrinologists I saw both said that diet is irrelevant. I refuse to believe, and couldn’t believe these Drs would think this, that treatment for one part of the body be looked at in isolation from the rest. Our body is greater than the sum of its parts! So I started to think to myself, “I’m going to defy your diagnosis…correction, I pray God will defy your diagnosis”. My GP took the time to look into treatment around the world for Graves and found that only in North America do Dr’s push for RAI as the FIRST course of action whereas in Europe and Asia, it was truly the LAST resort. This fueled me to keep looking for other ways.

I”ve also heard from several friends (sister in law included) who’ve had some form of hyperthyroidism that their Dr’s also recommended RAI right away, and as the only option…so they took it. And TOTALLY REGRETTED it, wishing they had the opportuniy to at least try alternative/holistic means to try to treat their thyroid. But their Dr’s never made mention of an alternative and seemed solely bent on symptom mangagement via the easiest means possible. Hearing this also makes me angry. =)

In all seriousness though, I know that for some, RAI or surgery is necessary to save their life as it was the case for my friend’s father. So I need to clarify to readers that I am not saying everyone should just pray for healing instead of using medicine…but as you say, each person needs to discern when to use which for their particular case… God leads that person through whatever experience is needed to shape Christ’s likeness in them.

RAI would really be the easiest course of treatment for me…I wouldn’t have to worry about changing my diet or lifestyle….or worry it’ll come back. But through prayer, I strongly felt this diagnosis was a wake up call to change my life…and to live in surrender and trust in God. Which is a pattern that’s been repeating through every area of my life in the last 15 years. I don’t think I am putting my life in danger by doing this.

So, yeah…in some ways I’m thankful that I got this wake up call. That I’m nearing euthyroid state…and that ultimately through this, I’m growing in my trust in God.

Do you agree or disagree with my thoughts? Does this change your views about Faith and/or Medicine?

Faith AND Medicine

Remember a little while back we were in discussion with Mr and Mrs Why regarding faith vs medicine? I recently received this email (published with permission) from Mr Why as further response to the conversation as well as my blog posts on the matter.

I really enjoyed our discussion surrounding faith and medicine although I feel I should clarify a few things.

I don’t really think that faith and medicine should really ever be opposed to each other.  I do think, as you had mentioned, that God has blessed us with science, medicine, technology, and more importantly the wisdom to decide when to use it.  Where people often talk about faith healing, it is often in the realm of the supernatural – where every other “human” attempt has failed – including medications, surgeries, and even natural / holistic cures.  I think that it takes great faith to receive this type of healing and is a very specific calling that God places on certain individuals with the purpose to bring Glory to Him.  One could view faith as yet another possible therapy to try in addition to antibiotics, chemotherapy, and so on.  Often I would recommend prayer AND medicine, rather than prayer OR medicine.

I do believe that our knowledge and understanding of the human body and its myriad pathophysiologies are very limited at best.  With many illnesses we don’t fully understand the cause and at best can only make vain attempts at resolution.  I’ve experienced this firsthand as I have several patients that I see frequently where neither I nor the half-dozen specialists I’ve consulted can figure out how to resolve their symptoms (much less diagnose the cause).  As such, we have limits to what we can do and what we can heal.

Regarding Grave’s Disease, I think it’s super great that you were able to achieve euthyroid levels with mainly diet control.  Unfortunately this is not always the case for other hyperthyroid cases.  As a physician, I feel that it may be potentially dangerous (and somewhat incendiary) to talk of RAI treatment as “nuking” or “destroying” your thyroid, leaving doctors to manage the aftermath of “killing off” one’s thyroid.  The RAI treatment is often reserved for a “last resort” type treatment, when other therapies have failed (including PTU and dietary management).  Remaining in a continuous state of hyperthyroidism can be very serious and even life threatening.  If a patient of mine had wanted to avoid radioactive treatment, I would certainly allow it – but would probably give a certain timeline/deadline, and continuously monitor their TSH/T3/T4 levels (as it seems like your endocrinologist has done).  In some cases, it may be better – in fact, life saving – to “remove” the “offending organ” in order to restore balance to your endocrine system.

As we had also discussed that evening, it really is dependent on one’s relationship with God when trying to seek His calling.  Whichever way He leads you – to avoid treatment or to accept it – is always a step of faith because one never knows what the future holds.  I don’t think it is necessarily against God’s calling to take a harsh medical treatment, nor do I necessarily believe that God only works through “natural” or “holistic” means.  I think God works the way He works – and we are just supposed to be faithful and obey.

In any case – I really enjoyed our discussion that day and I’m glad you were able to express it in your blog!  I do admire your faith and especially your discipline to watch your diet.  I’m glad that God has blessed you with health and hope that we can continue to have these discussions on faith even while you’re away!

I really appreciated his email and the thoughts he had to share. Do you agree/disagree or have other thoughts to add? I will post my response in a separate post.

My Rage Is Not My Problem

Disclaimer: Please note I’m not saying we shouldn’t diagnose or treat mental disorder. Some really do need medication along with transformative life coaching to heal a person or at least “take the edge off”. I’m ranting about how we over diagnose what’s actually sinful human condition and apply labels such that everything but “me” is responsible for the problem. And that there’s a pill for everything instead of putting some muscle into living a transformed life as Christ enables us.

Over the last couple days, a number of media sources cited a controversial potentially new diagnosis to be applied to teenagers called the “Intermitent Explosive Disorder (IED)”. Huffington Post’s article is here. Apparently 1 in 12 U.S. teens get into an uncontrollable rage such that they end up hurting themselves, others and/or property. You would be diagnosed with IED if you have three or more incidences of aggression in a year. I’m sure just about EVERY teenager, with raging hormones and emotions, will have some incidences of pent up aggression.

One diagnosed young adult, now 21, admits “I didn’t develop appropriate coping mechanisms.”

There…he said what the real problem is. It’s not that there’s a rise of a new mental disorder but that he didn’t develop the proper coping mechanisms. Then, instead of saying how he’d now like to take steps to develop the proper coping mechanisms, and then work on controlling how he copes with anger/frustration/not getting his way, he resorts to Big Pharma for a pill.

What really bothers me about all these “new” mental disorder diagnoses being made is how it provides yet another label for your lack of self-control and lack of responsibility or ownership of your issues. It makes the problem dwell on your parents or circumstances  and takes away your responsibility for getting better. It promises an easy fix through medication without giving you the tools to actually be a better person.

So, when does one develop the appropriate coping mechanisms for life?
Childhood? Great guess.  Yes I think it’s essential to say “No” to a child or to punish bad behavior even if they cry and tell you they hate you for it. I believe the job of a parent is to make sure their child grows up knowing how to constructively handle, as much as possible, whatever life might throw at them: success, failure, betrayal, riches, poverty, etc. The job of a parent is not to try to make their child like them or approve of them. (Someone quote this back to me if/when I’m one day a parent and are tempted to get my kid to like me.)

I recommend a three part article series by Dr. David Powlison called “Sane Faith” which really points the spotlight into every heart and mind. Take these examples from the article:

  • “Garrett suffers from intermittent explosive disorder (IED) and is an addictive personality — and Garrett is all about Garrett, and has control issues, big-time.”
  • “Sarah has anorexia — and she’s a perfectionist with low self-esteem.”
  • “Lise has a case of clinical depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) — and she sets impossible standards for herself.”
  • “Chandra suffers from social anxiety disorder — and she’s shy, gets glued to the tube, and needs her chocolate fix.”

Tell me you don’t see a little bit of all of the above in yourself.

Perhaps you can’t identify with just how badly another person flounders. But can you identify with worry? Getting angry? Overindulging in food or drink? Immoral thoughts? Self-preoccupation? Feeling guilty and despondent? Breeding unrealistic hopes? Escape into TV or music or web surfing? Bickering and gossip? Feeling anxious around people? Blanking out on God? All the different ways of being loveless, and joyless, and restless? We can each identify with aspects of what these people do.

We all deal with placing too much importance on the things that shouldn’t matter as well as with putting ourselves in the center of our universe.  Some may struggle with certain areas more than others…but at the end of the day, we all have the same disorder: My Life. And more specifically, life without Christ.

I truly believe that only He, who has the power to create the universe and conquor Death, can free us from those habits and attitudes and responses that seem to dictate what we do. Putting a label on bad behavior misleads us to believe that something bad is happening TO us when really, there’s something bad ABOUT us. This isn’t even about “just say no” because sometimes we just can’t seem to help ourselves, if we’re even aware of it! That is why we need Christ to save us from ourselves. He will reveal what is bad about us and transform us from within, instead of us just trying to conform outwardly.

The downside is it won’t be fast, or easy…and definitely not easy to swallow.
But, you won’t need medical insurance for it!