Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Looking for Answers: Part II

Most of my life, I pretty much skated along without any physical health issues. Until I hit 50 years old.

My forties were full of some of the common stressors of modern adulthood, involving divorce and the family struggles that came with it, relationships, business, etc. We all hear about the effect of stress on health, and I’m here to attest that yes, stress does negatively affect you.

I began to have some problems. I was miserable. My general practitioner suggested that due to my age and my symptoms, I should have a colonoscopy. I was delighted since this would be an opportunity to get some relief and once again get to back to living normally — whatever that is.

As I was rejoining reality from my propofol-induced sleep, my internist friend came in, sat next to me, and said, “I don’t know whether you’ve got cancer or Crohn’s, but your colon is eaten up with ulcers.”

I wasn’t excited to hear either one of those C-words. I have several patients with Crohn’s, and they are sick folks. Our local area seems to have a disproportional number of Crohn’s patients, and it’s not something that I wanted. But at least I had an answer — or so I thought.

So now I’m a patient. I get to make those phone calls to front desk staff who sound bored and busy. I get to fill out piles of paperwork. I get to deal with insurance companies — I hate dealing with insurance companies. I get to meet nurses and physicians of all kinds. I get to wait in waiting rooms with other sick people.

Let me tell you, it ain’t fun.

Ultimately, I got a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory disease of the colon and a relative of Crohn’s. I was referred to this doctor and that surgeon. One surgeon didn’t want to do anything to help my chief complaint due to the uncertainties associated with my condition. He sent me to a specialist, where I wait for a couple of miserable hours, and then he performed an exam so rough and painful that I seriously considered waiting outside his office and socking him. Ultimately, I ended up in the care of a gastroenterologist who was young and brilliant. She did procedures and performed biopsies and exams and showed me charts of results.

What I didn’t get was answers, but that’s the nature of autoimmune diseases. The response to every question is: “We don’t know.”

So I looked around on the internet. I asked friends and business partners. I got some helpful and lots of not-so-helpful advice. I got some downright weird advice.

I soon realized that there’s a lot of therapy out there that I was clueless about. Maybe you are, too. It sure wasn’t discussed in dental school or in any of my science classes in college. But how do you talk about “energy therapy” in a science class? You don’t.

But there I was: Dr. Science. Mr. Rational Thought. Reiki Practitioner? (Look it up. You’ll laugh.)

Suffice it to say, when you’re not getting answers from the science-based community, you’ll likely look outside the box. We’ve got a handle on the scientific information out there, but there is a lot we don’t have a handle on.

More next month. Until then, eat your fiber!

Bruce M. Scarborough, DMD, FAGD


Unknown said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your blog, Bruce. There was a movie years ago with William Hurt...I believe it was called "The Doctor." He was a rather insensitive instructor in a teaching hospital...until he became a patient. He soon came to understand (first hand) the indignities and fears that people facing life-threatening/altering illnesses must endure. As a person in your age-group, "I hear ya!" Aging is not for weenies, but it will help you to empathize with and relate to your aging patient population.

Wishing you the best,

Laurence Grayhills, DMD, MS, MAGD
President of the Florida AGD

Jon said...

That is a story that draws out my sympathy and I would like you to know that.
I am particularly sad for your marriage ending. Your AGD Friend
Jon Hardinger


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