Monday, May 9, 2011

On a Limb

"You're going to die."

In that doctorly tone of authority, my endocrinologist gave me the news, the truth of which was soon betrayed by a curl in his lips and a fatherly twinkle in his eyes. He was only jokingly answering a question I had asked a moment before - one I assume must have seemed too absurd to take seriously: "So let's just say - hypothetically speaking - what happens if I don't take these antibiotics?"

I had paid a visit to Urgent Care the previous afternoon for a pain and sudden swelling in my right elbow, which I had noticed that very morning. Within just a couple hours the swelling had gone from the size of an average mosquito bite, to halfway down my forearm and a third the way up my tricep.

Given the apparent small puncture mark on the back of my arm just above my elbow joint, and the fact that I had attended an all-day Easter garden party the previous day, it appeared something had bitten or stung me. I had no previous experience with stings; so I wasn't much help in determining whether this was simply an allergic reaction, or if - as I feared - it might be some kind of infection.

I had heard horror stories about untreated spider bites and the like, so as per my usual programming, I went into panic mode, fully expecting my flesh to be eaten away or falling off my bones in a matter of hours. The two doctors I saw at Urgent Care seemed a bit unsure themselves, but ultimately they decided to treat it as though the area was infected. Their solution came in the form of two antibiotics: Cephalexin to treat the infection and Sulfameth to guard against MRSA.

Like a good robot, I filled both prescriptions... but I didn't take them. It was as if I still believed somewhere that resistance wasn't futile. I seemed to be having a bit of a personal crisis. What was the point of my being on a Raw food diet, if when my body was most in need of good nourishment, I fed it medical drugs instead? What was the point of introducing all the good bacteria of living, uncooked foods into my body, if I was now just going to succumb to popping some more bacteria-killing drugs at this crucial hour, rather than give my body an opportunity to demonstrate its natural healing ability.

I felt truly torn. As a diabetic, the general health of my limbs and circulatory system are continually on my mind. Even more poignant for me was the apparent location of this particular dis-ease. If I read my body as a kind of symbolic spiritual language, then what was the significance of this ailment's presence in my right elbow? I am right-handed, after all; so that arm gets lots of use, making it a rather important hinge joint for me. Might it be that my purpose and direction "hinged" somehow on this decision? Could it really be that serious a decision? Well, why not find out?

"If you don't take the antibiotics," my endocrinologist continued, seriously this time, "your body will eventually heal itself. But it will likely take longer and be more painful. Anyway, why wouldn't you take them?"

I articulated my reasons as intelligibly as I could, but his response told me I wasn't intelligible enough. "Look at me, Angela... Promise me you'll take the antibiotics."

I covered my face with my hands, half in shock, half in glee, at how prepared I was to do the opposite of what my own doctor suggested. "I can't promise that," I said.

"Don't play," he said, and then went on to describe the risks should I refuse the drugs. Certainly, the image of a giant, pus-filled abscess throbbing on my arm had about the same effect on my psyche as a gruesome horror film, but I somehow still managed to avoid uttering the words "I promise I will take the antibiotics."

"Did you say, yes?" he asked.
And so I said only, "Yes."

I had taken no drugs. And by this point, I knew that didn't want to take any drugs. I had disagreed in my heart with my doctor's advice. I felt alone, at the edge of some great precipice, into which only I could look or leap. Perhaps I had even climbed out onto the limb of a nearby tree for a better look into the chasm, only to find myself hypnotized by how long and hard the fall might be. It may as well have been one giant rabbit hole, and I was curiouser and curiouser... but then, I can get carried away sometimes.

When I (and my fantastic ideas) finally arrived home, I slept for several long hours. At the very least, I knew my body needed rest in order to heal. I had been running on too little sleep for a couple days, and if I was to heal holistically and without medication, I would need to begin with adequate rest. What followed that evening was a brief consultation with a friend of mine who's been mentoring me in my Raw foods journey (I hereby affectionately dub him "Superman" for anonymity's sake, as I may also make future references to him), a visit to the remedies section of Aajonus's book, and a trip to my neighborhood market for supplies... beets and clay and lime juice, oh my!

I remembered hearing somewhere that I should treat the produce section of my grocery store as though it were my pharmacy. With good foods in lieu of drugs, I would find my required remedy in nature. Once in my kitchen again, I shredded part of a beet, juiced half a lime, stirred half a teaspoon of clay into a little mineral water, and then combined all the ingredients together for a poultice. I then prepared a thinner mixture of the same ingredients for drinking (using more mineral water and beet juice instead of shredded beets). The idea, I read, was that these ingredients would draw toxins out of the affected area. The poultice would work externally, while the drink worked internally.

And work they did. After just one treatment, I noticed considerably reduced swelling in my elbow. I prepared and administered the same treatments only a few more times after that. Within 36 hours, the swelling was barely noticeable. Within 48 hours, it was gone.

I guess there's more than one way to beat an infection... Just spell it B-E-E-T.


  1. Thanks Angela: You inspire many. I totally identify with this, I've had some bad experiences when it comes to antibiotics. I am thankful they exist but I won't use them for something that my body can heal on its own. Thanks for sharing. Your stories are easy to read and fun!

  2. Thanks so much, Tara! I really appreciate your continued readership and encouragement. I hope you're doing really well! :o)