Friday, September 30, 2011

Doctor Love

I like to look good for my doctor.

I dress up for doctor visits these days almost as if I were going on a date rather than to a medical appointment. Of course, I'm pretty sure it's ultimately not my fancy shoes, form-fitting skirt and bare shoulder V-neck top he's thinking of when he says, "Well, look at you! Don't you look fantastic?!" The cute clothes probably don't hurt in helping to produce that desired reaction, but I trust he's commenting more on my increased vitality and apparent happiness - my "glow" if you will.

He's not the only person verbally acknowledging the change, but I will credit my doctor with a unique perspective. He's seen me at my very worst, after all. He's told me himself he is still haunted by the image of me in the ER, my fragile underweight frame - just a pale ghost of a barely responsive and nearly comatose 27-year-old new diabetic, fighting like hell from some unseen place against an unheard-of 1600 blood sugar. He still recalls how I emerged from that Great Fight, terrified, trembling and confused, looking perhaps more like the loser than the winner.

But win I did. And the changes he's seen in me since, these last several months especially, are undoubtedly even more impressive by contrast. My outward presentation is usually a reflection of how I'm feeling - and, more consciously, Being -  on the inside. It seems only natural to me, then, that I'd want to let it show. It's just plain fun, quite frankly, knowing before I even arrive that I'm going to knock my doctor's socks off - both with my blood test results and my vibrant energy and healthy appearance.  And so I like to dress for what feels like a social occasion.

First comes the slightly awkward greeting. It's been a while since we've seen each other. Then follows the obligatory small talk. Before we know it, we're on familiar subjects and falling right back into our long-established doctor-patient relationship. He reminds me where we left off on my last visit, what my numbers were like, and things I said that I surely didn't mean or fully understand... like that I intend not to be diabetic forever.

On this particular visit, he sat and stared at his computer, perusing my stored test data. I had just recited by memory a list of all the blood and urine tests I wanted performed. He joked that I was doing his job for him and didn't need him anymore. I laughed mercifully, but finding more truth in his words than perhaps he intended or realized.

"I know you want to get off the insulin, but that's never going to happen," he said, point blank.

I kept quiet for the moment. I was never quite sure what reaction my frankness might get from him. My goal was and is simply to be off synthetic insulin and done with diabetes. And having reduced my insulin intake by roughly 75% since January and increased my own C-peptide/natural insulin production to the low-normal range of .08 and more recently 1.1, I had become more discerning of what comments and advice I let in and allow to affect me. So I heard him... I heard him state the limitations of what he believed was possible, and I just smiled and kept quiet.

"How much insulin are you taking now?" were the next words out of his mouth.

I literally pulled out my pump to check the totals. My average for the last 21 days was 5.45 units daily, with 3.85 of that being basal (or all-day insulin to keep me level during a 24-hour period). What that meant was that my entire day's worth of meal-time insulin totaled an underwhelming 1.15 units. Consider that before I went Raw, I was averaging 6-8 units of basal insulin per day and 3-5 units of meal-time insulin per meal, and you begin to have some context for my progress.

My doctor looked up from his computer. "What?! That's nothing!"

"I know," I said.

And then his tune changed. In what seemed a spontaneous burst of childlike energy and enthusiasm, he rolled his chair over to where I was on the opposite side of the room. "Here's how we can get you off insulin..."

What he outlined for me then was nothing short of the exact opposite of what I've been trying to accomplish. He proposed instead putting me on an experimental new synthetic hormonal drug (which seemed to require the aid of at least a couple other prescriptions) that would ultimately block my body's production of natural glucose. The idea was that suppression of that naturally occurring glucose would translate into a need for less insulin. It made about as much sense to me as telling a one-armed man that, in order to restore his sense of balance, he should pay someone to chop off his other arm. My dad's voice in my head  kept repeating, "If it's not broke, don't fix it." Nonetheless, I was curious.

"And would I eventually be able to discontinue those medications?" I asked.

His answer was no. In his perspective, I would be on either the insulin or this new glucagon-inhibiting medication for the rest of my life. Clearly, he was missing my point. I didn't want simply to swap one harmful medication for another. I wanted to be rid of medication altogether. But perhaps that just wasn't a practical request to make of a conventional medical doctor. (Honestly, I've felt sometimes like pharmaceutical reps get more timely, consistent access than I do to doctors I've had over the years.)

Well, of course, I had no intention of agreeing to such an experiment. But rather than challenge my doctor, I decided it was best simply to let him finish. For months, I had been sharing my goals with him - even demonstrating them at times by refusing to follow all his advice and then telling him which parts of his advice I hadn't followed. And again, he had his medical viewpoint. But this time, his excitement seemed to reveal both a desire on his part to be included in whatever I was doing that was having such dramatic results, and a simultaneous unwillingness to acknowledge the route I was taking to get there.

It was becoming more and more apparent to me that my doctor and I were coming to a crossroads. As grateful as I was and am for his role in my life - especially after my initial diagnosis - what I'd begun to see was that we were no longer a good match. In fact, we had been growing apart for a while. Thus, my wandering mind's eye.

He's never known it (and I see no reason to tell him now), but I had begun cheating on my conventional doctor months earlier, with a doctor of Oriental medicine. This 'other doctor' had been using his knowledge and experience to inspire health in others for several years, after applying Raw foods and minerals in his own recovery from cancer. And so here he was - living proof of what I'd only ever heard about in documentaries and read about in books. He was the embodied truth of what was possible in health and healing. He could serve as a more direct path to the miracle I'd been seeking. I knew when I started seeing him that I was in good hands. And already, it is the single healthiest relationship of my life.

While the transition will certainly make future visits to my conventional doctor increasingly awkward, I expect to continue looking my best on those days. Perhaps over time he'll begin to notice the distance between my ever radiant glow and my waning affections for his particular brand of medicine. Maybe he'll begin to recognize that he is less and less a part of my improved overall health and happiness. We may even have more difficult conversations as time progresses. But what I'm counting on is one day finally uttering those now inevitable parting words in highest esteem of our magnificently capable, healing bodies:

"I no longer require drugs because I am free of disease."

Call it the 'pillow talk' of my new alternative healing relationship, if it helps you sleep... But this is the dream I keep safe every night from the dark, and the reality to which I wake every morning. No apologies. And no regrets.

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