Monday, January 08, 2007

The assumption of health

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Terrific column from the New York Times forwarded to me by a friend: What’s Making Us Sick Is an Epidemic of Diagnoses. [If you can't access the article, let me know and I'll send you a copy.] After making the argument that it's over-diagnoses that is making most of us feel sick, the column concludes:

As more of us are being told we are sick, fewer of us are being told we are well. People need to think hard about the benefits and risks of increased diagnosis: the fundamental question they face is whether or not to become a patient. And doctors need to remember the value of reassuring people that they are not sick. Perhaps someone should start monitoring a new health metric: the proportion of the population not requiring medical care. And the National Institutes of Health could propose a new goal for medical researchers: reduce the need for medical services, not increase it.

This really hit home for me. I think what these columnists (three doctors contributed to the story) are saying makes so much sense.

Now, I would never fault someone for seeking medical care. I'm always grateful for decreased suffering, however it comes. Modern medicine can do some amazing things, especially in the realm of surgery. Some of the discoveries are important to my daily life, such as how to keep clean and how to care for cuts, etc. I also think some of the discoveries in the areas of nutrition and exercise—i.e., eat natural foods, move around regularly doing something you enjoy—are beneficial to a sense of physical wellbeing.

But I do want to admit to some things that when I've confessed them to new friends they're nothing short of astonished: I've never been to a medical doctor (just dentist and eye doctor). I've never had a shot (except Novocain). I've never taken an aspirin. I've never had a physical. Never had a Pap smear, a mammogram or any of the other unpleasant tests I've heard described. Never even had my blood taken (although my midwives both tried it and couldn't get it to work). Don’t know my blood type.

Sometimes people react by thinking that perhaps that's irresponsible. But many others respond with a wistful sigh—You've never had to go to a doctor? And I've realized that I'm not just avoiding shots and tests, but also a life of doctors' offices in-and-out. A life of anxiety about my health, of waiting with bated breath for the outcome of some test that will tell me whether I can have a normal life or not.

The fact is, I walk through life assuming that I'm healthy. My mindset, through the training I've received through Christian Science, gives me confidence and strength. I don't wonder if a sniffle will turn into pneumonia, or if an ache is the onset of arthritis. I'm in the habit of dismissing these things as inconsequential—which is what they then become.

Christian Science also got me in the habit of avoiding alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. Again, I don't fault anyone for their use of these products, but they're not a part of my lifestyle. I'm convinced that the fact that people regularly think I'm 15 years younger than I am (someone actually thought my college-aged daughter and I were sisters recently) is attributable to this lifestyle. (Well, maybe that and my hair coloring.)

Christian Science is effective, proactive, preventative health care. It decreases fear, which decreases stress. Not to mention how much inspiration and joy it's brought me over the years, an abiding closeness to God, and help when I needed it. I wish more people would check it out, because it really works.

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 1/08/2007 06:56:00 PM, Blogger Kimmy said...

Amen to that! Last night I got stuck in an elevator with..."So you're a Christian Scientist, huh? Doesn't that mean you don't go to doctors?" I seem to get this all the time, so I replied "Nope. I don't have to go to a doctor for healing." After a few more floors, he replied, "Well, that's something." Great that a diagnosis is starting to be questioned -- not the 'end all say all' -- even in the Times.


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