Recently, a couple patients of mine recounted their experiences with their respective doctors. I would love to say those experiences were positive, but they were not. Essentially they were given news that nothing could be done for them; that they had no one else to turn to and no place else to go to for help.
Anyone reading this blog for any amount of time knows my opinion on this line of thinking. So today I am going to address three common medical catch phrases along these lines that really rub me as irresponsible and dangerous.
1. “You have (x amount) of months to live.”
What kind of statement is this? How can anyone, including a medical doctor, know precisely when a person’s body will shut down from a disease?
The short answer is that they can’t. But that’s not even the worst part.
Most people know thoughts can be very powerful. When a doctor says a person has three months to live, or six months to live, they are essentially sentencing that person to die. Medical doctors are held in the highest esteem in our society. People who have gone through eight years of schooling, three to seven years of residency, and attire consisting of scrubs and/or a white coat have opinions regarded as Gospel in our society. When a doctor tells someone they only have a certain amount of time to live, their status in our society puts a tremendous amount of weight behind those words.
Someone fearful of the worst case scenario will crumble beneath this fatal phrase. I know… I watched it happen when my own mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September 2000. She was given six months to live. She was a nurse, and as such, held MDs right up there with God Himself. As a result, her world fell apart when she was given this news. On October 27th, 2000, four and a half weeks later, she died. Not from the cancer, but from a combination of despair and too much morphine.
Humans have never succeeded when trying to cheat God and take up His mantle. Sadly, a number of medical doctors in our society have not yet learned this. If your doctor thinks he/she is God, go find a new one that knows he/she is actually a human.
2. “There is no hope for you.”
This statement is a bold-faced lie. There is ALWAYS hope.
Someone determined to overcome a health challenge, and willing to do whatever it takes to overcome it, has a lot of hope. This is not a guarantee that someone’s drive and determination to survive will always win out. But it gives them more than a fighting chance of survival. Lance Armstrong had testicular cancer that spread to 60% of his body, yet he fought it, and went on to win seven Tour de Frances in a row. He didn’t have much hope at all, but he was determined to survive and he did.
Telling someone there is no hope is a sign of laziness, in my opinion. It is a blanket statement that’s really saying “I don’t have the resources to help you and I’m too lazy to search the Internet or call my colleagues and find out if they know of anything that can help you. So I’m going to take the easy way out and tell you there is no hope. This way, I can send you on your way and get to my next patient.”
In their medical world, no, you may not have any hope. But medicine doesn’t encompass every health avenue out there. A responsible doctor will help you find the help they can’t offer, not shoo you away like a diseased alley cat because they might actually have to do a little work.
Hope is what helped Victor Frankl survive the Holocaust, drove Martin Luther King, Jr. to lead the Civil Rights Movement, and led Mario Lemieux in overcoming Hodgkins lymphoma. No one has the right to take hope away from you, especially a medical doctor. If they do, fire them and find a new doctor that will acknowledge the possibility of something good in your future.
3. “You’ll have to learn to live with it the rest of your life.”
Again, this is not true in so many cases. The human mind can be very powerful, and if someone is driven enough, they can overcome a challenge in their health and be well.
In the documentary Simply Raw, 10 diabetic patients checked into a raw food retreat in Arizona for 30 days. One individual quit, but other than that, nearly all of the participants showed zero signs of diabetes after 30 days of eating a 100% raw vegan diet. Mind you, diabetes is an incurable disease… supposedly.
From my own experience, I was diagnosed with asthma when I was four. This was after suffering my first and only asthma attack.
Growing up, I never had much endurance. I was usually one of the last ones to finish when we ran laps in P.E. When I did finish, my breathing was very labored. I used the inhaler, an asthma medication called Theodur, breathing treatments… the whole nine yards.
When I was 15, I decided that I was tired of getting shots and taking medication. When my mom urged me to do these things, I refused (I am a VERY stubborn person, sometimes to a fault). I also didn’t believe I was an asthmatic. Lo and behold, when I was 16, I had no signs of asthma. It was strange. I actually had endurance. I could run a mile and not compete with a tortoise for last place. I didn’t suck wind as much when finishing either. I was healthier.
Was it because I stopped getting shots and taking medication? Partly. Was it because I decided I wasn’t an asthmatic anymore? Partly as well. All in all, I simply decided I wasn’t my diagnosis, took action (or, in my case, should I say inaction?), and my health improved. So no, I did not have to live with asthma the rest of my life; I certainly don’t have asthma now. And there is a possibility you don’t have to live with your condition the rest of your life either.
If a doctor tells you your condition will be with you until you die, it’s time to find a new doctor. Because in most cases, they are using a one-size-fits-all approach to your prognosis.
You are not a number, but an individual person like no other. Don’t forget that.