(Originally Published in Biscayne Boulevard Times. October 2004)
My husband has been suffering from chronic pain in his abdomen for the past six months. Because we don’t have health insurance, he has been going to community clinics, where they have drawn blood, conducted multiple ultrasounds and pumped him with two bottles of antibiotics — and still he is in pain. No insurance plus Western medicine’s overuse of antibiotics equal a losing combination, so I am wondering what alternatives are out there for my husband. Where can he go and what can he do to really get at the root of what’s going on in his body and mind? Secondly, what can I do to be supportive to him during this time while maintaining my own peace of mind?
Dear Concerned Wife,
Thank you for your letter. I empathize with your frustration and concern for the wellbeing of your husband. Navigating between the worlds of traditional and alternative medicine can be a daunting process sometimes. Let me try to simplify it for you.
There are two things that your husband needs to do in this situation. First, he needs to get a proper diagnosis from a doctor. When I say doctor, I am referring to one of three different kinds of doctors: Medical Doctor (M.D.), Naturopathic Doctor (N.D.) or Doctor of Oriental Medicine (D.O.M). An M.D. will look specifically at the abdomen and run tests to diagnose the problem. An N.D. will look at stress levels, nutrition, environment and physical factors that may be creating an imbalance in the body. The D.O.M. will check the many physical indicators of the body such as meridians, pulses and the tongue to find the illness.
To find the one that’s right for him, I suggest that your husband consults with more than one doctor to discuss his problem. He can find listings of physicians in the phone book and in several online directories. The doctor he chooses should be licensed, certified, and experienced. When he speaks with the doctor he should ask: How long have you been in practice? What experience do you have with specific ailments? and What is your basic philosophy of healing? Since your husband does not have health insurance, he should try to negotiate a flat fee or reduced rate for the examination.
Following the diagnosis, your husband will have to decide what treatment he wants to pursue. Medical Doctors, as you mentioned, will most likely prescribe drugs or surgery. The Naturopathic Doctor will use non-invasive methods including diet, herbs, muscle relaxation and other natural therapies. Acupuncture and herbs will most likely be used by the Doctor of Oriental Medicine to treat the illness. Any or all of the doctors may refer him to other health care professionals such as massage therapists or counselors if they think he needs additional treatment.
It is important that the treatment does not only address the symptoms but also the underlying problem. A quick fix will only lead to larger problems in the long run. This illness is a good opportunity for your husband to look at all of his self-care practices such as diet, exercise, rest and relaxation to determine if any changes need to be made to support the healing of his body. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to stop what we’re doing and make time to take care of our self. It is essential that your husband make himself a priority at this time.
You can support your husband in his healing process in two ways. First, educate yourself about the body. Disease does not have a simple cause but is the result of a complex web of interactions within and outside the individual. Several things contribute to physical pain including nutrition, stress and mental and emotional health. It is our responsibility to learn as much as we can about our bodies so we can choose treatments that are health promoting and risk free.
Secondly, I suggest that you try to approach your husband’s illness with openness and acceptance. Illness is an opportunity to learn something about ourselves and grow as a person. It may be a message from the body-mind-spirit about some essential need that is being neglected. Illness may be an opening of new doors or a start of a new life path. Whatever it may be, resist the temptation to send it negative thoughts and negative energy because you are frustrated by its arrival. Treat it like a guest in your house. Send it all the love and compassion you can generate and it will respond accordingly. Good luck to you and your husband!
Gabrielle Pelicci, MA, LMT