Most of us believe that modern medicine is better today than it was in the pioneer days. I, myself, wouldn’t have disagreed the slightest with that statement until just a few days ago. But today, I would edit that statement.
You see, modern medicine is very good at treating some well-established diseases. We don’t worry about diseases like scarlet fever, which is no longer deadly now that is treated with antibiotics. We’ve managed to eradicate some diseases, such as smallpox, a disease that’s been around since at least 1,000 years before Christ. And even diseases like meningitis, though still serious, no longer have epidemic outbreaks and do not have a 90% death rate due to vaccinations and antibiotics.
But it’s not all good news. Diseases like typhoid have become resistant to many antibiotics, requiring stronger and stronger antibiotics to be used. And while heart disease has existed since ancient Egypt, few died from it before 1900. (Charles Ingalls died from it in 1902.) Today, 600,000 deaths a year are attributed to heart disease. And then there are the new diseases. I have one of those, a rare disease you’ve probably never heard of (systemic mastocytosis). So naturally my ears perked up when I was watching a video about food safety and a medical expert relayed that he has been seeing many patients with “rare” diseases and asserted that these new illnesses would not remain rare for long. One big problem we are facing today is that our world is more full of poisons and toxins than ever before, and medical science cannot keep up.
I’ve experienced this with my own illness. While being diagnosed at the Mayo Clinic, I was told my symptoms were not typical. I asked if my symptoms were possibly being caused by another illness. I was told no. So I stopped my six-month-long search for the cause of my illness and began to focus on treating my mastocytosis. That fall, I attended a conference for mastocytosis patients. I was eager to meet others who were experiencing some of the same things I was experiencing and anxious to hear advice from the physician presenters on how to live with the illness. I was left disappointed and discouraged. No one I met shared my same symptoms, and the information presented didn’t seem relevant to my case. But I did get a taste for just how much doctors know about my condition, when a patient asked a question a bout a symptom he was experiencing, the expert physician told him that symptom was not common to mastocytosis patients. The patient then asked everyone who had experienced that symptom to stand up. Half the people in the room stood. Since most of the attendees were there when a spouse or support person, I can only wonder if I was the only person there not experiencing that “rare” symptom.
For most of the two years since my diagnosis, I have wondered if mastocytosis was truly the illness causing my pain. There was no question I had mastocytosis; a bone marrow biopsy had confirmed that. But as I found myself relating more with friends who have fibromyalgia, lupus, Lyme’s disease, and even MS, then I do with people I’ve met with mastocytosis, I couldn’t help but wonder if one of those diseases was the true culprit of my pain.
Getting a second bone marrow biopsy about eight months ago, I was told that the number of mast cells in my bone marrow had dramatically reduced but that a slight number still existed. Though I had experienced improvement with my symptoms, the improvement had not been as dramatic as those test results would indicate. I went to a rheumatologist, whom I was told was one of the best, to ask if lupus might be the culprit. He did a quick office examination and told me I probably had fibromyalgia but he would also do a blood test for lupus. I was later told that a quick office exam can not adequately diagnose fibromyalgia and there is no blood test to rule out lupus (giving me flashbacks to my experience trying to get a proper blood test for Lyme’s disease which more than one doctor refused to do). Since I was already taking a prescription for fibromyalgia patients, which was helping with my pain, this doctor expressed no interest in helping me with the disease he had just diagnosed. Not feeling very confident in this doctor’s quick diagnosis, I decided to trust my doctor at the Mayo Clinic and assume mastocytosis was the cause of my pain.
This assumption changed last week as I was about to start a medical trial for mastocytosis. I have been planning on starting this medical trial for the past eight months. In addition to the bone marrow biopsy I had done at the Mayo Clinic while I was there, I was asked to get some tests done locally. Before doing so I sent a letter to my doctor at the Mayo Clinic with a few questions. As she responded to my questions she confirmed that she had discussed my qualifications for the upcoming trial based on my bone marrow biopsy and, though there had been some question because of my dramatic improvement, it had been determined that I was qualified. Based on the information in her letter, I spent hundreds of dollars to get these tests before my insurance ran out.
On the day I planned to begin the trial, I called the Mayo Clinic with what I thought would be a quick question. Long story short, I ended up getting a phone call from the lead doctor of the medical trial telling me I did not qualify because of my bone marrow biopsy eight months earlier, which he claimed showed no mast sales in my bone marrow. This was upsetting for many reasons. Perhaps I would have taken this as good news if I were actually feeling better, but for the last couple weeks my symptoms have been as bad as they were before I was even diagnosed. And so here I am again back at square one— no, worse off than at square one. I’m in severe pain, not sure what I have, and now (because of my illness) without insurance.
So you can see why my faith in modern medicine has been diminished. I still think that the Mayo Clinic is among the best of the best, but I do not think that the best of the best is good enough to combat the diseases caused by the poisons of modern life.
While modern medicine has failed me, I have found some relief in hydrotherapy, a technique that goes back to the ancient Egypt, Persian, Greek, and Roman civilizations, and was commonly used during our pioneer days. So although I will continue visiting modern physicians in search of an answer, I will also keep in mind that many answers were discovered years ago.