Just Say No to the Medico?

As we sail through life, we have a lot of decisions to make. Golden Sea, original oil painting and licensed open edition print by Steve Henderson.

Last week, I talked about taxes, and how we can — albeit rarely — stand up and say “No,” even when the taxing agency’s response is to shut down the library, or close the swimming pool, or keep us out of National Parks (Increasing Taxes: Can We Just Say No?) Whenever voters agitate, government retaliates, but that shouldn’t keep us from standing up now and again.

This week, the person to say “no” to might be your doctor, and of course I preface everything with the caveat that I’m not giving you medical advice, just voicing an opinion, and it’s your responsibility to make the decisions that affect your life. But do recognize that you do have a part — the most significant part, actually — in making the decisions that affect your life.

Not that many years ago, people went to the doctor’s office when they were sick, or if they had broken something. The rest of the time they muddled happily on, and more than one person my age was nursed through a flu, or a cold, or chicken pox, by a parent who fed us chicken soup, insisted that we rest, and commiserated with us on the absolute inanity of afternoon TV, once the game shows were over. Parents had a pretty good, and sensible, eye for what was serious, and what wasn’t. They still do — they’re just told that they don’t.

And then Prevention became the big word, starting with regular well-child visits, progressing to adult wellness, resulting that the entire population demographic shows up on a regular basis for this screening or that. Now, the norm of yesteryear — staying away from waiting rooms filled with coughing people and taking care of yourself, making a doctor’s appointment only when something was wrong — is now considered bad, reckless, and irresponsible.

When it comes to our children, we parents must recognize that we are the most unique expert there is. Madonna and Toddler, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

While it’s true that certain conditions may be detected that might not have earlier, what’s also certain is that more people are walking out of the doctor’s office with prescription slips. Sitting in a doctor’s office is like playing I Spy — within the 15 minutes you wait, shivering in a thin piece of cloth, you see notepads, calendars, pencils, coffee cups, posters, and knick knacks blazoned with the name of various prescription drug companies. It makes you wonder.

Years ago, the Norwegian Artist underwent a series of rigorous tests prior to providing a stem cell transplant to a relative suffering from cancer, and the physician in charge was stunned that the man, in his late forties at the time, took no medication — prescription or otherwise — for anything.

“You are an extremely and unusually healthy man,” he told the Norwegian.

Later, when the extremely and unusually healthy man underwent his ultimate adult wellness checkup (at my request, because I still had a tendency to obey the establishment), the same numbers that had so impressed the first physician prompted the second one to reach for the prescription pad.

“Your numbers are too high,” he said.

“But they are the same as they were when I underwent the tests for the stem cell transplant,” the Norwegian replied, “and the doctor then pronounced me sound and sane.”

That Norwegian. He hikes everywhere. Crystalline Waters, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

“The numbers have changed,” the medico replied.

“Then I would like to address the issue with lifestyle issues first. What do you suggest?”

“What I suggest,” the medico retorted, “is that you do what I tell you. If you’re not going to listen to me, then we have nothing to talk about.”

The Norwegian stared back, took in the overweight, out of shape nature of the man; the stern, inflexible countenance; and the hand hovering over the prescription pad, and said,

“Then I guess we have nothing to talk about.”

That was the last time the Norwegian Artist has been to the doctor’s office, and the next time he visits — he tells me — is when something is significantly broken or lacerated. In the meantime, he eats well, exercises regularly, sleeps deeply (how can anyone drop off 30 seconds after the light goes out?), and enjoys remarkably good health.

“But something hidden could be going on that you don’t know about.”

It’s good to know that some things in the world stay the same, and aren’t affected by number play. On the Horizon, original oil painting and licensed, open edition print by Steve Henderson.

I hear that voice.

But there’s another voice, as well:

“Something that is a problem only because the numbers have changed — and not because of science but because of economic factors — could get us on a merry-go-round of medication that we don’t really need.”

Your health — like every other aspect of your life — matters most to you, and ultimately, the decisions are in your hands. Ask questions, research options, read articles, and don’t be cowed into obedience by stern looks or advertising campaigns.

Fridays I talk about Financial Health, from the perspective of a real person living an ordinary life. You can find my book, Live Happily on Less, through my Amazon Author page.

This article was originally published in ThoughtfulWomen.org.

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4 Responses to “Just Say No to the Medico?”

  1. Jeff Friederich, MD says:

    Thank you, Ms. Carolyn, an excellent piece that is right on. Your perception about doctors and their vulnerabilities to marketing, the slant of their training towards a pill or procedure for everything, is quite correct. Often motivated by the patient’s expectation of receiving that prescription, or else your a bad doctor, most just fall into the path of least resistance. Personal accountability works in your own medical care and lifestyle, sadly it is rare to see it in action. Thanks again for your comments.

    Jeff Friederich, MD
    Duluth, MN

    • Thank you, Jeff. You sound like a doctor that I would seek out and go to, should I break my arm and need it set. You are right that there is a vicious circle of some patients wanting a pill for anything and everything, which is only exacerbated by a barrage of advertising that tells them to, “Talk to your doctor about . . . whatever pill this ad is about.”

      No panaceas. No magic pills. Personal accountability is so much more difficult, and is a lifetime process. — Carolyn

  2. Ludmilla says:

    I agree with you 100%. Doctors are useful in emergencies and accidents now. When I was a kid we couldn’t afford a doctor for just a stuffy nose or a bad scrape and visited only for the pre-summer camp exam. During that office visit, the doctor actually looked at our nails, eyes, backs, knees, and hair, as well as asking about personal diet. Now they don’t take their eyes off the computer, aking, “how are you feeling?” Without a specific complaint that can be referred for tests or symptoms that can be masked–not cured–by a ridiculously expensive drug, you’re out of luck. I’m also annoyed by the one-size-fits-all medicine they employ. It’s puzzling that my blood pressure and cholesterol should be the same as a woman who is 5 foot 11 or 4 foot 11 and much younger or much older than I. Doesn’t make sense until you realize that the drug and insurance companies are the creators of these statistical charts. I foolishly decided to get my free preventive exam and was referred for several costly and invasive tests, which I declined because they are worthless. If they’d taken my blood pressure at the end of the visit, it would have been much, much higher due to my annoyance and anger. But that’s just me.

  3. Quite the experience, Ludmilla. I agree with you about the computer screen — the other day at the dentist’s office the doctor greeted me briefly, then spent so long looking at the computer screen that I asked if her she wanted to actually look at my teeth. Quite fortunately, she did!

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