Boston Women’s Journal - December 2006/January 2007\

They “Haven’t Got Time for the Pain?”

A recent incident reminded me of an article I wrote about the treatment of chronic illness by traditional medicine. If anything the situation has gotten much worse since I visited this subject three years ago.

I had a client who had just been through surgery for Stage 4 breast cancer. She had seen my ad in this publication and was looking for someone to help her through the next stage of her life. She was armed with information and willing to try alternative therapies, in conjunction with her traditional care.

Her journey to my office started six months earlier with a visit to a well known oncologist in one of the major Boston hospitals. She was nervous and frightened, filled with questions and fears. She was 38 years old. In a dry tone, with no affect, the doctor had given her a bunch of technical terms and a sheet of paper that outlined the next steps she needed to take in order to have “a decent chance at the five-years survival mark.” These fact sheets listed the surgeon she should call in order to set up a surgery appointment, (“I wouldn’t waste any time dear, your cancer is very aggressive.”) and to be scheduled for radiation and chemotherapy. She had never met this doctor before, and before she knew it she had been hustled out and was standing in the reception area crying, holding her “to do” list. As my client-to-be looked around the room, she saw twenty other women waiting for the same doctor and the same 15 minute appointment. Some would receive better news and some would receive worse, but they all would get the same even manner, no time for questions, and a piece of paper with instructions.

She dutifully called the people she was supposed to, as outlined on her piece of paper, and in a stunned state walked through the next steps of her treatment. Her next appointment was with a surgeon, who explained in medical detail exactly what she would do and on what date she would do it. She left the office with yet another piece of paper in her hands, in tears, facing it seemed, the same women sitting in the same chairs, waiting for their 15 minutes and their piece of paper.

And on it went, though her surgery, through her radiation, through her chemotherapy, all the way to my office. In my practice as a medical intuitive and energy medicine practitioner, I often work with people who are frustrated and disappointed by the treatment they have received through traditional medicine. They often have chronic conditions that allopathic medicine offers few solutions for, or are looking to support traditional treatments with additional alternative care. Sometimes they come in because they have been shellshocked and are looking for a way to contextualize their experience and move forward with their life while helping to heal the peripheral damage done to their body through treatment. I can provide them with interpretation of their experience through my traditional training, with hands on energy treatment to help the body relearn how to route energy after a traumatic event such as surgery or radiation, and with alternative health care options including supplements to improve their long term wellness.

This woman, and others like her, with diagnoses such as lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune disorders, and chronic illness in general, are not easily served by 15 minute appointments that merely provide technical instructions. The 15 minute medical model is driven by one major force - insurance reimbursement. As absurd as it sounds, doctors have a number of clients they must see in a day, and are expected to provide nothing but diagnosis and action plans for a person’s care. In my opinion the situation is now worse than I have seen it in 30 years of practicing in the medical field.

In order for a person to get well, especially from a chronic illness or injury, they need information, the ability to make choices about their care, and a supportive individual who will listen to their concerns. They need someone to help them think about how this will affect their life, their work, and their family, and a translator familiar with medical terminology. The 15 minute appointment provides none of these services.

I am a believer in integrative medicine. That means that in order to get the best care for a person, we should include all the options available. Those options might include traditional medical care, supplemental medicine, or energy healing. Any good care must include providing someone with the ability to comprehend, make decisions, and be an active part of their treatment. This woman’s survival and future health my have been dependent on the traditional care she received, but her recovery was hampered by not receiving any support or choices along the way. In addition, her post-acute treatment was not addressed at all. That’s how she ended up in my office. If we allow this model of service provision to continue, we compromise not only the quality of care people receive, but their actual survival. A person with knowledge to listen, and gentle healing hands to touch is essential to life and recovery.