Thursday, March 28, 2013

Red Letter Day!

I call this a Red Letter Day!!  I went to my first medical doctor's appointment.  I'm now on Medicare, and since its federal government and greatly influenced by insurance and medical lobbyists, it discriminates against Naturopaths --and I have been going to one for decades.  What sent me to Dr. Borg, ND, was the breast cancer.  My original medical doctor said that there was indication that I had breast cancer, but the good news was that it would not affect my lifespan.  A small surgery would take care of it and let's make an appointment for that.  I said I'd be back to him on this.  And disappeared.

I immediately called my Doctor, Indian Doctor and Chief of the Winnemem Wintu, Granny, and she told me to come on down and I did that weekend with my daughters.  While they played with puppies, Granny and I sat out by the garden.  She said that most of the time people come to her when they are death's door having gone the medical doctor's way and by then it is very hard, but she has never lost a patient in her 80 years of doctoring.  She was glad I came to her now.  She said I would need to listen to her instructions and do it to a tee.  "Prayers don't cure cancer," Grams said.  "You have to take the herbs, every day."  She told me about incidents where people would quit when they felt better, or would quit a piece of it.  And they didn't make it.  I was determined.

It was hard work, a year of hard work.  I learned a lot of things about our bodies and I learned a lot, ironically, about the medical way of doctoring.  I learned also about the medicines.

After a year, I returned to Dr. Halpert who had in his hand a new mammogram result and he shared with me, "Well I have good news."  He had been concerned when he called me a couple of times and I finally wrote a letter assuring him that I was aggressively working on healing and not to worry about me. 

That morning he looked down at the report and said, "you're fine.  You're clean.  Congratulations.  Whatever you did, worked!" and asked me.  I was vague.  "I took some teas."  He paused.  Then he went on, "Well, I see you're about the age where we need to be talking about hormone therapy."

When I left that day, after saying absolutely not, I left the medical institution forward -- I left pharmaceuticals, 15 minute doctor patient visits, anxiety, gadgets, pills which hurt your liver and kidneys forever.  As the years go on, I realize left behind medicine which may have kept me alive and sick longer than natural medicine but for sure I left behind the hype, the unsaid, hidden info, like the medicine which keeps the heart attack away will also rob your mind.

Now . . . the Red Letter Day.  I am no longer insured through the School District.  I am a Medicare senior and that means I am not covered at all for most things from the healthcare of my choice.  Naturopaths are not covered at all.  I am forced to have a medical doctor.  I asked Dr. Sharon Meyers to take me on because she would allow me to keep on being who I am and using her when needed.  She had to retire, and assigned me to Mary Gabriel, a sticky note in my file "Does not like Western Medicine."  It's really not that personal, but that's the only way it can be described in this framework.

I faced my first visit with Dr. Gabriel with the usual apprehension and anxiety I feel toward American medical system.  When I had called to make an appointment I had been asked why, what would I like the Doctor to know.  So I said, high blood pressure, cholesterol level, I have eczema and was interrupted, "We typically can handle two or three things so that should be enough."  That set the tone -- so different from my ND, Dr. Borg who spends all the time the patient needs, asking questions which will help her make a diagnosis and apply the correct homeopathic or herbal remedies.  Sometimes there are questions about my emotional life.  Sometimes there are questions which are a mystery -- does hot or cold cause it to flare up?  do you like salty or sweet?  And if in talking, I should say some things which are about belief, the spiritual, that is definitely part of the whole.

I drove to the complex, PeaceHealth, and parked in their underground garage, took the elevator up to the second level.  There I stood in line and it was very much like I remembered it, receptionists asking questions, complaining about computers being down, officious, questions about insurance, numbers, names, birth dates.  Then it was my turn.  The usual confusion, my insurance info under my English name from information from the early Sixties.  Why can't I remember to say "Donna" when asked for my name, a name I haven't used for most of my life.  However, it was interesting when filling out my form to see "Any cultural information we should know" or something like that.  For the first, it was relevant information, my culture and everything which comes with it in terms of healthcare.

I sat and waited in the waiting room, and my name was called.  The tall brown haired woman greeted me with a smile, and then as she weighed me and took down information she asked me and once again, is there anything I would like them to know regarding cultural information.  Absolutely.  "I'm Winnemem Wintu so my way of life includes our Traditional Doctoring, and I go to a Naturopath." 
"Winnemem!"  she lit up, "I'm Cherokee and my husband in Blackfeet!  It's nice you still follow your own way of doctoring!"

Then later the Doctor walked in, as tall as I, warm smile, dark skin, curly hair, -- "Asian?"  "African American?"  I will have to ask Mary Gabriel sometime.  She shook my hand and said she had a person who shadowed and assisted her if that would be ok.  I nodded, and in walked a dignified older woman, sharp short haircut, glasses, Anna, Latina.  Exhale.

Dr. Gabriel and Anna spent comfortable conversational time with me getting my information, and even one of this big laughs women of color share rolling up from our bellies, head flung back.  Dr. Gabriel asked about my last mammogram, and I couldn't remember.  Ana looked at the notes and said 2010, September.  "Wow, I don't remember that at all."  Dr. Gabriel whisked over and bent over the file in Anna's hand, "OH!  Wrong person!" as she came back to her seat while Ana reached for the second file as I said, "Whew!  Last time when I saw Dr Meyers she was definitely asking dementia questions because of my mom," and both women talked over me with their cracks as we all laughed out loud.

She could tell by my reaction, mammograms were not my favorite things.  And she told me about another way, which was not so effective as early as mammograms but uses light, not radiation.  It was more expensive and probably not covered by insurance.  I was interested.

She asked me what she could do for me.  I said, cholesterol check, high blood pressure.  Her sharp eyes focused, "Well, you got something on your forehead there."  AH!  number three allowable!  Then we talked about allergies.  She said, "Have you ever considered PCB's?"  I told her I pretty much tried to avoid that but maybe I don't know enough and she explained about canned foods, the seal has that.  Which led to gardening.

As she wrote down notes, she murmured, "I was so disappointed when the President signed that Monsanto thing." And we talked about that.  We talked a bit about the Winnemem struggle.

She gave me the lab request, smiled broadly, shook my hand, as I left, and again, with Anna, we shook hands, big smile, "Very very happy to have you as my doctor.  Very happy to see you!'

I felt light and happy as I went down to the lab.  I walked in, and was greeted by a big smile from the Anglo receptionist, and taken back to the lab by the med tech.  She was my height, dark, black hair, with a distinctive Filipina lilt in her voice.  Of course!  We talked about sisters as she drew my blood.  It did not even hurt.

Red letter date.  Sacred Heart thirty years later has the beautiful Mix and it made all the difference in the world about how 15 minutes with the doctor and the officious way a big hospital must be run worked.   The Mix -- Black White Brown Red and Yellow belong together for a sense of humanity to light things up.

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"from Outside the Belly" was also known as "TBAsian" from 2008-2010. Thank you for reading.

from Outside the Monster's Belly

from Outside the Monster's Belly
. . . following Earth instead (Rakaia River, site of Salmon Ceremony, photo credit Ruth Koenig)


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Eugene, Oregon
I am a citizen of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. I am a Nikkei descendant sansei (third generation);retired teacher, involved in the Winnemem tribal responsibility to Water, Salmon, and our belief that the Sacred is our Teacher. Working locally for human rights and supporting youth leadership.