Women were not always dependent on the medical and pharmaceutical professions for good health and well-being. There was a time when women were THE healers, when women used natural remedies for treating aches, pains, and everyday maladies. They understood body functions. Knowledge brings understanding.
The health care profession, with the expert psychological help from insurance companies, discourages seeking knowledge. And sometimes we just don't take the time. Yet we take time - sometimes wait hours - to see a doctor. A doctor dispenses medicine. Drug companies hand out plenty of samples for doctors to dispense. Free samples. Sure saved me from filling a costly prescription.
Could we be experiencing more trauma from drugs prescribed by physicians who are trying to help than from disease that brought them to ask the doctor in the first place. Pills seem to offer relief. And we demand relief.

If we are going to get away from soaring health care costs, we must accept more responsibility for our own health and the health of our families.

I had a doctor who refused to believe I wanted to understand my body and therefore simply wanted information.

That was the case when my vagina was sealed by an overgrowth of the uterus lining, preventing a normal menstrual flow. Painful sexual intercourse prompted me to examine myself for a cause. My finger punctured the obstructive membrane resulting in a handful of blood.

I wanted to find out pronto what that was all about. A questioning nurse-receptionist wanted to know how I could be sure my problem required immediate attention. I assured her my pain and handful of blood answered that.

After the well-qualified gynecologist examined me and described what had happened he patted my butt and said I would soon go into menopause and my problem would be over. Or I could have a hysterectomy. He gave me a prescription when I paid the office fee.

I remembered the bee pollen pills I took for several weeks. I went home knowing I had caused my own affliction, if one could call it that. I fell for a salespitch from a workmate that bee pollen would do something magical to my body. I forget what exactly the magic was, but I expected the best. After the doctor's description of what had occurred in my uterus, I knew without a doubt what brought about the overgrowth of the membrane - bee pollen. What a dummy I was. I certainly was ignorant about effects of Chinese medicine.


Several weeks later the qualified nurse-receptionist asked why I hadn't filled the perscription. I explained that I needed the examination to understand what was going on in my body, not to get a dose of chemicals. She was irate that I would not accept the doctor's evaluation that I needed estrogen which was shown to slow women's aging process.

This was during the era when estrogen doses were first suspected of causing uterine cancer but that wasn't the only reason I refused to take it. I was certain that menopause is a natural sequence in the aging of a woman's body and I still am. Hot flashes, I soon learned, could be shortened and usually avoided altogether by careful selection of foods. These were discovered by trial and error with my own documentation. At the time, short lived hot flashes seemed easier to endure than any form of cancer. Twenty years after a slow-to-arrive menopause set upon my body, I am still sure that is true.

That is not all that made me wary of doctors.

When my husband had a serious heart attack we looked toward the world-renowned clinic for options. The heart surgeon shrugged and said the only option to prevent a fatal attack was open heart surgery which he would immediately undertake. Two thousand miles from home and a teenage son, I asked about other options - like diet and exercise. The doctor sternly said, "I'm a medical doctor," implying that he had no knowledge of any thing else.

But the difficulties in credibility of medical help by trained physicians and surgeons can be passed on to the pharmaceutical industries and overzealous salesmen and women who sweeten sales freely with samples "for dispensing to patients for trial" thereby getting guinea pigs to rack up statistics for the "useful" drugs. You know the advertising pitch - "prescribed by millions of doctors" - why not? It was free!
Do we experience more trauma from drugs prescribed by doctors who really want to help than from disease that sends us to the doctor's office in the first place?

We use doctors for assurance against liability, another excuse for going to a doctor. When a medical approval was required before I could embark on a foreign trip needing unusual physical endurance, I went to a heart specialist for a routine physical. That trek with Sherpas in Nepal went just fine. I had established a medical history that I felt would be handy in case of an emergency, an attending physician would have a basic history for deciding immediate treatment. With the doctor's suggestion, I decided to have annual checkups to be prepared for other trips. Once my cholesterol was a bit high and I studied causes, mostly dietary. I ate more vegetables, less meat, and exercised more. That lowered the level.

Several examinations later, the doctor found the level high again and reviewed the past record, which showed that I had lowered it once myself so he wouldn't prescribe medication. I was shocked there was a pill to lower cholesterol. I was unaware of the extent of "target" pills. Take pills to lower cholesterol? Why not simply eat right?

We need doctors. We need good medical care. But we ought to figure out the difference between those illnesses that need technology and those that require rest, lots of liquids and concern by loved ones.

Naomi Sherer

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