You can't trust doctors. This lesson is two-fold, and each side is equally as shocking and important to learn. On the one hand, it is literal, temporal, practical advice: the things you learn as you navigate the medical system with a little-understood illness dissolves all faith in physicians, and for good reason. On the other hand, when all your means fail, and you become desperately reliant on God’s sovereignty and grace, you are disturbed to realize just how little faith you put in your Omnipotent Creator on a daily basis. It is both frightening and freeing.
The sheer ignorance of the best doctors in the country is probably the biggest shock to new Lymies. We just cannot believe what we’re seeing, hearing, or experiencing, as we are shuttled from specialist to specialist and no one acknowledges the reality of our pain. To add insult to injury, not only can you not see our challenges, but when we tell you that the doctors don’t believe in it, that they are tangled up in this massive collusion with insurance companies, medical universities, and government agencies, we get “the look” from friends and family, as they mentally tighten the straps on our straight jackets.
It sounds crazy. The blind trust our society puts in physicians (and scientists and government officials for that matter) causes new patients to be their own obstacle in finding answers - they don’t allow themselves to consider that doctors can be wrong, misinformed, indoctrinated in an inferior money-driven paradigm of medicine. New Lyme victims waste precious time not listening to our pleas to get a Lyme-literate opinion, to bite the bullet and pay a large out-of-pocket fee for a competent physician, to take their children to an alternative or integrative healer. We know the default protocol, and we know that path can lead down a horrible road. But we’re the sick ones, what do we know?
As doctor John Abramson, M.D. explains it, modern medicine has become America’s folk remedy - a widely-held cultural myth that “scientific evidence” is the indisputable gold standard of healthcare; the blind belief that new technology and advances in industry-sponsored research is superior; no matter what actual data and experience says, if the medical journals and the doctors don’t promote it, it just can’t be true. Sooner or later your body is going to tell you something they don’t believe. When you don’t look like the textbook or match the case studies, their wisdom suddenly goes out the window as they push you out the door.
I’ve rewritten this article over and over and have a list a mile long of websites and references citing medical malpractice, conflicts of interest, profit-driven industry actually writing the medical curriculum, corruption, greed, more corruption, more greed, and downright lies that are actually driving the standard of medical care in America, doctors that are lying to your face about your health and the way to save your life. Their drugs kill. Their procedures bankrupt and harm. You. have. been. brainwashed.
But I just sound like a lunatic. No matter how hard I tried to be objective, it came out angry and passionate and with quite a few expletives. I can’t talk about this without getting raging mad.
Then I found the book. I was at a thrift store, actually perusing the shelves for some gem by Spurgeon or C.S. Lewis or maybe a gluten-free dairy-free soy-free corn-free nightshade-free peanut-free cookbook. Instead I found “Overdo$ed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine,” by John Abramson, M.D. The by-line is “How the Pharmaceutical Companies Distort Medical Knowledge, Mislead Doctors, and Compromise Your Health.”
In it is confirmation of everything I’ve learned about the medical establishment through my Lyme journey. It lays the foundation for every alarming revelation about the fight between ILADS and IDSA over treating Lyme. It solidifies my suspicions that something very wrong, very immoral, is driving most of American medicine - doctors, insurance, pharmaceuticals - and it is, literally, killing us.
Abramson is heavy on the statistics and data to show how the insatiable hunger of what I’ll call “Big Medicine” is driving misconceptions and fatal consequences in areas like heart disease, women’s health, depression; how our rising healthcare spending and advancement in technology is doing nothing to improve America’s health or longevity and might actually be harming us; how normal life progressions like menopause and osteoporosis have been vilified to make a buck; how treatments for cancer and cholesterol took billions of dollars despite severe risks to the population. I can’t find any coherent reviews or rebuttals from the industry disputing his facts. They’re not needed. The media and Americans themselves have done a sufficient job of sweeping the issue under the rug and ignoring it altogether.
The sad thing is, it was written in 2004. For over 14 years (it’s just one of several books exposing these crimes) we have had access to the truth, and it has changed nothing. Any inkling of a problem with our healthcare system (besides cost) has been brushed aside with carefully orchestrated backlash from the industry - alternative healing is the hogwash, the diet and exercise markets are just trying to make money, it’s liberal propaganda, it’s conservative propaganda. We have become their spokespuppets without even knowing it. When was the last time you scoffed at someone for using essential oils, alternative medicine, being anti-vaxx, or going gluten-free? Why? Have you actually studied and tried these things with methodical supervision, or is it just some unconscious need to be right and avoid frightening realities that make you uncomfortable (ignorance is bliss).
The other sad thing is that I had to wait until I had a solid reference to write about this, though I’ve been saying it for years. No matter that I’ve been researching medical solutions for longer than it takes to earn a Master’s degree; no matter that I’ve been navigating these waters with a summa-cum-laude, award-winning, scholarship-earning, straight-A brain; no matter that every medical experience in my life has validated this notion; the only resource I’ve had is the internet, my only access to medical journals is via a Google search.
And suddenly I don’t know what I’m talking about.
A word on “Doctor Google”
Just as much as we like to belittle Millennials, we also like to take shots at people who Google their symptoms. Stop it. I previously wrote that when something is wrong, you need to listen to your body. I don't care if your Google diagnosis is from unnecessary paranoia or hypochondria, what's important is that it leads you to seek help. A real physician will be willing to fix your mind or your body.
When it comes to Lyme and other mysterious diseases, Doctor Google can save your life. The internet is the only reason I got a Lyme test rather than commit suicide. The internet is the only reason I treated Babesiosis instead of committing suicide. The internet is the only reason I found support instead of committing suicide. The internet is how I got educated to fight, rather than succumbed to defeat.
Google doesn’t just pull up blogs by conspiracy theorists and medical propaganda from Big Pharma - it gives you access to the actual medical journals, clinical trials, latest research, and most importantly, real-life experience. It gives you perspectives on alternative therapies that can save your life; stuff that some doctors have prescribed to me may very well have had disastrous consequences if I hadn't second-guessed them. I’ve avoided a lot horror by getting all the facts before blindly trusting a doctor that just saw me for 5 minutes.
I’m not saying you can or should treat yourself with information gleaned from a Google search. Get the tests. Find a functional or integrative medicine practitioner and let them guide you to the appropriate treatments. Not all of my suspicions have been correct. Not all of their suspicions have been correct. You need a professional, you need data, you need supervision.
But the patients who are being their own advocates, who are educating themselves, are arming themselves for the battle for their lives. Those who seek out possibilities and take a critical look at the mainstream medicine that has failed them are the ones to be praised and encouraged, not to receive snorts, eye-rolls, and scolding.
There’s an unbelievable amount of ignorance and incompetence reigning in the average doctor’s office. Don’t leave your life in their hands.
What is equally jarring is coming to the realization that, though I preach dependency on God, I don’t wholly practice it. Many Christians don’t (yeah, we’re flawed). We like to talk in terms of God providing the pharmaceutical technology, God gifting the doctors with wisdom, God guiding the surgeon’s hands, but we rarely stop to ask God for our wisdom, to help us make better health choices, to teach us to discern who are the liars and deceivers and crooked men among us. We know that mankind is capable of great ignorance and evil. Yet we let our guard down with the mankind our culture says we should trust with our lives.
We know Proverbs 3:5-6:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.”
But instead of leaning on our own understanding, we lean on “the professionals’” understanding. We acknowledge the doctor’s credentials. And we ignore the promise of verses 7 and 8:
“Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.”
The healing of our flesh comes from God.
It can also come from His good creation. Did you ever stop to think about how doctors have had a profession for thousands of years, but modern pharmaceuticals were only invented in the the mid 19th century? All of human civilization survived on natural remedies since the beginning of time. How on earth did we come to scoff at naturopathic and herbal medicine, the only thing that saved your ancestors from disease, and yet get so defensive about the miracles of modern pharmacy? What’s more, Christians, in general, like to challenge the status quo of science and technology - we shun climate change data in favor of God’s word, we shun evolution in favor of God’s word, we shun the Big Bang in favor of God’s word - but are more than happy to suck down our Lipitor and Prilosec rather than use God’s own creation (our bodies and our plants) to heal.
I’m a firm believer in using God’s own works to live the healthiest life rather than the mechanisms of a scheming and greedy mankind.
And yet, even in this, I get caught up in my own understanding, in my herbalist’s understanding, in my acupuncturist’s understanding. I lean far too hard on what my doctors can see in my body, in my lab tests, in my pulses, in my charts. In the end, we all must die. Every one of us will have one last doctor’s appointment, one last hospitalization, one last treatment, and the last one will, without a doubt, fail.
As my health problems pile up and diversify, and my treatment options contradict each other, I get more and more intense in my search for answers and competent physicians. Lyme is different for every single person, and thus so is the treatment. None is a magic bullet, so whatever choice you make, you’re going to think it was the wrong one. Even the right ones hurt before they heal. Every time I don’t feel better (which is always), I’m spinning the possibilities around in my head: I’m herxing, it’s the right path; I’m flaring, it’s the wrong path; I’m making progress, I’m backsliding, I’m healing, I’m dying.
I take on the responsibility of keeping myself alive. And that’s where I need to let go. The world will always be cheering, “Don’t give up! You’re a fighter! You can do it!” It is tempting to listen and believe. To trust in their optimism. But it is wrong. I must give up. I must surrender my life into God’s hands. God is the fighter. God can do it. God will do it.
"In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me!
Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me!
For you are my rock and my fortress;
and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me;
you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.
I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols,
but I trust in the Lord.
I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
because you have seen my affliction;
you have known the distress of my soul,
and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
you have set my feet in a broad place.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eye is wasted from grief;
my soul and my body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
and my bones waste away.
Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,
especially to my neighbors,
and an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.
I have been forgotten like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.
For I hear the whispering of many—
terror on every side!—
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.
But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand;
rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
Make your face shine on your servant;
save me in your steadfast love!
O Lord, let me not be put to shame,
for I call upon you;
let the wicked be put to shame;
let them go silently to Sheol.
Let the lying lips be mute,
which speak insolently against the righteous
in pride and contempt.
Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
in the sight of the children of mankind!
In the cover of your presence you hide them
from the plots of men;
you store them in your shelter
from the strife of tongues.
Blessed be the Lord,
for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
when I was in a besieged city.
I had said in my alarm,
“I am cut off from your sight.”
But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy
when I cried to you for help.
Love the Lord, all you his saints!
The Lord preserves the faithful
but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord!
-King David, Psalm 31