Since March of last year, I have been seen by ten doctors: two physical therapists, two orthopedists, two neurologists, a rheumatologist, two general practitioners, and two chiropractors.
I’ve cried in front of four them.
I’ve cried because of negative test results and marked improvement, purple hands and burning feet. But this week I sat across from a new doctor and cried because of hope.
When you’ve been passed from one puzzled specialist to another and all you have is what little they tell you as they grimace and predict, it’s very easy to feel isolated from the medical professionals you’re obligated to see so frequently. When this new doctor, trained in Chinese medicine, told me that CRPS is a “western diagnosis” and that “in Chinese medicine, we do not label”, I was overcome with relief–something I have seldom experienced this last year–and I cried.
This unconventional doctor spent a long time with my husband and I, looked under my tongue and lectured me about hydration and liver function. With confidence I have not seen in a doctor, he laid out a treatment plan involving acupuncture and yoga, pressure points and detoxification. His whole-person perspective led him to ask questions and make connections that no other professional has taken the time to make and we left that appointment feeling thankful, relieved, and empowered.
Early on, my husband and I came to believe that the right approach for us would be a holistic one. Considering how little understood CRPS is, we did not feel comfortable with the drugs that were discussed last spring, or the bleak outcome that was likely, even with medicinal intervention. Because of his research background, my husband was able to competently converse with my neurologist about the risks and side effects associated with various prescriptions and, after a long discussion, we politely declined them. Instead, we chose to take courage in the experiences of those within the CRPS community who have made dietary and lifestyle changes and, in the process, seen remarkable results.
We’re taught to see medical professionals as trusted authorities on our bodies, and when they grimace, we follow suit. We sense their tension and take on that stress. We echo their reactions with our own grimaces, shudders, and outlook and this copying, this acceptance, can be detrimental to the healing process. One of the best pieces of advice I came across early on in this experience was that, as the patient, you must become an expert on your self. It is a mantra that took time to adopt and I struggled initially to speak confidently to doctors about my preferred treatment. But, as I experience the benefits of alternative approaches, I am confident in the path we’ve picked, even in the midst of a situation we did not choose.