I don't often share the story of my life with people other than close friends. But for whatever reason, I decided to "pull back the curtain", as it were, and tell you all how I first got interested in medicine. Actually, it's really more about how I got (mostly) turned off by western medicine. Oh, don't get me wrong - I still go to the doctor occasionally. But for the most part, I rely on eastern medicine for my health and well being.
When I was a kid, my father was diagnosed with something called Kaposi's Sarcoma. Nowadays it's considered to be an AIDS Related Complex, but back in those days, there was no AIDS. This was back in the 50s, and AIDS didn't exist in the US. Most doctors had no idea what Kaposi's was, had never seen a case of it, didn't know how you got it, didn't know how to diagnose it, let alone treat it.
Somewhere along the line, a doctor examined my dad's leg (the first signs of it were on his lower leg) and declared "That's Kaposi's! The only thing to do is amputate." My dad ran like hell - or at least got out of there as quickly as possible, given the fact that his leg had sores all over it and was hurting.
That began a journey which covered years and years, where he went from one doctor to the next, and was treated the best way they knew how at that time -- as a medical experiment. They used everything from arsenic to mustard gas on him, and almost killed him with the mustard gas. (It was designed to kill people, after all.) One day my sister popped in unannounced to the hospital where he was undergoing his "treatment" with mustard gas, and was told that he was in the ICU. "He's going to die", the doctor told her, and then walked off. (She collapsed into a chair.)
When my mom finally brought him home from the hospital after he survived that particular round of chemical warfare, (she literally called him back from the dead -- but that's a story for a different post), he was ready for amputation. By then the Kaposi's had spread to his hand, and so he wound up having a leg and 3 fingers amputated.
The road to healing from that was long and arduous, but my dad was diligent in his therapies and exercises and wound up living for something like 27 years after they had given him up for dead.
I was 16 when he had his amputation. I don't recall how old I was when he was diagnosed - I just know I was a little girl. So the majority of my childhood was spent with a dad who was being used for medical experimentation, by doctors who meant well, but didn't really have a clue what they were doing. Is it any wonder that I developed a certain skepticism about western medicine? I had never heard of eastern medicine back then, but I learned to approach doctors and drugs with a great deal of caution, to say the least.
So that was my experience with medicine when I was a child. I saw the limitations of what was known, and the willingness to try anything, no matter how deadly, in an attempt to produce a miracle. I have no idea what they might have told my parents about what they were doing, nor do I know if my parents truly understood the risks. I was a child, after all. I just know that as a result of this experience, I did not develop that utter faith in what doctors said.
Next week I will continue this story, fast forwarding to "The New Mexico Years" Hint: that's where I lived when I was a potter, and where I first encountered eastern medicine.
Please leave a comment and let me know if you've had a story - good or bad - about western medicine. Or eastern medicine. Share this on social media if you'd like.
What is it that happened to you in your childhood that led you to have the views you now hold about - anything? Medicine? Politics? Religion? Was someone you know saved by doctors? Were you stirred deeply by a political speech, or a religious leaders talk? I'm truly interested!