If one day you make an appointment to see me in PA mode or come into one of my walk-in clinics, you’ll likely get a deep and narrow glimpse into the real work that is required to change your health. I could very easily give you a medication for your anxiety or Diabetes or chronic pain, but after six years of doing that and finding it doesn’t really work, my approach has changed. I can usually tell if people will be receptive to my unconventional approach and normally after a quick survey, I’ll either dive deep into the hard work or hand over a prescription. Diving in looks like this:
“Why do you think you’re sick?”
“What in your life gives you great joy?”
“Do you enjoy your job?”
“What type of self-care do you do?”
Sometimes I go super deep and maybe a little weird:
“We have ruled out all dangerous cardiac issues, do you think your chest pain has anything to do with your divorce?”
“You have anxiety that is masked by the drugs we prescribed, do you think your history of trauma has anything to do with it?”
“When you crave crap food, what goes through your head? What do you think is missing that you’re hoping you’ll find with that quick dopamine release?”
“Thoughts become reality, think of something or someone that brings your great happiness and breathe like I taught you and I’ll be back in a few minutes” I leave the room, dim the lights and play some classical music. When I return I check their blood pressure and magically it’s better, always. One patient actually said “High blood pressure really is all in your head!”
This obviously takes time and in the current model, we don’t have a lot of time to spend with patients. But I continue to do it because I believe that we have the answers, the healer within.
Here is how I found my healer within:
The room was sterile, cold and I was in a cloth gown, terrified and alone. It was my first year of Physician Assistant school, three months in and I was already sick. I was getting my first colonscopy at age 26 because I had blood in my stool (gross, I know, but I have to be transparent). My dreams were finally coming true, all I ever wanted was to be in the medical field and here I was training for it and literally in it. The doctors thought I had either Crohns disease or Ulcerative Colitis (UC), neither had good prognoses. Turned out to be UC and I was immediately placed on Asacol, a strong anti-inflammatory, to control my symptoms. This was the algorithm I was learning too, make a diagnosis, prescribe a medication, follow up in three months. Easy enough. I asked some questions but most of them were left unanswered, so I stopped asking. I was in PA school and had way too much on my plate to even think of getting a second opinion, though genetically or personally the diagnosis didn’t make sense, I didn’t pursue it. For years, I took high doses of the medication without a second thought, I just wanted to get better. Later in the year, I learned the prognosis for UC is not good, there is a high probability of developing cancer as the disease progresses and destroys your colon.
After I graduated and had some time to breathe, I immediately established care with a GI in my new town. He was nice enough, spent a few minutes reviewing my chart and scheduled another colonscopy. My symptoms were getting better and I wasn’t actually taking the medication as prescribed, but I followed his lead. When I returned for my results, he said that it the disease had been localized and it was no worse than it had been the year before. “Continue the medications and I’ll start you on another one in case you have flares”. This additional one was an immune system modulator and I really like the sound of being on a cancer drug. But he didn’t have the time to discuss it with me, so I went on my merry way, still believing that my doctors always know best.
Though after a few weeks, I felt that this didn’t seem right once again, I wanted more information, I wasn’t completely convinced that I had UC.
It was during this time I was exploring alternative medicine and studying the peer-reviewed studies on its benefits. I was dating someone who’s momma was a midwife, so I learned all about that world. I had done acupuncture and homeopathy as a teenager and in college, but now I was looking at using it as a practitioner. About a year later, I met a girl who had UC and had drastically changed her symptoms with food. I started looking into an anti-inflammatory diet and really transitioning to using food as medicine. My symptoms were already improving and I had refused to take the additional medication, so I figured I would take my health into my own hands. Also after talking to K and hearing her story and how it differed from mine so significantly, I again questioned my original diagnosis.
Meditation and soul searching had also entered my life by this point and that is when I finally decided to take control. A little voice kept nagging at me “get a third opinion”. I had been in the Austin medical world and had met quite a bit of specialists, so after a continuing medical education talk, I approached a doctor acquaintance. “Sure I’d be willing to look at your chart, I’ll follow up with you, just make an appointment”
I called the next week and got right in. Turns out that nagging voice was right. After reviewing my labs, my two colonscopies and my history, I had been misdiagnosed. What I had was a tiny patch on my 25 foot intestine that had a scar, not an ulcer, that would bleed occasionally depending on my stress and food and I didn’t need to take any medication for it unless I became more symptomatic.
Many years of stress, worry, paying for and taking medication that I didn’t need, led me to question most of what I learned in PA school, at least the art of practicing it. My world shifted after leaving Dr. G’s office that day. My relationships with my patients became more about a partnership and asking them to tap into their inner healer, trusting that they have the answers within themselves and interweaving my expertise as I saw fit.
Now it’s all about my patient and helping them reach a place where they can find their own answers, let that nagging voice sing! I attempt to do very little outward diagnosing and prescribing and ask more questions and assisting. There are still cases when I’ll place a patient on an Albuterol treatment for an asthma attack or give a Rocephin shot for a kidney infection or peritonsillar abscess, I am definitely trained and experienced to know my limits.
So that’s the gist of why I do what I do. My goal is to give you as much education, resources, tools and patient stories for you to explore and take control of your health and for me to act as a redirector whenever you need it.
Oh the other reason I do what I do is for my mom, dad, Rocio, Andria, Patrick, Alyssa, Sarah, Roxanne, and Jenni, my family who I hope have picked up some of these tools from their crazy daughter/sister/auntie over the years. I also hope they will continue to gain the tools through this webpage and other educational websites so they can take control of their own health. They are my first reason for doing what I do, the Shiny Healthy Community is the a very close second. 🙂
Thank you for reading.
Tell me your story and all about how you found your healer within.