If Money Can Solve It, You Don’t Have A Real Problem

The title of this post is a saying I’ve heard from my father over the years. And it’s truth becomes more evident as time passes. The saying does not address getting the money, only the severity of the problem. If your problem is that your shoes have holes in them, money can get you a new pair of shoes. 

If your problem is poor health — say you have cancer — no amount of money can buy a cure. That’s a Real problem. Money may buy you years and because of that, a “cure” is defined, medically or statistically, in years. Five years, usually.

If your problem is a cluster of diseases possibly or probably caused by somewhere you were 45 or so years ago, no amount of money is going to buy a cure.

If you’ve got a problem that money can solve, then your goal should be to earn that money. It may seem impossible, but it probably is not. If money can’t solve your problem, ponder that infamous creek and missing paddle.

Average Jane Science Junkie

I’m not a doctor or scientist, just a science junkie and have been ever since I picked up a Scientific American in 1983. As a result, I’m slightly better equipped than the average Jane when it comes recognizing woo.

About this same time, a co-worker gave me a book on homeopathy and well… you know at the time, parts of it almost made sense? A good background in English helped me out there as much as any knowledge of science. Bad writing often equals bad logic.

I was also influenced by my family doctor – John Ellis. Whether his research on B6 is worthy, I honestly don’t know, but he was a good GP. He didn’t prescribe B6 for anything I ever went to him for. He was basically a country doctor in a small town, who people called on for advice about their cattle as quickly as they did their children.

I wanted to believe that everyone promoting a vitamin or herbal remedy was the same kind of person — well-intentioned at the very least. That is simply not a workable everyday ideal. Some people are out to make a buck by selling you worthless concoctions or contraptions. Unfortunately some may even be harmful.

I have a nephew with severe autism and developmental disorders. He’s a beautiful boy and I was well aware of the anguish my brother-in-law and his wife were going through trying to help their daughter raise him. After seeing Jenny McCarthy on TV, I emailed them about her book. I didn’t research it, I was grasping at straws for them. While they may have read the book, they stuck with their doctors and never mentioned it to me. For that reprieve, I’m grateful.

Do you see how even a not really quite completely stupid person can be so easily taken in? I swear I’ve learned my lesson! I question everything now and try to apply what little learnin’ I’ve got. I thank Orac and PalMD (and others) for the lessons. In my defense, the episode about Jenny McCarthy I saw concerned restricting gluten, not blaming vaccines.

I remember waiting in line in the 50s for my polio vaccine. I remember older relatives who got the disease instead of the vaccine. No one has to convince me that vaccines are worthwhile. But gluten restriction? To a layman, that sounds like something sort of reasonable.

What do you do about people like me? I’m not an enemy of evidence-based medicine (though I am leery of government bureaucrats deciding what evidence is worthy) and I’m certainly not a believer in something as silly as crystals and pyramids. How do you get the word out to people who are basically like me, but not necessarily science junkies? Look how long, how much it took, for me to really learn to discern. (I must add that it’s anthropology that really grabs my interest.)

Most of the stuff on HuffPo that Orac and PalMd post about would not fool me. My goodness, these people are not only scientifically illiterate, but also logically illiterate to the point that anyone with a minimal understanding of the logic of language should be able to see through their non-valid arguments.

I should also point out that I don’t necessarily agree with scientists about everything. I often wonder how their superior abilities at logic lead them to lean strongly toward the left politically. This doesn’t mean I’m right wing (because their logic is also less than superior, IMHO). Basically, I can’t find a political ideology that fits my ideas. Perhaps I’m a centrist, if that can mean I find both “sides” equally unappealing.

This post is probably no help at all in the quest to find a way to present evidence-based science to the general public, but I hope that it will give the scientists some idea of how at least one small part of the public reasons.

What I’ve Learned In Four Days

There is nothing that you do that does not require the use of stomach muscles. This includes moving your eyeballs from left to right.

What gives relief from pain in one area will eventually cause pain in another.

After you wake up a bit from the surgical anesthesia and get a dose or two of strong narcotics, you may be fooled into thinking everything is going to be just fine and want to go home.

A small incision is one that runs from the bra line to the belly button.

They don’t serve margaritas in the recovery room, but they’ve got some really good stuff in syringes.

Eating a cracker with zero saliva is very unpleasant.

I will survive.

Alert The Media

Tomorrow I will finally have the hernia surgery that I’ve been putting off for a year or so. When I’ll feel like sitting in front of the computer again, who knows? Probably several days.

All day I’ve been wondering why it isn’t called a hisnia.

My Favorite Primary Care Physician

I only get to see this guy when my assigned PCP is overwhelmed at the MTF (Military Treatment Facility) to which, as a Tricare Prime patient, I am enrolled.

I want to make it clear that any of the following which might seem derogatory toward military health care is derogatory only toward SYSTEMS. The people involved are wonderful and trying their very best to be the best medical providers. What I criticize are the rules/regulations/etc.,  and the hoops they and their patients must jump through.

This guy is good for me. He’s emotionally and professionallly honest with me. He calls me on my bullshit, but doesn’t make me feel like a moron. This is probably personality more than medical training — but we are able to communicate with each other.

This ability is priceless. MasterCard, Universal Health Care, Electronic Medical Records and all the other technological advances in medical care cannot replace the physician/patient relationship.

My MTF assigned PCP has this ability too, but she’s restricted in her ability to follow-up and follow-through with her patients. It’s just too damned hard to get an appointment with her and she has as little input into the availability of appointments as I do. This is a system failure, not a physician failure.

I got lucky. Through conversations with the non-MTF appointment person and billing agent, I learned which hoops I needed to jump through within the MTF referral process. Oh yeah, the MTF appointment clerk I worked with after learning the right words — ie, words she could “respond to” without repercussions led to EIGHT (that’s right, 8!) referral numbers, each with four authorized follow-ups. Folks, that translates to almost unlimited access to this non-MTF physician.

This freedom of medical treatment comes at a price. I must pay $12 bucks each time I see my new favorite PCP. (Please don’t tell Congress or the DOD that I consider that one fantastic deal.)

The Snotty Doctor

Yes, I finally realized I wasn’t going to kick this head cold/sinus infection/allergy/bronchitis shit with Mucinex and Zicam. I went to the doctor today. I fit nicely into the chorus of coughs and sniffing in the waiting room.

Finally, into the exam room where the blood pressure machine malfunctions and my arm is squeezed three times. Amazingly after all that, my blood pressure was fine. I had a fine nurse who was really apologetic about it all.

Then, in walks the doctor who stands directly in front of me and stares directly into my eyes and says, “I’m so sick of snot.” Then he told me that it wasn’t all bad because at least he knew what to do. We then had a truly disgusting conversation about the volume, consistency, and coloration of my particular snot. We actually discuss, with no seriousness whatsoever, the palate of snot and what sort of artwork it could be the medium for.

I was one of the more interesting snot patients he’d had that day (or so he told me) in that I had two segregated colors of snot. I really think he was just humoring me because I laughed at his snot jokes. He made up his mind what I needed — a snot shot and two snot pills, one for the obvious infection and one for the accompanying allergy.

The worst part of this visit was that every time I laughed, I broke into a spasm of coughing. This continued all the way home as I contemplated the gallery opening of the Snotty Series, A Study in Natural Media.

Sunday Drive on the Internet Highways

I’m driving slow, and that’s most certainly not an efficient use of my time (or energy) considering the vast improvements in technology since 1974. I’m not using any off-label or illegal drugs, so I should relatively safe.

Social Policy Hindsight: is it merely a thought experiment or should we actively analyze and use such information. Would driving 55 today have the impact it did in 1974? Why or why not? Would limiting physician’s ability to prescribe off-label impact patient care adversely? I wonder if prescribing birth control pills as a fertililty treatment might not now be considered off-label.

Obama goes out of his way not to plainly say… anything. Consider Obama in charge of freeway exits signs. ::shudder:: (via Amba) Now is the time to merge together and exit, for it is this spirit that leads you… somewhere.

Be sure to use the proper fuel and good maintenance for greatest efficiency, in your car and in your body.

We’re winning the Iraq war and Bush drove us to it! If you hit a bump in the road today, rest assured that it’s Bush’s fault.

Of course reading on the internet counts as reading. Just don’t engage with text while driving, but if you do, at least make it interesting.

It’s Sunday. Take the scenic route. However, Monday will come, and this device might be handy for the commute and at least until Friday.

Should your drive take you near any summer camps, watch out for hovering helicopters. Drive carefully around full-blown addicts too. Most of them will probably be on a trail somewhere, but I’ve seen them on the side of the road.

I’m stopping at the Carnival of Cars. See ya!

Today’s Reading

First thing I read today was in a doctor’s office waiting room. I was thrilled that he’d put out a recent copy of the Southern Medical Journal. Surely, I didn’t understand some of the terms used, but if I’d chosen Glamour, I wouldn’t have understood why any of the content was important.

One article was about a 17 year old Hispanic male who had a reaction to concurrent treatment for HIV and active TB. I was mainly horrified that one so young led such a life where he was exposed to either. So very, very sad.

Another was about a 61 year old woman who unknowingly aspirated a hazelnut. I think I remember the nut and the age of the woman correctly. My first question was how one could unknowingly do that. Then it noted that other than the breathing problems that prompted her to get treatment, she had no other health problems except schizophrenia. Perhaps that explains the unknowing part.

The take-home message for me from that article was that aspirated foreign objects are relative rare in adults, but quite common in children, especially ages 5 and under. The most commonly aspirated objects are nuts; the most common nut is the peanut. Note to parents: no nuts until after age 5.

Online, I’ve been reading mostly health or science topics too. Crooked Timber has a great post, Fat Hominid, on fad diets and evolutionary psychology. The comments are good too. If you can stomach reading about eating rodents and insects. :-)

Then I surfed on over to ScienceBlogs where I eventually found a link to Encephalon #49 at Neuroscientifically Challenged. It’s always amused me that we must use what we’re studying to learn about the brain. And yes, I’m easily amused.

Prescribing Statins During Pregnancy?

Unbelievable. In order to decrease the number (ie, costs) of emergency C-sections, UK news reports that statins will (?) be prescribed in the last three months of pregnancy. Supposedly, a low cholesterol count increases the ability of uterine to contract decreasing length of labor.

Oh, and did I mention that this is for obese women? Because of course your cholesterol is high if you’re obese! Why, it’s just a given, right? And did anybody mention that an increase in cholesterol and triglycerides is normal in pregnancy regardless the mother’s weight?

But what is the cost of slightly reducing the number of emergency C-sections? Why it’s just deformed babies, some so severely they die within a month of birth.

It’s time to put a stop to the “war” on obesity. It’s killing us.

Malignancy Not Limited to Brain Tumors

How I would have loved for The Anchoress to be wrong. Her prediction:

Someone – probably Keith Olbermann or Chris Matthews – will go completely over the top and say that the Kennedy illness will not mark the “end of Camelot…how fitting that it is being revived this very night by Barack Obama, Ted Kennedy’s handpicked successor to the enduring legacy,” or some such gag-inducing nonsense.

Unfortunately, she was not wrong. She accurately predicted the media malignancy that will make Ted Kennedy’s serious illness “all about Obama.”

Brain tumors, malignant or benign, are not about politics. This is a man’s life, his future quality of life, the ordeal his family will endure – that’s what we’re talking about here, not his past mistakes and foibles and certainly not about the next Democratic nominee, whoever that might be.

I’m also a bit disgusted about the “pre” eulogizing being done by some of Kennedy’s democratic colleagues. He’s not dead yet and from all the reports seems to be as alert and cognitive as ever. Imagine what it must feel like to hear your funeral years before it might happen.

Ted Kennedy Has Brain Tumor

That’s the breaking news on Fox right now. The “expert” they are speaking with is Dr. Michael Baden, a forensic pathologist. He says that most brain tumors in older people are benign, citing meningiomas.

He also made it sound like the surgery to remove any old meningioma is a breeze, patients recover and go on with life as before. Well, as the proud owner of a meningioma, I say not exactly.

For one, he’s a pathologist, not a surgeon. He probably doesn’t have many of his patients complaining about complications.

Second, he’s not a neurologist or neuropsychiatrist. He is probably as familiar with the physical structure of the brain as either one, but… perhaps he’s not as familiar with the peculiarities of minor damage to any area of the brain.

The thought that Kennedy might have a brain tumor has crossed my mind several times since I heard the news of his hospitalization. Mine was discovered when I thought I had a mini-stroke, or TIA. I was worried enough that I sat in the ER for 5 hours after all symptoms subsided to find out. I think Kennedy got, um… more aggressive treatment than I did.

For his sake, I hope it’s a meningioma, I hope it’s small, not near any major bloodworks, and that radiation is considered as the first course of treatment. This isn’t about politics, Imeningioma1.jpg wish him well.

Here’s one shot of my brain tumor, before radiation treatment.

UPDATE: AP is reporting that Kennedy’s tumor is a malignant glioma. Not good news.

Advantages of an Older Brain

At least some part of the body gets better with age. John McCain’s campaign should jump on statements like 

“It may be that distractibility is not, in fact, a bad thing,” said Shelley H. Carson, a psychology researcher at Harvard whose work was cited in the book. “It may increase the amount of information available to the conscious mind.”

and

“A broad attention span may enable older adults to ultimately know more about a situation and the indirect message of what’s going on than their younger peers,” Dr. Hasher said. “We believe that this characteristic may play a significant role in why we think of older people as wiser.”

and

“If older people are taking in more information from a situation, and they’re then able to combine it with their comparatively greater store of general knowledge, they’re going to have a nice advantage.”

Obama should be worried that the article indicates that an ability to ignore distractions, though quicker, ultimately results in assimilating incomplete information. In his case, I think it is not only a desire to not be “distracted” but also an ingrained part of his temperament.  

via Instapundit

The Darwin Diet

From the inimitable Dr. Boli:

Now observe that we could, without altering the lists at all, change the headings above the lists to “Things That Are Healthy to Eat” and “Things That Are Not Healthy to Eat.” The correspondence is perfect. Things that taste good are things that are healthy to eat. It follows, of course, that the things that taste best are the healthiest to eat.

Important Talk for Men – Prostate Cancer

Ed Cone writes about the importance of men getting tested for possible prostate cancer. First of all, it’s a blood test (PSA) that indicates whether further examination and testing needs to be done.

While acknowledging “that packaging the words “prostate” and “cancer” in one soundbite creates a phrase of uncommonly low conversational appeal, a compact cluster of social taboos,” he neatly lays out why the conversation needs to be held.

As unpleasant a conversation as it might be, it beats a national conversation on race and gender.

Great Choices

Bill Jempty of Wizbang has chosen Mississippi State Representatives W. T. Mayhall Jr, Bobby Show, and John Read to receive his Knucklehead of the Day award.

These three morons have sponsoring the following legislation:

An act to prohibit certain food establishments from serving food to any person who is obese, based on criteria prescribed by the state department of health; to direct the department to prepare written materials that describe and explain the criteria for determining whether a person is obese and to provide those materials to the food establishments; to direct the department to monitor the food establishments for compliance with the provisions of this act; and for related purposes.*****

(2) Any food establishment to which this section applies shall not be allowed to serve food to any person who is obese, based on criteria prescribed by the State Department of Health after consultation with the Mississippi Council on Obesity Prevention and Management established under Section 41-101-1 or its successor. The State Department of Health shall prepare written materials that describe and explain the criteria for determining whether a person is obese, and shall provide those materials to all food establishments to which this section applies. A food establishment shall be entitled to rely on the criteria for obesity in those written materials when determining whether or not it is allowed to serve food to any person.

House Bill 282 was introduced Friday, Feb. 1.

Sandy Szwarc, of Junkfood Science fame asks:

Is this a tongue-in-cheek bill, meant to point out how absurd the war on obesity has become? Or do lawmakers actually believe the myths that gluttony is the cause for obesity and that it is the government’s role to force people to eat and live how it deems best?

Rep. Mayhall answered her question that the bill was serious, though regrettably (hallalujah!) he doesn’t believe it will pass. He hopes it will call attention to the problem and what obesity is costing the Medicare system.

What is obesity causing the Medicare system? Someone want to give me some hard figures on that? I don’t want “but it must be costing because fat people are unhealthy!”

To Believe or Not Believe in Fibromyalgia

My first diagnosis of fibromyalgia was in 1992. Antidepressants helped, I sort of “got over it” and went on with life. I still had those “trigger points” in the shoulders, knees, shins, ankles, etc., but as long as nobody pinched or pressed there I was fine.  Then, in 2000, my PCM of the day, said (when I winced at her pushing on my lower shins and said that one doctor had said that was from fibromyalgia) that she didn’t “believe” in fibromyalgia. End of discussion. I’ve tried not “believing” I felt pain, but dammit, the pain was still there, as was the overwhelming fatigue. Since I was first diagnosed with it in 1992, the only thing I’ve found that really relieves the pain is a combination of Strattera and Lexapro.

I’ve not mentioned “fibromyalgia” to any other doctor since the one who didn’t “believe” in it because I don’t want to be classified as a nut case or drug seeker. Also, I do not believe that fibromyalgia is the cause of all my pain. I think I also have a pinched nerve or something that causes sudden, extreme, but thankfully short-lasting pain in my legs.

My main problem – as mentioned in “I am my own PCM” is the lack of opportunity to discuss multiple aches, pains, symptoms, etc., with my doctor in one single visit. Appointments are generally limited to “what, specifically, is bothering you today?” That really doesn’t lend itself well to “well… several things and could they possibly be related?”

I do have a verified diagnosis of arthritis and I wonder which pain is caused by that. I classify my wrist, shoulder, knee, and ankle pain to it… but shin pain? I dunno… and apparently neither do most doctors. Why does the shoulder and knee pain differ when somebody squeezes either body part (a typical occurrence at Southern family reunions) from the more ordinary “oh god, I’ve overused this joint today” pain?

Bottom Line: I don’t know what the hell’s wrong with me, but articles like “Drug Approved. Is Disease Real?” don’t help answer the question. Note that the addition of Straterra to my normal drug regimin has almost eliminated the need for Tylenol and Naproxen. The only drawback is the tendency of Straterra to cause dizziness. Unlike most folks, I have a benign brain tumor that (though dead through radiation) may cause dizziness.

hmmm…. what side effects of what up with do I put?

Being my own Primary Care Manager

A while back I wrote about being my own PCM. There, I implied that was not a good thing. As I think upon it more, I’ve decided I was wrong. Not only am I my own PCM, I darn well should be. Who — besides me — is more interested in my overall health and well-being? I should leave that up to anyone else than me?

No. I have to take responsibility for myself and my health.

As I’ve experienced a few dizzy spells the last few weeks, I’ve decided to take a good look at my medications. There are 8 (eight!!) prescription drugs I take daily. Could it be possible that while there are no “serious” interactions among these drugs, that some combination is causing me to feel dizzy?

My Tricare Prime PCM relies on the computerized comparison of these drugs to determine “compatibility” and, I suppose the MTF pharmacy does also. Yet, my body is unique and may react differently than normally expected.

I’ve decided to do my own research into each drug I’ve been prescribed and then I will go over those results with my PCM, whoever he or she may be at the time I finish.