This One’s for Duckie


On April 16 my doctor said, “There’s nothing more that can be done [to treat your illness], adding “I usually only have this conversation with people in end-stage cancer.”  He signed my death warrant that day.

It took me thirty days to get to where I could say, “I may be dying—but I’m not dead yet!”

What the stupid schmuck should have said was “There’s nothing more that can be done—so let’s talk about the course the illness will take, and let’s come up with a plan for how you’re going to live the rest of your life.”

What doctors do best is diagnose.  An astute diagnosis tells you what’s wrong, which then lets you consider options.  People who self-diagnose are idiots.  I diagnosed myself with a pulled muscle in my hip when in fact I had twisted my sacroiliac:  two very different courses of treatment.  One friend diagnosed herself with cancer when what she had was an infection.  Another friend—well, I won’t share that one, but here’s the important thing:  if something is wrong, go ask your doctor what it is.

What doctors don’t do at all well is treat.  They load you up with drugs that do more damage than good.  There are a bazillion natural treatments that will get you out of your own way so your body can do its natural healing thing—naturopathy, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, medical massage, veganism, various manipulations of light and air—there are so many ways to heal that don’t include putting manmade chemicals in your body.  Get a good diagnosis and then look around for healthy ways to treat yourself.

What doctors do worst is make prognoses.  Nobody can tell the future—your doctor can’t do it any better than your psychic reader.  The difference between the two is that your psychic will be very up-front and tell you that her predictions can be altered at any time by you making a different choice.  Your doctor thinks he actually knows what your future is.

When I was on life support in the ICU, a bunch of doctors told my mother that there was nothing more to be done and it was unlikely that I could survive.  What they meant was she gonna die—now, but they carefully couched it in doctor-speak to cover their butts.

That was thirteen years ago.

Ladies and gentlemen, your life is in God’s hands.  Only he knows when you’re going to die.  Don’t believe anybody else.  (Maybe God woke up this morning, stretched, and said, “Charlie’s pissed me off one time too many—today he goes.”  Or maybe God said, “Annie has got so much going for her—maybe I’ll help her out one more time so she can maximize her potential.”  [Except that God doesn’t use language like that.])

So I woke up this morning having some confused dream about Brian and computers and death.  I don’t pretend to have figured out what it all means, but let me tell you about Brian’s wife.   She was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis and the doctor’s prognosis was that she would be able to work and live a relatively normal life for about another ten years.  Fact:  within a year she was down and out.  Within three years, she was receiving total care from her husband, and when I say “total care” what I mean is she sat in a chair and he did everything except feed her and poop for her.  Within a couple more years, her husband was suicidal.  Being the total care provider sure takes it out of you.

We had a friendly relationship in the beginning but in the end I was really angry at her.  She loved her husband but wasn’t doing anything to take care of him.  In fact, she wasn’t doing anything.  The woman still had her mind.  She and Brian were both computer scientists and he supplied all kinds of assistive technology but she used it to play computer games when she could have been doing so much more.

So what does that say about me?  What can I do?  What do I have left?  I can still be wise for younger women.  Yesterday I listened to a young woman trying to work her way through a very painful experience in her life (oh, hell, relationship—it’s always about human relationships).  As she left she said to me, “You know, you ask good questions.”  There you go, I’m a good question asker.

I have two blogs wherein I have posted 822 essays; that’s the equivalent of about six books.  They have been read 106,386 times, which is about how many times a day your heart beats—and I haven’t done any advertising.  What do I have left?  Well, maybe publishing some books.  (Who reads books anymore?  Anybody?)  I’ve got something left in the way of writing, though less than I used to.  High glucose levels slow down the brain and make thoughts lazy and fuzzy.  (So now, instead of being really smart I’ll just be average?)

End-of-life planning is about what you still can do, not the fact that you can’t do much anymore.  Only God knows when the end will come, and he ain’t tellin’.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
This entry was posted in activism, advocacy, American medical industry, Death, drugs, God, Holistic, Medical care, Nature, Pharmaceuticals, physician, Values. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to This One’s for Duckie

  1. kathleen says:

    I feel for you but remember god is the ultimate healer and based on my experiences with Dr Lamanna….i have no complaints …she is also dealing with our now presidents Obama care which is putting all kinds of new rules and regulations on all of our doctors and healthcare professionals.maybe you need to get over yourself a bit and realize god is in control and you ate not her only patient…all glory to our heavenly Father in whom all things are possible if you have faith the grain of a mustard seed.

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