The Fantasy Team


My treating team includes seven people: two massage therapists, a physical therapist, an acupuncturist, a psychologist, a homeopath and a chiropractor. Among these seven, five are male and two are female. Four are middle-aged, two are over sixty, and one is under forty. Six are married and one is engaged.

The marriage thing is significant. These are seven adults who have ventured into alternative therapies, i.e., treatment modalities that the “scientific community” and Wikipedia call hogwash. In this time, when the annual divorce rate is more than half (3.6) the marriage rate (6.8), it is noteworthy that the practitioners of alternative forms of healing are in stable long-term committed relationships. Maybe you can venture out to the edge of treatment modalities when you know your spouse is going to be there for you.

Academically, these seven people include three doctors, two masters, a bachelor and one licensed person. It is not so much that they are of above-average intelligence—though, of course, they are—but that they are open-minded. They are learners. At any given time at least one of them will be unavailable due to participating in a formal educational program for which they have paid out-of-pocket. They have, literally, traveled all over the world to learn. They are curious and want to know.

Another commonality among these people is that only two of them work within an organized hierarchal group and one of those is looking to go independent as soon as possible. One is the captain of his own ship—has created a group that works underneath him. The other four are essentially independent but work within loose collegial groups.

So who is most apt to provide alternative methods of healing? Older men who are married, smart and independent. In general, people who think for themselves. They have been raised Jewish, Egyptian and crazy. They are gay, cancer survivors, and disabled. With one exception, they are not wealthy. Alternative therapies are provided by people who care more about their patients than about their money.
Mostly, they despise traditional medicine because they’ve seen the harm it does. From the Internet:
• “100,000 Americans die each year from prescription drugs — that’s 270 per day, or . . . more than twice as many who are killed in car accidents each day.”
• “Drug overdose death rates in the United States have more than tripled since 1990 and have never been higher.”
• “Prescription drugs are now killing far more people than illegal drugs, and while most major causes of preventable deaths are declining, those from prescription drug use are increasing.”
• “These drug-induced fatalities are not being driven by illegal street drugs; the analysis found that the most commonly abused prescription drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax and Soma now cause more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.”
• “Death by medicine is a 21st-century epidemic, and America’s ‘war on drugs’ is clearly directed at the wrong enemy!”
So if pills are killing us then we can utilize non-pharmaceutical alternatives—but what is “alternative” medicine?

1993: “In a US context, an influential definition coined in 1993 by the Harvard-based physician, David M. Eisenberg, characterized alternative medicine ‘as interventions neither taught widely in medical schools nor generally available in US hospitals.’”

1995: “An expert panel at a conference hosted in 1995 by the US Office for Alternative Medicine (OAM), devised a theoretical definition of alternative medicine as ‘a broad domain of healing resources . . . other than those intrinsic to the politically dominant health system of a particular society or culture in a given historical period.’”

1998: An “editorial co-authored by Marcia Angell, a former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, argued that: ‘It is time for the scientific community to stop giving alternative medicine a free ride. There cannot be two kinds of medicine—conventional and alternative. There is only medicine that has been adequately tested and medicine that has not, medicine that works and medicine that may or may not work. Once a treatment has been tested rigorously, it no longer matters whether it was considered alternative at the outset. If it is found to be reasonably safe and effective, it will be accepted. But assertions, speculation, and testimonials do not substitute for evidence. Alternative treatments should be subjected to scientific testing no less rigorous than that required for conventional treatments.’”

“None of this is to imply that mainstream medicine has no problems or failings—it does. We should, however, be working toward keeping and improving what works and fixing what doesn’t, not discarding science and reason to embrace fantasy as an alternative.”

Ahem. Ahem. Annie here, speaking in defense of fantasy. Did you ever read the whole Book of Job? In the beginning, Job craps around about how God has let everything—houses, herds, crops, servants—be taken from him. But nobody ever talks about what God says in the end. God says, ‘Job, were you there when I made the mountains? Did you help me create the seas? I created the alligators and you can’t even put a noose on one. Listen up carefully, Job: you can’t even begin to understand what I’m doing, let alone why or how I’m doing it.’

The universe is a great big weird place that is way beyond your comprehension. Even the human body is so complicated that you can’t understand it, so what’s with this “science and reason?” My hospitalist—who covered me for about five and a half months—leaned against the wall in his long white coat and announced that if there weren’t test results then it wasn’t true and, by the way, he was an atheist.

The treatment of the human body is being done by people who can’t even acknowledge the mystery.

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
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