Posted 7/10/2005 4:58 PM (GMT -8)
Thanks for that.
Be assured, I am not going to order the book or the ‘elixir’. If I reject what the doctor orders on the grounds that I have no confidence in it I’m hardly likely to spend money on unknown substances or quack philosophies available on the internet!
I note your statement that “I also have CFS.” I myself don’t claim to have CFS, just a number of symptoms that are part of a bundle presently conveniently swept together by the medical profession under a carpet called CFS , and would like to know how you are so certain you do ‘have’ it. Because your doctor told you?
Here are a couple of stories. Check the facts if you don’t believe me.
Ancient Rome was ‘plagued’ by an illness that seemed to affect everyone regardless of age, wealth or status. Its symptoms were anaemia, weakness, constipation, stomach pain, lassitude and often a paralysis of the wrists and ankles. (CFS, anyone?) Roman physicians blamed it on ‘noxious vapours’ from the River Tiber and could only prescribe a spell in the countryside away from the river which often did temporarily alleviate the symptoms of those able to leave the city for such spells and so seemed to confirm the diagnosis. In fact the Romans used lead to make pipes for the city’s water supply (“plumbing” comes from the latin for lead, plumbum) and the cause of the illness was almost certainly widespread, chronic lead poisoning which no-one then knew anything about.
In the 19th Century eminent, qualified, respectable physicians in Europe and the US firmly believed in a ‘disease’ of females they called hysteria. The symptoms included a wide range of presentations including what we now call PMT, post-natal depression, excessive sexual desire, no desire for sex, headaches, ‘emotionalism’, wind, painful menstruation and in fact anything nowadays covered by the term ‘women’s complaint’. The condition was seriously believed to have been caused by a ‘dislodging’ of the uterus and the treatment prescribed was the manipulation the patient’s genitals in order to produce a ‘sexual paroxysm’ which would cause the uterus to return to its proper place. Thus in towns and cities throughout the US and Europe desperate, depressed, sick women would attend doctors surgeries to be given an orgasm by manipulation, (and there were even mechanical devices marketed to doctors for the purpose). I kid you not.
I, personally, class “CFS” under that and all its other names, with ‘vapours from the River Tiber’ and 19th Century women’s ‘hysteria’. In both cases (and in many others) the doctors concerned meant well, probably genuinely believed what they had been taught and what their peers subscribed to, and did their best – or even if they knew in their own hearts it was a load of hogs-wash they didn’t have a clue what else to do. Yet for the patient’s sake they had to do something and as long as it ‘did no harm’ anything was better than nothing and probably even better if they could do it with a show of confidence. (“So slip off your drawers, my dear, and hop up onto the couch while I set up the machine. It’s the latest model from the Chatanooga Tenn. Vibrator Company, you know, and it cost $200 so success is guaranteed!”)
Twenty years ago my doctors labelled what I felt ‘hypochondria’ and tried to persuade me it was all in my mind. When I disagreed they spent a decade trying with drugs like Prozac to numb my mind into believing them. Now at least they’ve given it a name which makes it real to them, which is a major advance but in fact does nothing more than put them in the position of those Roman or 19th Century physicians who, because they’ve put a name to something, think they’ve conquered it.
I see no point asking my GP if I have CFS for even if she agreed it would tell me nothing. As best as I can tell from the web there is no certainty as to what causes CFS, no agreement as to the symptoms and certainly no consensus as to the cure. So trusting your doctor is a case of the blind leading the blind.
Where we differ from the Romans, and from those 19th Century women, is that the Internet empowers us. We are no-longer individual patients standing alone and helpless against the massive, fumbling, one-eyed Cyclops that is the medical profession but, by sharing our thoughts and experiences, can help ourselves. For me my doctor is just a diagnostic tool, an expert I employ – one I trust to be honest, but not necessarily right!