I'm slipping dangerously close to a political post here. But rest assured, the only sentence in which you will read the word "Obamacare" is this one.
When you study massage therapy, you wind up looking at some healthcare issues. After all, massage can be a form of healthcare -- or perhaps I should say wellness care. Wellness care is a thing that America (and perhaps other countries) doesn't seem much interested in. Sure, we talk a lot about "healthy diets" and "healthy weights" and "healthy attitudes" even. But when we walk into the places where most "healthcare" workers work, they're not interested in health care, they're interested in disease care.
Think about it. What happens when you go to the doctor to say "I can't point to anything specific, I just don't feel right..."? They don't have anything to say or do. They'll ask questions, perhaps about sleep or diet, but until you have a symptom, they are more likely to send you home with nothing, and turn their attention to someone who is ill.
When you have a symptom, they want to fix it. Sometimes that's a good thing, but not always. Sometimes its far better to figure out why you have that symptom -- find the root of the dis-ease rather than cover up the signals that it's there.
So, why am I prattling on about this now?
Three reasons. One, my recent experience with the "healthcare" industry, two, my recent experience with acupuncture, and three, my upcoming appointment with a naturopathic doctor (testing the differences). Let's start with the doctor (who in this case was actually a Physician's Assistant, which tends to mean that you don't have to wait six weeks for an appointment, and you're supposed to get the same care but more time).
Like many women my age, I have a few spots on my skin that seem weird to me. There was a new bump that makes no sense on my back -- it was new, had rapidly grown to something significantly bigger than the occasional zit, and though I couldn't see it, it felt weird (and huge, like the tip of my pinky). There was a spot on the bridge of my nose that seems to become a sore -- red, itchy (and thus scratched absently so it bled) -- and then healed, and looked like a slightly shiny bump, and then came back as a sore... And a raised not necessarily even "mole" on the back of my upper calf that's kind or rough.
So, I took myself in to see the Dermatologist. After all, among the warning signs of skin cancer (as swiped straight from Cancer.org) are:
1. New growths on your skin.
"The most important warning sign for melanoma is a new spot on the skin or a spot that is changing in size, shape, or color." There is an ABCDE rule for melanomas. Of particular note to me are rules D and E.
"The ABCDE rule is another guide to the usual signs of melanoma. Be on the lookout and tell your doctor about spots that have any of the following features:
A is for Asymmetry: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
B is for Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
C is for Color: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
D is for Diameter: The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
E is for Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.
2. Sores that either won't heal, or heal and recur in the same place.
Okay, this isn't on cancer.org, but was definitely in my Pathology book. And in it's "healed" phase, it looks a lot like this description from Johns Hopkins - "Basal cell carcinoma usually appears as a small, shiny bump or nodule on the skin, mainly those areas exposed to the sun, such as the head, neck, arms, hands, and face. It most commonly occurs among people with light-colored eyes, hair, and complexion."
3. Raised, uneven bumps. -
"Squamous cell carcinomas may look like growing lumps, often with a rough, scaly, or crusted surface.They may also look like flat reddish patches in the skin that grow slowly.
Both of these types of skin cancer may develop as a flat area showing only slight changes from normal skin."
So... I have several spots on my skin that have a minor potential to be cancerous. It's likely that they're not, but they are causing me enough concern that I'm doing the responsible thing, and going to the doctor.
Here's what happened.
The cheery doc came in, asked how I was ... all positive. When I explained that I had several spots that concerned me, he swiftly went from listening to "show me". I showed him the spot on my nose, and told him that it looked pretty good that day, but it kept turning itchy, red, and sore and then bleeding. He looked at it for almost 2 seconds (seriously), and declared that it was a ? and nothing to worry about. I don't know what label he gave it. He said it fast and gave me no chance to ask questions before grabbing his little liquid nitrogen container and offering to remove it. I started to say that, yes, I'd like to not have it, but I was going to ask a few questions. The next thing I knew the freezy thing was at my face...
So, within 30 seconds of my showing him my nose (at least 10 of which were used in shifting positions so he could see), he'd frozen that thing on my face and asked to see the next thing.
Let me pause here for a moment.
I like swift action. I'm thrilled that this didn't take multiple appointments. But I'm not particularly happy that he didn't talk to me, explain what he thought it was growing on my face (much less why). I'm concerned that he gave me no chance to discuss the healing/recurring situation, and didn't explain what made that okay in this instance. This leaves me with little faith that freezing it off was even the right answer.
Further, he didn't explain the freezing mechanism, other than to say it'd be cold. He didn't explain any risks - like, you know, scarring. It seems to me that I ought to be able to choose whether to allow something on my face that might in fact be worse than the bump, if scarring is a possibility. He didn't tell me what to expect from having a thing on my face frozen. He just asked if I wanted it gone, and took my "I guess so" as informed consent and did it.
So. I then showed him the thing on the back of my leg. Frankly, I wasn't much worried about this one, but I did tend to catch it while shaving. Once again, the nitro thing came into play. Not only did he zap the thing I showed him, but he zapped something else. He didn't ask about the second thing, he just did it. Though he never named it, I think perhaps that what was on the back of my knee might have been a dermatofibroma (though mine was browner and rougher):
Dermatofibromas are, for the record, wholly benign. I know because I have the google. I do not know because my doctor told me what was on my leg, or took any time to explain it. I don't even know whether that is what was on my leg.
We turned then to the thing on my back. As I've said, I've no idea what it looked like. And now, I have no idea what it was. He said something fast, and wielded the freezie thing. That one was big. So it took lots of freezie action. That hurt.
Finally, I showed him a lump that has been there forever and is annoying. He declared it to be a lipoma. Utterly benign, but under the skin and thus not freezable. I could have that removed surgically if I wanted to.
That done, he whipped a sheet with care/expectation instructions out of a drawer, put it on his desk, and then tapped a few keys on the computer to close my session. He pointed to the paper, saying that the care instructions were there, and whisked out to see his next patient, tapping me on the shoulder with his rolled up papers and saying, "See ya".
The good news ought to be that he declared everything fine, and did something that alledgedly removed the things that troubled me. If only he gave me any reason to trust that he knew what he was talking about.
The bad news is that he never explained what the things on my skin were. Nor did he discuss with me what I should expect after having four places on my skin cauterized by freezing.
He was in the room with me for fewer than five minutes. Yes, in five minutes, he froze four things on my body, and declared a fifth thing a lipoma that was benign but could be surgically removed.
This doctor was all about fixing the problem. He assumed that I wanted cosmetic repair, and just did it. He was not on my team. He did not include me. If I saw him in the same building tomorrow, I'd be surprised if he recognized me.
This doesn't feel like health care. These feels like an assembly line.
At no time was there a hint that I might talk to him about how to keep my skin healthy. We saw the same guy ages ago for Bookworm's acne -- his solution was to offer expensive prescription creams. Again, no suggestions for healthy living, eating, sleeping, cleansing, etc. to help heal the skin from the inside out... only expensive scary substances (that burned btw).
Welcome to "healthcare" in America.