Thursday, June 21, 2012

It's Not Lupus

Over two months ago, my mom had some blood work done at her general practitioner. That blood work included an ANA panel, which came back positive. Her doctor told her that a positive ANA panel could mean a couple of things, including Rheumatoid arthritis or Lupus. The local rheumatologist couldn't see my mom until October, so her GP worked to get her an appointment with Dr. FancyPants in Birmingham. So, we waited two months and then finally, yesterday, we were able to see the doctor. I took off work to go with my mom as moral support, because I knew she had been very worried about the entire process.

We got up at the crack of dawn and left earlier than necessary, because the paperwork that Dr. FancyPants' office sent her indicated that if she were late then she would lose her appointment for which she'd already waited over two months. We both almost had a panic attack trying to find the doctor's office because the directions they gave her were so convoluted. We drove in circles a bit before we finally got someone from the Dr's office on the phone. As an aside, our appointment was at 9:15. The office opened at 8:00. I didn't get an actual person on the phone until 9:05 and then they were able to direct us to the road that was basically hidden by shrubbery. We made it to our appointment right on time. And then, we sat for two whole hours before we saw the doctor. Now granted, I completely understand that doctor's offices have all kind of hoops that they have to jump through for insurance and things of that nature so they schedule appointments on top of appointments, but if you're going to be a jerk about someone being five minutes late, then perhaps you shouldn't make someone wait for two hours before seeing them.

When the doctor finally decided he would see my mom, he made no introductions whatsoever. He didn't ask her anything about herself. He didn't show any compassion whatsoever. He just started blaring away with questions about her symptoms. She was so uncomfortable with him. First of all, my mother is painfully shy. It takes her a little bit of time to warm up to people. Her tone of voice completely changed when he came in the office and started asking her questions. She sounded like a scared kid. And then he had the audacity to not even listen to what she was saying. He was asking questions, but I'm not even sure he was hearing her answers. He asked her what was wrong with her, and as she was things, like "my feet hurt" he would ask her "so, do your feet hurt?". I didn't keep count of how many times he asked a question that she had only just answered, but I had to busy myself with Twitter and Facebook to keep myself calm.

He asked a lot of questions, listened to her heart, felt the glands in her neck, looked at the blood work paperwork from the other doctor, and then made his diagnosis. He said that based off the blood work and the symptoms she had indicated, that she has Sjogren's Syndrome. He didn't really give my mom any details about the illness. Since she isn't very good at asking questions, I decided I would ask the questions for her. I asked him if there was anything that she was doing that perhaps she shouldn't do anymore. He said no. I asked if there was maybe some foods that she should or shouldn't eat to ease the symptoms. He said that "well, some people say that nightshades are a trigger, but I don't know." Of course, he didn't bother to tell my mom what is in the nightshade family. If he had of, he would have learned that my parent's garden is almost full of nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, etc). My mom eats food in the nightshade family almost every single day. Perhaps if he weren't so quick to dismiss the idea, he could have helped her by suggesting she stop eating foods from that family, just to see if it helps her feel better. I asked if there were any supplements that she should take, since it is an autoimmune disease. He said, "not really, plus some vitamin supplements are dangerous.". I asked if there were any holistic methods of treatment at all that he could suggest. His only suggestion: fish oil tablets. His method of treatment is medicine. Because of course it is. Why try to help someone have the best health possible when you can just give them a pill?

I'm sure Dr. FancyPants is a wonderful diagnostician. I'm sure he knows a lot about autoimmune diseases. However, he doesn't know anything about how to treat a patient. My mother came to him scared and left just as scared. It helps that we have a name for the reason she feels awful all the time, but he left us with as many questions as answers.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Growing on the Farm

Yes, I live on a half-acre. Yes, I live in the middle of Atlanta. And yes, I've decided to call my little plot of land a farm. I mean, shoot, I have chickens in the back yard and a garden in the front yard. I think that makes it a farm. And seeing as how I grew up on a farm, I think I have the authority to declare it so.

I already knew from some of my experiences with Crop Mob that the farming community is amazing. But until I started raising chickens and growing a garden, I don't think I knew the breadth and depth of the care and the helpfulness of the farming community. When I've had questions, like "why is nothing in my garden growing?" I had several farmer friends (and my parents) pipe up that perhaps I am watering the garden too much. Apparently, watering your garden every single day, and at night, is wrong. When I needed help trying to set up my front yard garden, I had a farmer friend go with me to the nursery to get plants and then come back to the house with me and help me plant them. When I've had questions about why my chickens feathers are falling out or why their combs are looking all dry, a farmer friend gave me great tips about how to help the hens. When my tomato plants starting looking droopy and like they were dying, not only did my farmer friend tell me how to fix them, but she gave me the necessary tool to fix them (kelp meal, if you're wondering).

The really cool thing is how much more I have to talk to my parents about now that I am farming. They've been doing this for years and years, and I think they are surprised at my enthusiasm. I think they are exasperated by my constant nagging that they should be growing their garden organically, but they just put up with my hippie ways. I mean, they raised me, so technically it's their fault. But there really is nothing quite like calling Daddy in the morning on my way in to work and talking about my garden. I think he's rather proud that I've decided to do something that he loves. I go home and help my parents in their garden every chance I get. Their garden encompasses several acres and they do most all of the work by hand, so they need all the help they can get. Although, I frequently wonder if it's really necessary to plant an entire acres of just potatoes. But, in the words of Daddy, "farmers feed America." And my parents may not be feeding all of America, but they are feeding my grandmother and other widow women in the community. As my Daddy always says, "if you plant enough to share, you'll always have enough." And goodness me do they have enough. My mother has four deep freezers full to the brim of food that she has put away from the garden.

Oh and one of the really exciting parts about growing a garden in your front yard...people will stop and ask you what you're growing. And then you get to tell them about your garden. One day last week my neighbors' five-year-old daughter walked over to see what I was growing. I got to show her what each plant looked like and was able to talk to her about what would grow from each of them. Then she got to pet a chicken, which was pretty much the highlight of her day. It was pretty awesome to experience a child's first time to pet a chicken. Which sounds pretty lame, and it probably is. But this is the life I've been wanting to live. And I'm loving it.

Front yard garden, freshly planted
Side yard garden, after I stopped watering it to death

My parents' garden