Dr A, an internist, confidently announced after a single office visit that my LEG PAIN was caused by Chronic Regional Pain Disorder, a degenerative disease that becomes so painful that sufferers have a pronounced tendency to go insane and/or kill themselves.
Dr B, a pain specialist, was absolutely convinced after a single office visit that the same problem was caused by a completely different horrible disease, syringomyelia.
Dr C, a neurosurgeon assured me that Drs A and B were both wrong, but since she had no idea what the problem was either, she gave me a referral to Dr D. Since the pain is showing some signs of getting better on its own, I haven't been to Dr D.
After ordering thousands of dollars worth of sophisticated tests, Dr E, an orthopedist, insisted that my BILATERAL SHOULDER PAIN was due to arthritis.
Dr F, another orthopedist, was just as insistent that it was due to torn rotator cuffs.
Dr G, my third orthopedist, unequivocally disagreed with them both, and confidently diagnosed another problem.
Dr H, my fourth orthopedist, completely agreed with Drs E and F but completely disagreed with Dr G.
Dr I, a neurosurgeon, suspected cervical cancer and cut through the front of my throat to get a piece of bone from the back of my neck. When no cancer was found, she said she was certain that a series of fluoroscopically guided steroid shots to my spinal cord—administered by her practice partner—would eliminate the pain. When they didn’t, I went back to Dr G who performed two shoulder surgeries, each of which required a yearlong recovery. I’m now in worse pain than ever.
I’ll share just one more story. Peggy had a cyst removed from her leg in the 1970s. The doctor put an airtight dressing over the incision and told us sternly to leave it in place until our follow-up visit the next week. We lived in Mississippi at the time, and it was August, so this sounded like a really bad idea to us, but we ignored our qualms because, as we told ourselves, he was a doctor and we were school teachers, so what did we know.
As we feared, the incision became infected. My point is simply that you shouldn’t put a great deal of faith in a doctor simply because he or she has a medical degree and sounds confident (if people treated you like God Almighty and threw money at you like it was confetti, you would sound confident too). As for “modern medicine,” well, the term has a nice ring to it, but you’ll recall that the modern medicine of one era is the primitive blundering of the next. You’ll also recall that “modern medicine” labored for millennia in ignorance of bacteria and viruses, and that the original appeal of homeopathy lay in the fact that it was SO innocuously worthless that it didn’t regularly kill people as did the modern medicine of the early 1800s (buy me entire carton of a “powerful homeopathic remedy,” and I’ll drink it in front of you). This meant that instead of having to survive both the disease and your doctor’s ministrations, you only had to survive the disease.
I’m far from suggesting that you should feel discouraged though. After all, no drug or procedure is a complete failure if you live to tell about it, and if you don’t live to tell about it, well, your doctor at least succeeded in ridding you of your problem, so you’re actually a winner either way.