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Posts Tagged ‘health’

  1. I Need a Dentist Who’s Less Anxious Than Me

    November 22, 2015 by Diane

    funny cartoon tooth

    I had a pain in one of my upper teeth on the left side. Thinking I may have developed a cavity—or worse, dislodged one of my mercury fillings and swallowed it—I phoned my dentist for an appointment.

    “Doctor Lu’s office.”

    I recognized the voice; it was Doctor Lu herself. She never hired a receptionist, so she pretends to be the receptionist.

    “I may have lost a filling,” I said. “I need to make an appointment.”

    “Doctor Lu can see you on Wednesday at two o’clock.”

    Wait a minute. You’re Doctor Lu.

    “Two o’clock will be fine.”

    * * *

    When I arrived, Doctor Lu was waiting behind the reception desk. She shuttled me into the yellow room on the left. She hooked a paper bib around my neck. She asked if I had any new allergies, wanted to know how I was sleeping and if I was taking any new medications, and inquired about my blood pressure. She took two x-rays and blew cold air on my teeth and jabbed at my fillings with a sharp implement and asked me to bite down on a piece of rubber and when nothing revealed itself to be a problem, she searched for one.

    Starting with my neck.

    Her fingers probed under my jawline and along my windpipe and then froze.

    “Uh-oh,” she said. “You need to see a doctor ASAP.”

    She probed some more. Dread flooded my body.

    She motioned to her assistant. “How big is this?”

    “I don’t know,” the assistant said. “The size of a penny?”

    “That’s it! The size of a penny. Write that down.”

    Doctor Lu probed some more, then handed me a mirror. “I want you to see this.” She pointed to a bulge in my neck.

    “Oh, that!” I said. “That’s my carotid artery. I had it examined years ago. It’s just a weird part of my anatomy—“

    “Write that down,” she said to her assistant. “Weird part of anatomy.”

    “It’s nothing,” I babbled on, trying to reassure her. “I’m thinner now, so it’s more noticeable.”

    “Yes. You have lost a lot of weight.”

    “I wouldn’t say a lot—“

    She turned her back and consulted a laptop on the counter. “Look at these x-rays,” she said, waving me over. I peered at the screen. “These fillings are old. See how close they are to the nerve?”


    I knew what was coming. We’d had this discussion many times. Sure enough, “You need a mouth guard,” she said, her voice rising. “You’re grinding your teeth at night. If you lose one of these fillings, I don’t know what I’ll do. I won’t be able to FIX it. They’re too close to the NERVE!”

    “Okay, okay. I’ll get a mouth guard.”



    Total cost: $500 for the mouth guard, $10 for the visit.

    “And see your doctor. Report back to me.”

    I need a dentist who’s less of a hypochondriac than me.

    * * *

    I made an appointment with my doctor. Cost: $30. He felt the lump. He suggested that I get an ultrasound.

    “But I’ve had this thing for ten years,” I said. “It’s never gotten any bigger. Isn’t it possible—isn’t it likely—that it’s fine?”

    “That’s a good way to look at it,” he said. “But I want ENT to make that call. Schedule an appointment with ear-nose-throat. And schedule an ultrasound.”

    I need a doctor who’s less worried than me.

    * * *

    Member services informed me that the ultrasound would cost $371.

    “What’s the extra dollar for?” I wondered aloud.

    I canceled the appointment.

    * * *

    Online, I checked the profile of the ENT doctor I was scheduled to see. He had started as a psychologist, then studied to be a surgeon. He also made time to become a photographer, canoeist, rock climber, wilderness guide, sculptor, sailor, chef, and sword-swallower. Okay, not the last one, but he had an impressive list of activities to his credit, in addition to raising three children, which he claimed was the most challenging activity of all. I felt good about this doctor. Maybe I could squeeze in a free therapy session while he examined my neck.

    As the nurse led me down the hall to an exam room, we passed an open door. A man in a white lab coat sat at his desk wolfing down a sandwich, just shoving it in. God, I hope that’s not him, I thought.

    It was.

    Less than a minute later he strolled into the exam room where I sat perched on a giant leather chair. I wondered how he’d found time to chew.

    He offered his unwashed hand for me to shake.

    “So, you’ve got a lump in your neck,” he said. He placed his unwashed fingers on my throat. Felt the bulge. “That’s your carotid artery, “ he said. “Leave it alone.”

    He pulled up a stool.

    “Want a second opinion?” he asked.


    “Nice glasses.”

    Cost: $30.

    I need a specialist who’s less goofy than me.

    * * *

    I went to the dentist to get my teeth checked. They’re fine. But I’m $570 more in debt. It would have been $941 if I’d gone through with the ultrasound.

    I need a new dentist.

  2. How to Soothe Body, Mind and Soul to Promote Healing

    November 15, 2015 by Diane


    Comfortable homey scene: Book on a tray with a candle

    I spent all of last week fighting a severe cold.

    Not fighting, really. Just lying in bed while it pummeled me.

    Some folks are masters at riding out a cold. Me? I’m cowed by the swagger of it. I crumble under its weight, pinned to the mattress, my world narrowed to the confines of my anxious mind. Without defenses to act as filter, the “what if” thoughts gain traction and I lie curled in my warm blanket believing that all of those books I’ve read on mindfulness and healing and treatments and nutrition are bunk. All of those words of wisdom didn’t slay the dragon. The dragon won.

    Oh, boo hoo. Cue the violin. The cello. The bass, for cryin’ out loud.

    Disgusted, I rise up. I’m done being sick! The surge of anger propels me to my feet, fumbling for thick socks, tucking a muffler around my throat, unwrapping a menthol lozenge, pulling on boots and jacket, flinging open the door and blinking at the thin winter sun, grateful for the blue sky. I walk the neighborhood and fill my senses with the signs of life. Life is bigger than the dragon. Life is everywhere. It’s in the oak trees that hold onto their stiff curled leaves. It’s in the squirrels dashing though fence holes carrying acorns in their jaws. It’s in the carload of children shoving each other in the back seat. It’s in the mossy roofs and the falcon cruising overhead with an eye for a thick brown mouse. It’s in the free little library stuffed with worn paperbacks that lean on each other for support. I saunter through the neighborhood and return home renewed in spirit but tired in body, my lymph glands swollen and painful from the work of draining, draining, draining.

    There is always something to buckle our knees from behind. We prepare ourselves for the worst and hope for the best. It’s the only way.

    When you’re feeling under the weather, here are ten steps to soothe your body, mind and soul as you weather the storm:

    1. Watch your thinking. Are your thoughts of the dreadful variety? Dwell on the opposite. For five minutes. Then ten. Then twenty. Be Shirley Temple at heart, Scarlett O’Hara in determination. Tell yourself: “I can choose to focus on my anxious thoughts, or I can choose to do what I can for myself in this moment to feel better.” Tell yourself: “I can choose to worry about this or I can be mindful of these thoughts and not spiral into the bottomless pit of anxiety.”
    2. Infuse yourself with healing energy. Here’s a short Qigong exercise to cleanse your lungs and clear away feelings of lethargy and sadness. Or try some of Donna Eden’s healing techniques, like this one to help a sore throat. If nothing else, her joyous vibe is a balm.
    3. Focus on what you love. The scruffy cat curled next to you. The man in the kitchen washing dishes. That kid who dreams of becoming an astronaut.
    4. Surround yourself with comfort. A soft blanket, your terrycloth robe, a book within arm’s reach, a fuzzy teddybear.
    5. Distract yourself. Watch funny movies. Read feel-good novels. I recommend The Rosie Project, anything by P.G. Wodehouse, or anything by Rosamunde Pilcher. Listen to audio books. Anything to distract you, to lift you from your lonely self.
    6. Take in nourishment. Warm broths. Herbal teas. Oatmeal. A protein smoothie. When you read, take in the inspirational words. When you walk, take in the abundance of life. Take in the memory of that fine day at the beach when a seagull kept you company and the waves rolled gently on the white sand.
    7. Let go. There’s nothing you need to do except allow your body to heal. You’re tired, so give in to the mattress. Let go of the body tension. Let go of those depressing thoughts that scratch at your throat.
    8. Drink up. Lots of water to flush away the virus lingering in the hallways of your immune system.
    9. Do self-soothing activities. Nap. Draw. Doodle. Write without regard to a finished product. Do crossword puzzles. Sip warm water. Meditate. Pray. Talk to someone who cares: your mother, your sister, your best friend, your lover, your spouse, your inner wise self, God. Whatever soothes the soul is good medicine.
    10. Look to the future. Tell yourself: “I look forward to feeling strong and healthy again.” Tell yourself: “This is a temporary situation and I will rise again.” Tell yourself: “I’m healing. I’m mending. I’m so over this friggin’ cold.” Buckle the knees of that dragon and gouge out it’s red eyes. The dragon is a bit player in your life’s comedy. Refuse to give it a starring role.


    And you? How do you soothe yourself when feeling under the weather?

  3. How One Obscenely Large Crow Turned Me Into A Vegan Overnight

    July 5, 2015 by Diane


    Cartoon ravens talking

    I can name a dozen reasons why I decided to choose a whole-foods lifestyle. I’ve listed ten, below. But there’s only one thing that convinced me to make the switch from carnivore to herbivore overnight.

    An obscenely large crow.

    How obscenely large?

    Try…a crow who smokes cigars and struts around in a pinstripe suit and hat.

    That crow was in my backyard, dining on a rat.

    At first, I didn’t realize it was a rat. I just saw Mr. Crow machine-gunning something with his beak, and that something leaping into the air trying to get away. I thought, My God, it’s eating a squirrel! I marched outside to shoo the crow away, and skidded to a stop.

    If there’s one thing I dislike more than crows, it’s rats. And that pecked pecker was definitely one big honkin’ rat.

    This is nature in progress, I told myself. This is an example of dining out on the food chain.

    But the rat was STILL ALIVE! (And there may have been some entrails involved.)

    I spun around and fled to my cottage and closed the blinds and shouted to the empty room, “That’s it! I’m not eating meat anymore.”

    I had already given up diary (lactose intolerance) and gluten (gluten intolerance) so officially, I was announcing my veganism to the world (barnyard animal intolerance). I’ll admit, it took another month for me to get into the swing of eating the whole-foods way. But now, two weeks in, I can honestly say…hmm.

    And…I kinda like this.

    And…hey, I’ve got my pep back! I’m not snoozing at my desk at three-o’clock in the afternoon.

    So, for all of you who are curious about why someone would swear off meat and dairy, here are the top ten reasons why I chose to go vegan.

    1. The aforementioned crow.

    2. The butcher at Safeway. When I went shopping for ground turkey, he appeared, with bloody fingerprints on his white lab coat. Now, I have it on good authority that it wasn’t blood; it was the red dye butchers use to make meat look…bloodier. Still, it looked like blood, and that’s one thing I didn’t need to eyeball when planning my dinner menu.

    3. I’d rather get my protein from a living organism than a dead one. Nuts grow into trees. Seeds grow into plants. Even the lowly potato keeps sprouting things after it’s harvested. Dead animals? Dead meat. That energy is kaput. Oh sure, a chicken’s body will dash around for awhile after its head is removed. But by the time that carcass is plucked and packaged and shipped and cooked and served on your mother’s best china, it’s dead, with a trace of lingering adrenaline the poor bird released right before it was whacked. I’m manufacturing plenty of adrenaline on my own thank you very much; I don’t need to imbibe more.

    4. What do cows eat? Grain. What do chickens and turkeys eat? Seeds. I’m skipping the middleman and eating direct.

    5. It’s cheaper. Unless I’m shopping at Whole Foods.

    6. I can buy the bulk of my dietary needs outdoors, at the Farmer’s Market. No fluorescent lights. No canned music from the 80’s. No employees who don’t have a clue about the food they’re stocking. I’ve sung my praises of the outer aisles here.

    7. I have more energy. (See # 3 above.)

    8. I sleep better. Can’t explain that one, but I’m eternally grateful.

    9. I feel cleaner inside. My digestive system is happier. It doesn’t feel like I’m churning lard through my guts.

    And last but not least…

    10. When Vegans pass gas, it doesn’t stink. It says so, right in the literature, and I’m standing by it. If you happen to be standing by, you’ll notice: my farts don’t stink. This alone makes the world a better place.

    Want to learn more about eating the whole-foods way? I recommend the following books:

    The Forks Over Knives Plan by Alona Pulde, MD and Matthew Lederman, MD

    My Beef with Meat by Rip Esselstyn

    and the DVDs:

    Forks Over Knives, Virgil Films and Entertainment

    The Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue with Rip Esselstyn