Good morning SOTGC readers.
Having a career in medicine for more than a decade has given me so many rich experiences. Along the way, I trained at some of the most rigorous programs in internal medicine and rheumatology, which afforded me chances to see, do, and learn a lot. I came into the world of medical practice having honed the skills for treating the patient, and I applied them diligently. I learned that if you have certain symptoms, and certain lab tests, there would be certain medications that would work best for that particular diagnosis label.
Over the years, I became aware that not all patients responded to their treatment plans, even if those plans fit the labeled diagnosis. As a rheumatologist, I found this especially challenging. Many patients would present with symptoms, but little else during their workup to confirm a diagnosis to label their condition. The average time to develop additional findings to earn a rheumatologic diagnosis can be up to 10 years. How frustrating this can be for the patient who knows the symptoms they are experiencing are real, yet are told there isn’t a clear diagnosis, and that watchful waiting with or without a trial of medications as a diagnostic/ therapeutic trial is the best answer in that moment. It can be equally frustrating for the treating physician when patients fail to respond to treatment, develop adverse side effects to the recommended treatments, or don’t meet the criteria to even begin treatment for a suspected condition.
Patients like answers as well as doctors. There is a certain comfort to knowing the “why’ of a situation, so we can label it, and possibly put it into a well-defined box for our psyche to be more at peace. While it may not be a box we want to be in, the definitiveness of having an explanation creates a sense of direction. From here, we can choose how we want to think about it, or what we want to do. Not knowing leaves us in limbo, which has helped me to learn the art of acceptance—I’ve come to accept that not everything can fit into a box; that I don’t always have the answers to make it all better. Sometimes, I can’t make it better.
Acceptance is an art. To practice it is to understand that acceptance has nothing to do with relinquishing hope or giving up. In fact, it is a very crucial step to getting onto a path of pro-activeness and inner peace. Acceptance assists in moving us past the stagnation of frustration. In my case, feeling frustrated at not having better options to present to my patients really pushed me to exercise my curiosity and think outside the box. I began asking questions to which I didn’t have answers. Is it possible there are things that I didn’t learn in medical school that might be important in treating the patient? Does nutrition have anything to do with health and disease? What is all this talk about mind-body connections and what does it have to do with disease? Does managing stress play a role in staying healthy? What is this thing called the “emotional body” that was never referenced in my educational? What is the difference between treating and healing?
Please stay tuned to next week’s continuation of “treating the PERSON and not just the Disease” with Dr. Justina Tseng. If you’d like to learn more about Integrative Medicine please visit Dr. Tseng’s website at www.amoramed.com
photo credit: www.acamnet.org