Changing Doctors and A New Realization of Family Health

My doctor recently gave up her practice.  I was absolutely devastated.  A few years ago I can remember walking into her office. It had been years since I had seen any kind of doctor. The truth is I had just not taken care of myself.  I had been depressed and life was more of a trial than a joy.  We were going through turmoil and my way of dealing with it was stumbling through everything not seeing anything but the most relevant.  I had given up.

Walking became my refuge and praying my strength.  Without this I was like a rag doll with no idea of why I couldn’t get up.  Walking was helping my weight, but causing major pain in my feet.  The first step was seeing a doctor to make sure everything was okay. I knew it was going to be awful. I was petrified that I had high blood pressure, diabetes, and just about any other disease related to being over weight. Sitting in her office I just wanted to run.  I debated with myself about leaving until she came in the room.

She was so easy to talk with.  She put me completely at ease and for the first time in my life a doctor sat down with me and listened.  It was amazing!  I walked out of there certain I had made the perfect decision.  My test results came back perfect.  I was no longer afraid of seeing a doctor, at least until she gave up her practice.

The first thing I did was search the online site that my husband’s insurance company has.  The decisions I needed to think about was did I want a male or female doctor and what type of a doctor I was looking for. I decided that for me the only doctor who actually listened to me was a female so I decided on a woman. A General Practitioner was the specialty I wanted.

I already had a Gynecologist so I just needed a General Practitioner.  The next step was to find a GP who was accepting new patients and cross reference the doctor’s names with a website that gave patient reviews.  I made my choice and scheduled an appointment.

I made a list of what vitamins I took and any questions I had prior to my appointment.  The only thing I wasn’t completely prepared for was the question about family history. Oh, I knew what it was and I knew this was one of the questions they were going to ask me. I just wasn’t prepared for the impact of seeing it written down on a piece of paper

I never realized how bad my family’s health history was until I went to the doctor.  My parents and grandparents on both sides had or have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The majority had one or two issues, but one had all of them.

My maternal grandmother had colon cancer.  As far as I know, no one else has had colon cancer on either side of our family.  My paternal grandmother died from breast cancer. Again, no one else on either side of the family has had it.  My father had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, skin cancer, and died from congestive heart failure.  He also had diabetes and prostate cancer.

I was not born when my grandmother on my dad’s side passed away. He was only 16 when she died.  I was a child when my grandmother on my mom’s side passed.  She was visiting family members in Texas when it happened. The effects of the their diseases never really affected me. I was there for my dad’s battles though.

When I was growing up with dad he didn’t have much of an issue with his weight. He maintained his weight up until he retired. He didn’t seem to go up or down. He enjoyed his sweets and hid them in the truck so he would not have to share with the rest of the family, but he worked off what he ate. His meals always consisted of a meat, potato dish, and a veggie.  He liked to eat a bowl of ice cream at night every so often.

Things changed after he retired.  It was a gradual change, but he slowly put on weight. His blood pressure went up and somewhere along the way he had his first heart attack.  He slowed down, not by choice, but because he could no longer do the things he used to.  The skin cancer became a constant issue.  The skin cancer was caused by radiation in the heat lamps that were prescribed for him as a child to help eradicate acne. They believed that radiation was a cure for acne.  In this case you live and learn.  Sadly he paid a very high price for the lack of knowledge back then.

Dad’s diet changed too.  He began eating fast food, more and more fried foods, and he lived to have sweets.  His energy level eventually went to the low of not being able to walk from my front door to my mail box.  This couldn’t be more than 50 feet. He had high cholesterol and diabetes long before he moved to Florida last year. His weight ballooned scarily.

I was at my wit’s end. Talking to dad was like talking to a wall.  He had been put down so much in his life that when anyone tried to confront him about anything he retreated to some place deep inside.  A few years ago he was staying with us for a month and he continually spoke of how he wished he weighed less, wasn’t taking high blood pressure pills and wished he could be active just like he used to be.

We got into a huge fight and it all became clear to me.  He really did want all of those things, but he never wanted to sacrifice what he was doing to save himself.  I was able to accept him as he was from that day forward.  He never understood the fight or why it happened, but it changed my perspective on who he was and what mattered to him.  Understanding him gave me the freedom to love him without the condemnation of wanting him changed.

My husband and I made the decision back in 2009 to cut the fast food and cook our meals from scratch.  I found a new way of thinking.  The French way.  Moderation in everything.  No food is truly bad.  You can eat anything as long as you do not over indulge.  Reading the book French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano, changed my life.  No, I didn’t lose weight, but I learned that food is no longer the devil and quality of food is so much more important than quantity.

One of the key reasons I changed our diet was my dad.  I want my husband and myself to live our lives as free from prescription medications as possible.  I want to be able to travel and take care of my own needs and that of my husband’s until I die.  The majority of my family have a very long life expectancy.  I even have an uncle who was 97 when he died.

I thought we were doing it right until last November.  My annual physical showed that I had high blood pressure.  It scared me. They said that my blood pressure was 190/90.  I was in complete shock.  How could I have high blood pressure when my parents weighed more than me and didn’t get high blood pressure until they were far older than I am now?

The doctor immediately ordered me to go onto blood pressure medicine.  I refused.  I decided to work harder on our diet and work out more.  This was no easy matter.  I was working nearly every day at Bath and Body Works, two days a week at the other retail job and it was the holidays.  My dad died in December and my stress level was the highest it probably ever had been. The first question my doctor asked was I under any stress? Under stress?  Of course I was. I finally relented on the blood pressure medicine for one month.  I just couldn’t continue it.  I needed time to work on things.  I made a promise to myself that if the blood pressure wasn’t lower by the time I went back for my yearly physical I would go on the medication until I lost enough weight to be free of medication.

My life has dramatically changed since my last doctor’s visit. I no longer work 7 days a week and life with my dad was more stressful than even I knew. Not working as many hours helped me to cook better quality meals and I lost about 20 pounds when I took up walking again.  Even so I was not looking forward to seeing a new doctor.  I was ever so fearful of my blood pressure and what ever else the visit would bring up.

The day I went to the doctor I was nervous, but resigned. I knew that what ever happened I had made the only changes I could until I could lose more weight.  I also knew I needed to have my feet looked at. The pain was intense.  Walking had been my source of release and peace It no longer was fun, but a source of extreme pain.

This was such a completely different situation from the previous initial visit with a doctor. I was not ready to bolt out of the office.  I waited patiently for the nurse to call my name and take me back to get weighed in.  Yuck.  She took me into a room and took my blood pressure. My blood pressure was 100/70!!!  I could hardly believe it.  The nurse made two statements that I think accounted for the high readings and I think the changes we have made since November have made all the difference.  The first statement was that my beat was very faint. The other statement was that the cuff had to be a large cuff as the medium cuff would misread since it was to small.

I want to say that I do not recommend ignoring your doctor as I did.  I had never before had an issue with my blood pressure and felt it was best to make the changes I could to see how they would affect my blood pressure. The changes I made were simple.  I dropped down to one cup of coffee per day. I mainly drink green tea and passion flower tea.  I make a vinaigrette salad dressing so I get a bit of vinegar daily.  I walk every day that I can. There are more changes, but these seem to have worked the most when it came to my diet.

It is also very important to know your family’s health history.  The more you know the more you can work with your doctor for the best choices.  It is also very important to find a doctor who listens and is open to your opinions. I prefer a homeopathic way of thinking of health care.  I think that with all of the changes in the health care law we can all agree health care will become more expensive. I believe finding natural alternatives, that were used for generations, and we know the side effects of, make far more sense than prescription drugs that no one really knows the long term effects. There are always exceptions to the rule.  I don’t advocate ignoring modern medicine. I advocate being informed.

The opinions I am stating are mine.  Research all you can about every situation and make informed decisions.  Only you and your physician can make the best choices for your situation.

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