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I’m seeing the doctor of my dreams, and I’m scared.

The show so far: Lifelong autoimmunity. Diagnosis at age 11. 10 years of pharmaceutical treatment with great doctors (who mostly dismiss the role of diet and lifestyle), which beget 10 years of learning to manage my condition through diet and lifestyle. Big yay!

But honestly, I’m more high maintenance than I want to be.

And I have lingering questions: Am I just playing symptom Whac-A-Mole with a mallet called “diet and lifestyle,” when there are underlying issues? If so, are those underlying issues treatable? Or is the time and attention I spend really what it takes to stay functional, in this body, with these genes, in this environment?

So, I spend late nights hunting for a doctor who can answer those questions. I’ve heard of functional medicine, and looked in the directories, but can’t find anyone I trust in New York.

THE BREAKTHROUGH

Then, late one summer night in 2014, reading articles about intestinal permeability, I find Dr. Leo Galland.

This doctor is:

  • in New York! Just like me!
  • a medical doctor!
  • writing articles about intestinal permeability that put other articles to shame!

This doctor is not:

  • affordable.

So I save up for 10 months to see him and do the first round of testing.

During this 10 months:

  • a friend of mine sees Galland for a years-long medical quandary, sees drastic improvement, and relays his success to me.
  • another friend of mine tells me Galland is not as integrative or good at hand-holding as she would like, but that he is her long time doctor and has seen her through some tough medical times
  • I decide that to get what I want out of this guy, I’m gonna have to ask some really good questions and be very active in my care.

A STROKE OF LUCK

4 weeks ago, a friend on Galland’s wait list gets a call: there’s been a cancellation, and can she come in for an initial visit tomorrow? Vicariously jazzed, I urge her to take the appointment. She does.

I see her the next morning. She is filled with dread. She is not ready. She is not ready for so much information, she is not ready to make potentially major changes.

It’s kismet. I’ve *just* finished saving up the money. I judge her for stalling, but am happy to profit from her procrastination. “I’ll take your appointment!”

“Really?”

“Yes!”

And I rearrange my day, and fill out the 30-some page intake paperwork, and go to my appointment that afternoon.

THE OFFICE VISIT

The office manager is kind and efficient. After a short wait, I am ushered into the office. There are crystals on the desk. Copies of his books in the office. His hair is whiter in person than in his online headshot.

He takes the most thorough medical history and exam I’ve ever experienced. If he interrupts, he says validating things like, “I want to hear the rest of the story, I just have one quick question.” He has so much experience with patients like me. He has so many ideas for what it could be. He has tests he wants to order. He answers all my questions.

THE AFTERGLOW

The office manager happily charges my credit card. She’s so pretty. God, that is a lot of money.

I leave, marching orders in hand, bank account significantly smaller, ready to take on this new phase of my life where some medical attention is paid to root causes. If we find certain things, there might be treatment. if we find other things, well, I can stop wondering and actually deal with the reality of my situation. I am happy. I am shaking, but I am happy. This is the next step in a process that’s been stalled out for years.

And then, slowly, over the next few days, as I repeat the story to close friends and family, it’s as if a hot, strong hand grabs my throat. So slowly I don’t notice at first, like a boiled frog. Breathing and walking get a lot harder.

There are 4 home tests and a battery of blood tests to run. With copious text message support from close friends, I have so far done 2 home tests. It has been 3 and a half weeks.

It’s official. I am scared. I am scared, and I am procrastinating.

Scared of what?

The warm, soft, vulnerable belly of my “Success Story!” is about to be examined:

  • Have I suffered for years unnecessarily, when there is an underlying condition to treat?
  • Has my diet and lifestyle actually prolonged this period of unresolved issues, by acting as a band-aid?
  • Or, is this as good as it gets?
  • Or…are things poised to get worse?

These tests won’t necessarily give me definitive answers to any of these questions. But they’re likely to give me more information than I had before.

My self concept is about to change.

All the unanswered questions might get answered.

THE UPSHOT

As is usually the case when I judge someone else for their failure to take quick, decisive action, it turns out I am the slow one. Slow to realize the factors at play. Slow to appreciate the gravity of the situation at hand. Slow to realize the human element.

And I’m scared.