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Doing Cancer Her Way: Unpacking Kara's View of Western Medicine Pt 1

Updated: Apr 6

Disclaimer: The following series of facts, opinions, and observations should not be taken as medical advice. This is my attempt to look back on Kara's approach to health and wellness, where it came from, and how it affected her cancer diagnosis. I am not criticizing her or anyone else's process for making decisions about their health. I simply want to illuminate her relationship to the medical system and potentially find some balance between our culture's attitude toward preventative health screening and its aversion to the message of memento mori, or, "Remember you must die."

In this, hopefully, I can find some healing. And if, like me, you find yourself frustrated with these conflicting ideas in our society around living and dying, perhaps you can find some healing, too.

Thirteen years ago, I experienced gastrointestinal problems that compelled me to see my physician. At the time I had good healthcare because I worked for a struggling, but still decent, large company. My doctor, who was also my mom's doctor, knew I was scared about my symptoms and told me he would consider sending me to a hemorrhoid specialist... provided I at least think about getting a test called a colonoscopy first. "Don't you think it would give you peace of mind just to get any other concerns off the table?" He asked. I agreed. And some weeks later, I came out of anesthesia with my wife at my side and learned I had several small hemorrhoids and an anal fissure to contend with.

As you know, since you are reading this, Kara's first-ever colonoscopy seven years later went quite a bit differently. They were unable to complete the examination--the doctor told us in private, after a considerably long wait--due to a "significant mass" in her rectum.

On various occasions, Kara has said that her digestive issues began in the summer of 2016, at the same time her mom was dying of lung cancer. I don't remember them becoming an all-around disruptive problem until the winter or spring of 2018, but clearly she recognized that something was off in her body that long ago. So why didn't she see a doctor sooner, like I did? Well, she didn't have a doctor. Partly because she'd been self-employed for over a decade and had always gotten lousy healthcare. Partly because one of the last times she had seen a doctor, not one, but two of them, both male medical residents, mishandled her when she was a teenager... with no witnesses on site, and no parental or other authority figures who would intervene on her behalf or even listen to her and support her.

On that note, I will say that I myself went without a physical examination for fifteen years after an experience with a previous family physician... This doctor, who was being "promoted up," shoved his finger up my rectum with such vigor that I felt like Darth Vader was lifting me off my feet under the mistaken impression that my throat was located in my undercarriage. I found out much later that such tests were not even the standard at the time of my hoisting.

Another reason she didn't have a doctor: Her maternal family's troubled past. Although Kara was spared the atrocities perpetrated on many of her family members, she grew up witnessing the physical and emotional burdens of intergenerational trauma caused by then-ongoing cycles of rape, abuse, and child molestation. Burdens that were not reduced or were even made worse by medical professionals. Inadequate nutrition... depression... backbreaking labor... substance abuse... chronic acute pain and illness... these are just some of the unhealthy family patterns that did not improve with medical intervention, and can largely be traced back to abusive parents and sexual predators, not exactly the sort of thing allopathic treatment is designed for. What is more, she watched many loved ones and relatives (including some of my own) enter the medical system, demonstrate nearly exclusive compliance with various experts, and spiral further and further into confusion and affliction over years and years.

Add to that various friends, acquaintances, and clients who sought medical attention as part of a proactive approach to some ongoing health issue and who still ended up feeling confused and afflicted, or perhaps, even more afflicted... sometimes over several years... and you can see, at least at first glance, the conditions in which Kara viewed her own health as a puzzle to be put together by herself. There is more to her holistic development than that, but this is basically where her rift with conventional medicine began... with revulsion. (not cult-ish paranoia!) and disappointment. In her experience of the medical system, first- and secondhand, she saw more god complexes than healers (although to be fair there are god complexes in every discipline, healing or otherwise, something she would readily admit), and a maze only to be entered in straightforward, urgent cases such as, say, a bone break, heart attack, car accident, or gunshot wound, at least if one could help it.

Which is not to say she didn't know and appreciate several medical professionals doing good work in their fields... only that hospitals and examination rooms did not rate high in terms of financial cost to physical and emotional benefit, not for her anyway, not when she could turn to modalities that cost less on her mind/body/spirit and even yielded longer-lasting benefits.

There is more to unpack in Kara's view of Western medicine and healing.

Until next time.

--Charles Austin Muir

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