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Women and Illness

I went to India by myself once and took the train to the majority of my destinations. It was great - I'd take an overnight train, get a sleep, and wake up at my destination. Transportation and hotel in one. The bunks were great - I'm used to sleeping on a boat from my childhood - and the bathrooms were terrible but that's just fine with me. I backpack in the woods and there are no bathrooms there. One night, I was taking a train to Varanasi, the oldest city in the world. It lies on the banks of the Ganges River and is a very holy place - Hindus go there for cremation. If you're a priest, a pregnant woman, or a cow, you get thrown in whole. Mark Twain frequented India and said about Varanasi: "Varanasi is older than history, older than tradition, older than even legend, And looks twice as old as all of them put together." This, my friends, is true.

During the train ride to Varanasi, I suddenly got very cold. It was over 100 degrees. Then the bathroom issues started, I won't go into great detail here. Bathrooms on Indian trains are a hole in the ground. I was sick. This is very normal and called Delhi Belly. I probably got it from the water, but I ate a lot of street food too. I recommend to all world travelers - brush your teeth with bottled water. I think this was my mistake, I started using tap water to brush my teeth. I now carry a water filter called Grayl made in Seattle and it's great for not buying all those plastic bottles.

In India, and in many parts of the world, they have special cars for women and children. I appreciate these cars a lot because I spent almost a decade riding a subway during rush hour and do not miss being felt up by men daily. I never felt assaulted, it's just gross. I was in a car with a woman and her 4 children. The woman noticed I was shivering and running to the bathroom every 2 minutes and knew I was sick. She was not afraid of me. She immediately made me a bed on the lower bunk (I was initially on the top because the kids should have the lower), brought me fresh water, extra blankets, and a wet rag, and nursed me through the night. There were fans for the cars, it was very hot, but she turned them off because I was so very cold. She wrapped me in blankets as I shivered. She rubbed my forehead. I don't think she ever laid down to rest, she spent the whole evening taking care of me, some stranger from some other land. I used the bathroom more times than I can count, and I was taken care of by a complete stranger who didn't speak my language. Yes, English is widely spoken in India, but so are 120 or so other languages. This may be the kindest act of a stranger I've ever experienced. She was only being a mother to me, a mother that didn't birth me, but who cared about me only because I'm a fellow human being.

If someone were to arrive in America with dysentery (which was my diagnosis and I was treated with Heroin, another story), would any American provide this same help? I think we'd send the person to the nearest ER because that's what we believe is necessary, in fact, it seems the only answer. The Heroin I got was from the pharmacy, over the counter, and what was given when I asked for dysentery treatment. It works pretty much the same as Imodium, Imodium is an opiate, and opiates stop the bowels. Perhaps I would have gotten fluids in the ER and $10,000 or so later I'd have left with Imodium and fluids. I would also probably have received a giant dose of antibiotics, and antibiotic resistance will be the #1 cause of death soon.

Working with Americans, I have realized we need to trust ourselves a bit more. Self care is not eating ice cream on the couch and binge watching your favorite show. Self care is making yourself a healthy meal and going for a walk.

I do not think we are practicing medicine well in the United States, which is why I entered my field. However, my field is more like the field I was running away from. When I was in school, the gold standard was the randomized controlled trial or the meta analysis, anecdote was thrown out the window as if it is garbage. I see people daily who have anxiety and they say things like "I'm worried that if I don't treat this anxiety something bad will happen". Of course, they're referring to medications when they talk about treatment. They aren't talking about exhaling, exercising, eating well, praying, therapy, etc. How many people are aware anxiety treatments have a maximum study period of 6 months and there is no data beyond this point?

I like money just as much as Bill Gates. My dream is to find a cure for hair loss because that will make me the richest person in the world. However, our medical system is based on making money and not on improving health, and we are becoming sicker. Since 2015, our life expectancy has started going down. This is because we don't move our bodies, we eat a lot of junk food, we drink a lot of alcohol, we don't prioritize sleep, we are inside all the time, and we don't manage our stress well. Also, over 70% of us are overweight. Being overweight is very unhealthy despite what the mainstream is trying to sell women. Ever notice they're not selling these images to men? Instead, they're called "dad bod" jokes and nothing is said about them being "healthy".

Let's become more like the Indian mother who will forever be in my heart. Nourish ourselves, take care of others when needed, and use the ER for emergencies. An inspirational American woman for me is Susun Weed, she has no credentials and no degrees, but is considered amongst the greatest intellectuals currently alive. She has written books on many subjects of health including child bearing, menopause, arthritis, heart health, and, most recently, the book Abundantly Well. I encourage including at least the latter in your repertoire. Next time you have a health problem, is a pill the solution?

In my opinion, the United States pharmaceutical industry is much more dangerous than the Mexican drug cartel, but this is another topic with a lot of opportunity for debate.

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