Monday, August 19, 2013

Chronic Tonic?

Ugh. Yesterday I had the displeasure of shelling out another $400 in co-pays for three prescription medications. And that's just for one month! On average, my monthly co-pays are about $600 for the seven total pharmaceutical meds I take, or $7200 a year.

Add the new supplements I'm taking (10) and two compounded medicines and I don't even want to calculate the cost of being chronically ill. But the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics (part of the C.D.C.) does. They explain:

  • More than 75% of all health care costs are due to chronic conditions.
  • Four of the five most expensive health conditions (based on total health care spending in a given year in the United States) are chronic conditions.
  • The top four chronic illnesses are heart disease, cancer, mental disorders, and pulmonary conditions. 
  • Cancer is the most expensive and heart disease the second most expensive.
  • A 2007 study reported that seven chronic diseases – cancer, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, pulmonary conditions, and mental illness – have a total impact on the economy of $1.3 trillion annually. 
  • By the year 2023, this number is projected to increase to $4.2 trillion dollars.
  • Chronic disease reaches into our homes, our hearts, and our wallets
No kidding!

But when they cite the trillions of dollars of impact on our economy, aren't they talking about us? It's the money WE pay that keeps these medical industries in business, particularly the pharmaceutical companies. 

As my readers know, I embarked on a journey of integrative/functional medicine about six months ago. Of course, it started with changes to my diet and continues with therapies and supplements that, according to the Institute for Functional Medicine is "healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person (body, mind, and spirit), including all aspects of lifestyle."

Moreover, "it emphasizes the therapeutic relationship and makes use of all appropriate therapies, both conventional and alternative." It's personalized medicine that seeks to not only discover a diagnosis or diagnoses but also seeks to answer the question: Why does this person have this illness? 

They summarize: "The answer to this question is revealed by discovering the antecedents, triggers, and mediators that underlie symptoms, signs, illness behaviors, and demonstrable pathology. Further, medical genomics can identify the phenotypic expression of disease-related genes and their products, affording another lens through which to view illness. Chronic diseases cut across multiple organ systems, and this calls for a systematic method of viewing each patient."

Well, isn't that what I've been saying in much less clinical terms? The toxic stress of my childhood experience pre-disposed me to develop serious and chronic illness. Finding a solution or combination of solutions to live a quality life is the never-ending challenge. 

So, I'm straddling the bridge right now - still following 'doctor's orders' and taking traditional treatments and participating in never-ending tests yet also incorporating my integrative/functional medical doctor's orders and adding  dietary supplements and lifestyle changes while keenly focusing on what meds I can afford to lose and which new treatments I can afford to keep! 

It's enough to make me go mad! 

But I will persevere and accomplish what seems to be out of my reach; impossible. I'm trying as hard as I can and I know you are, too. Running backwards? It's an apt sub-title to my book. It's one of the hardest things to do every single day. But I'm not quitting. Nope. It's just not an option. 

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