nagging symptoms of a physical ailment of her own that spring-her
lower back ached, as though she had wrenched a muscle. It seemed
easily explained once we made the connection: She had hurt
herself by impulsively moving a very heavy carton out of the
kitchen before friends came for dinner one Saturday in May. The
solution was automatic: Jane made an appointment with a
Unlike those who are skeptical of chiropractic, Jane had been a
longtime believer in the effectiveness of spinal adjustments. For
twenty-seven years she had used the services of Geraldine Holden,
a chiropractor who enjoyed a good reputation in the New Age
community at Virginia Beach. A slender, diminutive, energetic
lady, Holden gave chiropractic a good name because of her caring
nature: she was constantly researching new treatments and was a
storehouse of knowledge about nutrition. When she retired, only a
few months before Jane's backache surfaced, we had both attended
her farewell dinner. She had turned her practice over to another
woman, Brenda Sinclair, whom Jane entrusted with her monthly
adjustments. Indeed, no health-care practitioner saw more of Jane
over the last ten years than her chiropractor. When her regular
chiropractor had been unavailable, Jane never missed her monthly
checkup but used another chiropractor, Christopher Newby.
Jane never explained to me why she came to trust them and their
skills to the exclusion of orthodox medicine. When she was a
young mother she trusted allopathic doctors. Garland recalls when
she was growing up "we all had regular doctors." Jane's medical
files show that she had timely pelvic exams year after year until
she was about sixty, after which they stopped. Her gynecologist
had retired, she once told me, and she decided against seeing
another doctor, for reasons she did not explain. Her records show
she expressed concern to her gynecologist about heavy, prolonged
menstrual flows. Garland remembers she was told that a
hysterectomy might be necessary. Jane evidently asked Holden's
opinion, for she later told an interviewer that her "chiropractor
and a friend" helped her through this crisis. Not only did she
avoid surgery, she moved through menopause without suffering the
usual hot flashes. Attributing this to "exercises and grieving
the loss of her beauty," she was also able to avoid hormone
replacement therapy. From then on Jane seems to have placed
absolute confidence in her chiropractor's advice to the exclusion
of conventional medicine. In other words, the only medical
explanation I have found for Jane's becoming a strong believer in
alternative medicine is that she felt it helped her weather
painlessly a major crisis of her life, with the result that her
sense of her own femininity remained undiminished.
I never questioned the wisdom of her not having a primary-care
physician because she was never ill until hit by cancer. Besides,
I had used a chiropractor on occasion and believed in the
efficacy of their healing work. I was also familiar with the
abuse that chiropractors, as a professional group, had suffered
for years from anti-chiropractic propaganda issued by the
American Medical Association. With the thought of writing a book
on the subject, I had researched the AMA's attempt to stigmatize
chiropractors as "quacks," and to destroy them professionally. It
became clear to me that the AMA, one of the most wealthy and
powerful trade organizations in America, had created a war-like
atmosphere that contaminated the health-care field.
Chiropractors had not been the only targets of the AMA. For the
last fifty years or more, the AMA had also attacked the
legitimacy of osteopathy, optometry, and podiatry. Osteopathic
physicians, for example, were branded as cultists, and medical
doctors were told not to associate with them or teach in their
colleges. When those tactics failed, the AMA reversed field and
tried to take over the osteopathic profession. Such combative
tactics within the medical field have been going on for well over
"The story of 19th century medicine is the story of power
struggles over the definition of medicine, as well as over who
would win the political and regulatory power to have their
definitions accepted as legitimate," says Paul Root Wolpe, Ph.D.,
of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Bioethics and
Departments of Psychiatry and Sociology. "The medical landscape
was populated with a host of competing practitioners, each vying
for a market share and for legitimacy in the eyes of the
consumer. Homeopaths, Thompsonians, hydropaths, and even patent
medicine salesmen were relied upon by large groups of Americans
for their health care."
Clearly, biomedicine-treating body chemistry with agents
different from the disease to affect bodily function-gained
ascendancy, and allopathic doctors assumed the mantle of
"regulars" who practiced orthodox medicine. Development of
countless new biological agents by the expanding drug industry
enhanced the power of allopathy. In the 20th century it fought
rearguard actions against alternative practitioners, none more
brutal than the AMA's effort to destroy chiropractic. Curiously
enough, discovering what went on inside AMA paralleled how the
public discovered the tobacco industry's secret research on
nicotine in cigarettes-an insider leaked a truckload of documents
that spilled the whole story.
The documents showed that the AMA in 1963 had established a
Committee on Quackery, which "considered its prime mission to be,
first, the containment of chiropractic and, ultimately, the
elimination of chiropractic." To achieve this ignoble objective
the AMA told its physician members that it was unethical for them
to associate with this "unscientific cult." It distributed
literature designed to discredit chiropractic. It discouraged
colleges from cooperating with chiropractic schools. It sought to
spread the boycott to the College of Surgeons, College of
Radiology, and Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, which all agreed
to direct their members to forego professional association with
chiropractors. It lobbied state legislatures against giving legal
sanction to chiropractors. It was a brutal take-no-prisoners
The chiropractors fought back with a lawsuit based on the leaked
documents. The AMA claimed that its actions were purely in the
interest of patient care. But testimony showed that some
physicians believed chiropractic to be effective and that
chiropractors were better trained to deal with musculoskeletal
problems than most physicians. The result was a stinging defeat
for the AMA when a federal judge in Chicago issued an injunction
in 1987 that forced the AMA to cease such tactics.
While the court tried to level the playing field legally, there
was no way that it could oblige practitioners of either
profession to cooperate; nor did it instantly change the hostile
climate that had been created during decades of hostilities. A
"cold war" continued between many physicians and chiropractors,
as well as other alternative practitioners. "Given the vitriolic
condemnations that flew between allopaths, homeopaths, eclectics,
and others in the 19th century, it seemed absurd to suggest they
would ever get together and cease their rancorous posturing,"
said Professor Wolpe in Frontier Perspectives. "In fact, the
American Medical Association, in its initial code of ethics
written at its founding, specifically excluded from its ranks all
'irregular' practitioners. In its attempt to become the sole
legitimate medical society, the AMA's attacks on its competitors
were strong and unrelenting. The last thing the regulars seemed
poised to do was to welcome the irregulars into their
This historic conflict also created hostile attitudes among
alternative health-care practitioners and their clients who
resented the denigrating opposition of mainstream medicine. Many
of them developed a strikingly partisan attitude against orthodox
medicine. Once she stopped consulting a regular doctor, Jane
became one of those partisans. She had no family physician for
the last decade of her life. I teased her that her primary-care
doctor was a chiropractor. But her health was always so good that
there seemed no point in challenging the wisdom of her complete
reliance on Holden, who did more than give her spinal
adjustments. Holden also recommended nutritional supplements and
offered dietary advice that guided Jane's meal preparations.
"Every time I came home for a visit she was on a new diet,"
recalls Garland. "I didn't know there were as many diets-food
combining, The Zone, eat-right-for-your-blood-type, the Atkins
high protein diet revolution, the Cayce diet-she tried them
I didn't mind most of her dietary detours, only those that
banned coffee, because whatever she prepared was delicious and
nutritious. But I joked that she was a member of the
"diet-of-the-month club," and for the most part accepted her
choices for our meals as long as I could have my morning coffee.
Jane never got defensive about being teased, and her health
always seemed so sound that there was no arguing with her
strategy for staying healthy. She didn't drink more than a single
glass of wine with dinner, never smoked, watched her weight, and
kept her figure trim by walking, swimming, playing tennis, and
occasionally doing yoga.
The first adjustment for her backache seemed to help,
temporarily, but the pain soon recurred. She returned for another
adjustment, and another, and another. Recalling how I had thrown
my back out once by moving a heavy piece of furniture, I knew
that inflamed tissues just take time to heal. So neither of us
suspected a more serious problem.
Jane probably never had a pain-free day again: Something more
serious than a muscle pull was causing it. And even
chiropractic-nine visits in ten weeks-wasn't helping. On the next
to last visit, chiropractor Christopher Newby recalls that Jane
"told me for the first time that the adjustments only helped her
for a day or two and that she had to sleep in a brace and use
ibuprofen for pain. This was brand new news to me." If she had
told him this earlier, he said he would have "insisted on medical
attention." He added: "I explained to Jane that if the
adjustments were that ineffective and producing no real progress,
this was an indication of an underlying medical problem and she
should seek medical attention. I explained that as a chiropractor
I was incapable of providing her with a full medical diagnostic
examination, but that she should get one, including X-rays."
Jane ignored that advice but returned to him ten days later,
saying she had been in "excruciating pain." He repeated his
belief that she needed medical attention, "but she said she
wanted to try acupuncture." Newby recommended two physicians who
also did acupuncture. She chose a specialist in internal medicine
who practices acupuncture, and he saw her that very day. She
wrote in her journal:
I liked Dr. Lee Sung very much. He was very thorough. Got my
physical history, took my blood pressure before sticking his
needles in me. I'm sitting here in bed [journaling] with an ice
pack on my lower back. I simply touch the little acupuncture
patches that Dr. Sung put in my ear yesterday and it helps with
pain, which as he explained, has become chronic because I've had
it for seven weeks.
This journal entry suggests another reason for Jane becoming so
partial to alternative practitioners. As a therapist herself, she
believed in the efficacy of "talk therapy," and was disenchanted
with doctors who give patients a minimum of time to discuss their
ailments compared to alternative practitioners, who tend to be
better listeners. "That's why psychotherapy is so needed today,"
added therapist Bonnie Youngberg. "Doctors don't take time to
listen like they used to. They send their nurse in to take your
blood pressure, for example-things the doctor used to do, and
then you could talk to them. Now the doctor is in and out in a
few minutes, and the patient gets little chance to talk to him."
Dr. Sung, who took her medical history himself, was an exception,
and Jane came away feeling greatly encouraged. Although he took
no other measures to diagnose her pain, his hair-thin acupuncture
needles at key points on her skin provided immediate relief. Jane
thought she had found the answer at last.
As Jane pondered the meaning of her painful summer, she posed
questions in her journal:
What do I need? Is it all right for me to take care of myself?
My children are grown and gone. Bob is at work. Tears fill my
eyes as I wonder about myself and my own needs. When we are
raised by a narcissistic mother and are drawn in to meet her
needs, we develop a sense that her needs are more important than
ours. We learn to tune into the other person and lose contact
with our own beingness. We overdevelop our sensitivity to the
other and underdevelop our sensitivity to ourselves.
Next evening two of my grandsons, Danny and Abe Cutler, arrived
from Seattle for their annual beach visit with us. Jane always
makes them feel at home. In fact, Jane was such a hit when I
first took her to Seattle to meet my family, before we were
married, that Abe, then five, asked her, "If you don't marry
Grandpa, will you marry me?"
Jane played gracious hostess all during their three-day visit,
going to the beach and preparing meals. But her pain resurfaced,
and she returned to Dr. Sung for another acupuncture treatment
three days after her first treatment. Indeed, she saw Dr. Sung
four times in ten days. When she told him during the fourth visit
that the pain had spread to a higher place on her back, he said,
"Don't confuse me," according to Jane. Discouraged that
acupuncture had not ended her pain, she never consulted him
again. But she still resisted seeking conventional medical
attention, probably because she assumed they would give her
pain-killing drugs. Jane was so resistant to taking drugs that
she didn't even keep a bottle of aspirin in the house.
As I reflect back on that summer, I feel remorse for not getting
more involved in helping Jane find relief. I was preoccupied with
a painful situation of my own, a conflict with my boss at work
that nearly resulted in my leaving my job. It took weeks to
resolve it to my satisfaction. Jane's backache at that moment
seemed less critical than the pain in the neck I was dealing
The immediate result of Jane's pain was that she realized she
needed to focus more attention on taking care of herself instead
of others. She wrote:
Fifty years ago I got married. I was nineteen. Basically I've
been giving out to others ever since. I made a commitment to John
fifty years ago, and to Bill twenty-three years ago, and to Bob
five years ago. NOW I am making a commitment to myself. My body
is screaming at me to REST, to take CARE OF JANE.
Jane tried various other therapies, including massage and Jin
Shin Do, an oriental technique for working with the body's subtle
energies. One massage therapist, Diane Hall, gave her "a very
intuitive and sensitive massage" and opined that Jane has some
parasites. "There's pain in gall bladder and liver and stomach,
plus sciatic nerve." In trying to rest, Jane retreated to our
bedroom when possible, but by then we were in the busiest season
for summer visitors-everyone loves to come to the beach in July
and August, and our door was always open. In addition, Jane had
put herself under a writing discipline to complete the manuscript
for a book she had been working on for several years. Entitled
The Transforming Power of Divorce, it was based on interviews she
had done with women who had gained in terms of personal
development through the divorce experience. I had helped her with
the book, primarily editing her material. Trying to balance all
these demands was daunting for Jane, especially as her back pain
A massage therapist suggested she try a new physical therapist,
Antoine LeBoef, who had been trained in osteopathic techniques in
France but lacked a license as an osteopath. A specialist in body
work, he identified himself as an "etiopath." LeBoef told her an
abdominal muscle had contracted and needed loosening. "I felt so
much better after manipulation and a massage that I went to the
beach and swam and walked and lay on the sand," she reported.
Next morning, however, she noted: "I can hardly move without
piercing pain in chest." LeBoef attributed her pain to
"overdoing" it and suggested rest and heat on the painful area.
She stayed in bed all day and felt too weak to have a visit from
her son David's little boys, whom she adored. "I had to say no.
I'm flat on my back, sorry to say. I'd have loved having
My daughter Dana and eldest son Josh arrived from Whidbey
Island, in Washington state, and Jane made them all feel so
welcome that none of them realized that she was ill. "I've been
so extroverted all my life, it's hard to shift gears," wrote
Jane. "I'm seeing how compulsive I am about DOING, mailing cards
to people, pasting photos in the mat to hang on the wall,
telephoning. It's hard to break the pattern and let my energy go
inside to heal me."
As a health spa operator and therapeutic massage therapist, Dana
is another member of the pro-alternative medicine clique in our
family. She is also a former Arthur Murray dance instructor, who
had taught her sons swing dancing, which was enjoying a come back
among young people, and they put on quite a show for us. Jane got
such a lift from the evening she said, "I felt great!" I loved
hearing that, but it was such temporary good news.
By mid-August Jane was spending more time in bed with a castor
oil pack on her tummy and an ice pack on her back, and reading
The Alchemy of Illness by Kat Duff. She journaled:
I wonder whether there are deeper mysteries and hidden designs
of illness beneath the pain. On my walk today around one block,
this feather floated down, being wafted through the air. It
brought me a message of "being," lightly floating into my path.
When you die the doing will be over. Let go. Be like this
feather. Be like me. You've been told to let go. Now your body is
forcing you to rest, float. Be carried by the breeze of the
Spirit. I am with you now and always. Know that all is well.
Breathe deeply. In and out, deep and long. Calm. Ease. Smile.
Release. Present moment, wonderful moment.
One morning Jane described her condition:
Got up at 6, needing to change my position, but did sleep most
of the night. Pain in the sciatic region of my back and
sacroiliac area and pain going down my right leg, and pain near
shoulder in back, also right side. It seems to keep moving all
around. I took twomore Tylenol for pain.
She walked around one block very slowly and came home and lay
down. Later she wrote:
I mopped the kitchen floor after sweeping it. I am still caught
in the thinking, thinking, thinking that my value is in what I
do, washing a load of clothes, taking chicken off the bones,
washing and putting away the dishes. It is hard getting in touch
with my body, but Bob is helping relieve me of everything, and
I'm doing a little deep breathing.
I need to surrender now by simply saying and meaning, "I don't
know." I am willing to give up all of what I think I know because
it hasn't worked. And I ask that you teach me. I cannot teach
myself and I do not trust other people to teach me because I find
they are saying the same things I am.
I give permission to the energies around me to enter my physical
body, to transform my old beliefs into new awareness, and to take
the physical cells themselves and make them more radiant. I ask
to be taught by these energies.
When she returned to the etiopath, she complained of a burning
sensation in her right knee and thigh, pain in her sacroiliac and
right leg. But he insisted that her leg was fine, and that her
pain was coming from her lower back and the psoas major muscle in
her abdomen. He described her condition as lumbago, rheumatism of
the lumbar region, and adjusted her accordingly. But it didn't
provide lasting relief. Once again, she received a treatment
without having received a correct diagnosis.
A "beautiful and healing massage given to me by Dana" seemed
more effective. "It was a turning point for my body-spirit, a
very loving massage. I went into an altered state at times and
then came back. It was a real gift," said Jane. Afterward she
felt good enough to go to dinner at an oceanside cafe and to the
theater later with the family. She commented: "Abe [12 years old]
wore his black suit and dancing shoes and rode with me and took
my arm as we walked to the restaurant. 'I feel suave,' he said.
We had fun and a good dinner, then saw Sweeny Todd and came home
and watched David and Bathsheba with Gregory Peck and Susan
Hayward, which I did enjoy."
The next morning after breakfast Jane was "feeling a little
better" and wrote:
Took a six-block walk and am back in bed breathing heavily from
the exertion. My body is recovering but slowly and gradually. I
took two more Tylenol around 3 a.m. When Dana gave me a massage
she saw an image of a man with a fist and asked me how I express
anger to men. I said I become critical, sometimes confrontive,
sometimes I contain it and become sarcastic and minimizing of
them. I withdraw and try to be "appropriate" in my expression. My
father was very passive with his anger, contained it, got
depressed. I internalize it and turn it against myself, making my
body ache all over. And what am I angry about? And who am I angry
Bob and Dana and I had a good talk this morning about our
Friends Meeting, in terms of my anger. How do I express anger to
men? Well, to one man I deny my anger now that he is so ill. I go
to prayer meeting with him. I am hypocritical. I turn my anger in
on myself. Underneath this anger are my tears and they began to
come out this morning, my sadness about my loss of my spiritual
I read Walter Starcke's story of the lion that thought it was a
lamb. Its mother died when he was born and he was raised among
sheep, and even bleated like a sheep. One day a lion came upon
the sheep and was surprised to see another lion. He tried to get
near the lion to tell him he was not a sheep, but the poor lion
ran off with the sheep. Later the lion found him asleep and said
to him, "You are not a sheep, you are a lion." The young lion did
not believe him, so the old lion dragged him to the lake and
said, "Look here." The young lion looked at his own reflection,
then at the old lion, and roared-the bleating was gone.
"Bleating" sounds like what I've been doing, being a sheep,
following the leader and feeling angry and frustrated all the
while. It's part of my assimilation message, "blend in," pretend
you're a lamb. I am not.
The meeting is not a healthy place for me. I have a difficult
time being real there. Quaker meeting and A.R.E. are both
patriarchal institutions that ignore feelings. They claim to be
so godly and are not. They have no heart. I've tried so hard,
Lord, to be a helpful and loving and trusting person, but I am
also an angry person and my body is still wracked with pain. My
leg is hurting. My groin is hurting.
I let go of all anger NOW.
Jane switched to another doctor, meanwhile, again avoiding
conventional medicine, this time in favor of a homeopathic
physician, Dr. Victor Goodhart. Jane's pursuit of healing from
this assortment of alternative practitioners to the exclusion of
conventional medicine shows more clearly than even I had realized
previously just how partisan she was in favoring alternative
medicine over mainstream allopathic medicine. She had a firm
belief in the body-mind-spirit connection, which contributed to
her belief in holistic health-care. She frequently received
therapeutic massages, colonics, did yoga and walking exercises,
played tennis, ate mostly organic food, heavy on fruits and
vegetables, never smoked, avoided carbonated beverages and
coffee, and rarely drank anything alcoholic. She could have been
a poster girl for a good-health campaign.
Jane was so seemingly healthy all the years I knew her, never
even suffering the common cold, that we believed we had found the
fountain of health, if not youth, in our sensible habits. It was
a New Age version of the old maxim, "An apple a day keeps the
doctor away." Jane kept the doctors away, even dismissing the
need of a periodic physical or a mammogram, even though until she
turned sixty she had a mammogram each year.
So, again, I didn't question her choice of homeopath Goodhart.
We had been to his office in Norfolk many times for chelation
therapy. We considered him to be a caring and courageous
physician who braved the disapproval of his peers by offering
unconventional remedies-he was then the only physician in
Tidewater, Virginia, who offered chelation therapy. Goodhart had
been, we were told, a medical missionary in his younger days, and
had a reputation for being a devout man who not only took time
with his patients but prayed for them. He is also an oncologist
who had once specialized in treating cancer patients but had
become disenchanted with the conventional allopathic approach and
opted for homeopathy. This latter fact seemed of no significance
at the time because we had no idea Jane would require an
oncologist. But having gained no lasting relief from any of the
other alternative practitioners she had consulted, she hoped
Goodhart might have an answer for her.
Dr. Goodhart said I have inflammation of the meninges, which are
coverings for the spinal cord in my back and in my brain. That is
a very unusual condition, one he hasn't seen before. He gave me a
homeopathic remedy for the pain, which wanders all around my
body, and for healing this condition. I am visualizing blue
breezes blowing on the fiery meninges. I also take Tylenol every
four hours to head off the pain.
When Jane returns home and tells me this, her condition sounds
serious to me, but at least it seems to explain why all those
chiropractic adjustments hadn't worked. Garland said, in
retrospect, we should have known her mother was in unusual pain
when she began taking Tylenol. "She never took painkillers, even
aspirin. She didn't believe in them."
Garland and Samantha have just arrived from Boston. Jane
rejoices in having them come as often as possible. She arranges
for Laura, David's daughter who lives close by, to join Samantha,
and delights in watching them play together.
I give thanks for the quietness of this moment, the gentle
breeze blowing, Laura and Samantha playing happily and I am not
in pain-and I am not needed. My energy can go inside and heal me.
I am an energy being. Divine Intelligence is in each cell and
knows what to do. All I need to do is listen, and let go. Rest in
Jesus, the Christ, lay your hands on me now. I open and receive.
Angels, Guides, help me now. God's will is being done within me
and without. And all is well.
Goodhart's pain remedy doesn't work, so three days after seeing
him Jane calls his office and is told to stick with it. A week
later she returns to see Goodhart, and this time I accompany her.
The pain has become more intense during the week since her first
visit to him. It seems like the best relief is provided by little
Samantha. She likes to sleep in our room and early in the morning
climbs into bed between us. At night Jane likes to read to her,
such stories as Benjamin, the Meeting House Mouse. "She went
right to sleep afterwards with me stretched out on the bed beside
her. I fell asleep too. What a sweet dear child she is and so
much fun," wrote Jane.
Goodhart's office, on the second floor of a Victorian house in
an upscale section of historic Norfolk, consists of a room full
of lounge chairs for chelation patients, a lab, an examination
room, and a tiny office in which the doctor spends most of his
time, using what he calls his EAV machine. EAV is an acronym for
Electro-acupuncture. Jane and I don't know how it works but we
had watched him use it several times before to help him determine
what remedies to give us for different conditions. We know only
that he holds the machine in high esteem. I learned later that
the machine was developed nearly 50 years ago by a German,
Reinhold Voll. It measures electrical characteristics of the body
when a probe touches acupuncture points on the patient's hands
and feet. Electrical imbalances, displayed on the EAV's gauge,
are said to reflect physiological disturbances in the organs. The
U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers it experimental and
unreliable. But Goodhart said repeatedly that he was "getting
good data" from using it. This time his data tell him something
different about Jane's condition. As she recorded in her
Dr. Goodhart put me on his EAV machine and found that along with
inflammation of the meninges I have Newcastle disease, a painful
disease of the nerves, in my case the sciatic area and down the
right leg, shooting pains that come and go. I am worn out with
the pain, up and down all night taking Tylenol and remedies and a
hot tub. Then Epsom salts bath this morning, Stephen Halpern
music, incense aromatherapy, and heating pad on my stomach.
Dr. Goodhart gave me a new remedy for Newcastle disease, and I
will go back to see him next Monday if I am not better. Garland
is concerned about me and irritated that I'm not going to see an
orthopedic doctor instead of a homeopathic physician.
I have never heard of Newcastle disease. My medical dictionary
describes it as a virus that comes from birds. Another
homeopathic remedy is created in Goodhart's lab, and we return
home, hoping once again that this is the answer-but this remedy
brings no more relief than the previous medicine. Sleeping only
for brief periods, Jane seeks relief from Tylenol and by soaking
in our hot tub.
Hurricane season arrives, handing us a seemingly greater
concern: A towering sycamore by our house, said to be over a
hundred years old, is hollow and no longer sturdy enough to
withstand winds of tropical storm velocity. Nothing can replace
it. Usually our section of town is relatively safe from storms
that sweep in from the sea, losing a tree here and there, and
electric power for a night. But this season, Jane and I
voluntarily sacrifice the grandest tree in the neighborhood
before Hurricane Bonnie strikes and darkens our neighborhood for
three days and nights. Without air conditioning, we spend these
humid dog days of August in quiet repose-Jane, Garland, Samantha,
and I, reading and talking and going to bed when darkness
overtakes us-and wondering whether all the food in our silent
refrigerator will spoil before the power returns. Without the hot
tub or her heating pad to help soothe her aching back, Jane
resorts to more painkiller drugs. "My body hurts so much. I hate
drugging it with Tylenol. What am I to do?" she says.
She is reading John Irving's new novel, Widow for One Year,
never dreaming that but for a change of gender how appropriate
the title for what lies ahead.
We go back to Goodhart a week later. That day Jane wrote, "I
don't feel at all well. Very weak, pain in groin and buttocks."
This time Goodhart and his EAV machine said she may have a
"gangrenous appendix." His nurse took a blood sample and sent it
to the lab. Again, we are alarmed. Goodhart suggests she see a
Norfolk surgeon, Jason Calhoun. Jane is sufficiently frightened
to take his advice and call the surgeon. Dr. Calhoun, however,
will not give her an appointment without a reference from
Goodhart personally. Jane relays this request to Goodhart through
his nurse, but he declines to speak with Calhoun about Jane's
case. The result: Calhoun refuses to see Jane.
At the moment, I failed to comprehend what lay behind this
frustrating run-around. But my patience had run out with the
ineffectual treatment Jane had received for four months. So had
Jane's, and her confidence in alternative practitioners had been
shaken. I finally convinced her to consult the family practice I
have used for many years. On September 2, a nurse-practitioner
and a physician examined her and dismissed the appendix as a
problem but thought she might have a hernia and referred her to a
surgeon. In listening to her lungs, they thought she had a slight
case of pneumonia. A CT-scan was ordered. The CT-scan, two days
later, revealed that Jane had some fluid in her left lung. She
would see the surgeon the following week
A few days later Jane is in the surgeon's office. After his
examination, Donald Brewster, a handsome young surgeon,
recommends a colonoscopy, to be done by one of his associates.
Her lung will also be drained at that time. We report to the
hospital the following week for these procedures. Waiting in a
crowded ante-room, I am soon rewarded by a positive report from
Brewster's smiling young associate, Tom Henderson. "It looked
healthy-no blood," Dr. Henderson tells me, but the fluid will be
analyzed. As for the suspicion that Jane has a hernia, the
surgeons rule it out. And her colon is clear. Thinking she might
have a disc problem in her lower back, she is referred to an
orthopedic specialist. And X-rays of her back are taken, the
first in the four months since she first complained of pain.
In his office three days later, orthopedist Jonathan Dunnick
shows us her X-ray films and points to signs of deterioration in
the disc between her lowest vertebra and the tailbone. Shrinkage
of the disc can put painful pressure on nerves, he explains, and
might require surgery to correct. He needs to do an MRI,
(magnetic resonance imaging) to be sure. He also orders a bone
scan. Back surgery sounds frightening, but she hurts so much,
Jane agrees to do anything he suggests. Leaving his office, we
feel more relieved than distressed, simply because the diagnosis
seems certain and the condition, although serious, is
correctable. I also appreciated his not leaping to a pro-surgery
conclusion until the results are in from an MRI and a bone scan.
While we really don't know what either of those procedures
entail, I know that an MRI is considered top of the line
technology for diagnosing puzzling pains because the sports pages
routinely report what an MRI has revealed about injuries to the
highest paid professional athletes. It gives me confidence that
the most thorough diagnostic technology is finally being applied
to probe the mystery of Jane's condition.
In late September I downshifted to a four-day work week, a plan
favored by Jane who wanted me to play more and work less. My
first Friday off, we are both at home when Dr. Brewster, the
surgeon, telephones with stupefying news: Jane's lung fluid
contained malignant cells.
"What does that mean?" I ask..
"There must be some cancer there," Brewster replies, sounding as
dismayed as we are.
Looking at one another, we are speechless. Jane begins to cry,
and I hold her in my arms. At length, she picks up her bag of
runes and draws Uruz, the rune of termination and new beginnings.
She turns to the Book of Runes and finds these words: "Uruz
indicates that the life you have been living has outgrown its
form. The form must die so that life energy can be released in a
new birth, a new form."
"You know," she whispers stoically, "I'm not afraid to die."
I refused to discuss dying, or even think about it as a serious
prospect. Jane is just overreacting. The main thing is that we
have learned the cause of her back pain-it is that damaged disc,
and in the morning we will go to the hospital for the MRI, then
see the orthopedist for his recommendation on how best to correct
that problem. With that attempt to put things in order, I
retreated to the golf course and Jane took refuge in her
Copyright 2001 A. Robert