What happens when a doctor becomes a patient? In my mind, patients got sick, not ME. So at the onset of my symptoms, which were soon to be diagnosed as multiple sclerosis, there was a massive shift not just in that flawed logic, but also in every other area of my life. Multiple sclerosis ended my career as an anesthesiologist and left me to questions whether I should have gotten married or even had my first child. And the hardest part of dealing with this condition was the uncertainty of it. Will I be in a wheelchair? Will I be able to take care of my child? Will I continue to be able to take care of myself? And what will I do with all the medical training now that I could not practice what I had spent so many years training for?
I won’t say that the first few years weren’t hard. It took four full years before I could utter the words “Multiple Sclerosis” and “I” in the same sentence to someone outside my husband, mom, and brother. But as all human beings do, with time, I found the strength to pick myself up and move forward. I’m lucky to have been diagnosed quickly. It can often take decades before diagnosis. I knew weakness was a concerning sign, so I kept neurologist shopping until my life-long mentor casually mentioned I may have multiple sclerosis. The moment I heard those words, I knew he was right. I went to my primary doctor to ask for an MRI since four other neurologists had dismissed my complaints. One actually said “I wouldn’t worry, I think it’s all in your head.” He was right. I got my MRI and lumbar puncture, and there it was.
So what does a doctor do when she becomes a patient? Certainly I didn’t read a thing about multiple sclerosis because frankly I didn’t need to get more ideas about all the different ways the brain can dysfunction. Pathological laughter? No thank you. So I pushed forward the best way I knew how. Studying. I was a pro at this. I began learning all I could about what Ineeded to do to take care of myself – basically focusing on preventing disease progression through health-promoting habits. Sadly, I had not learned about how to create health in all my years of medical training.
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Every night after putting my baby to sleep, I would read about nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress management, and the importance of living a simple, uncluttered life. Would this make a difference? My doctors said no. “Just do what you’ve been doing, you’ll be fine.” They had no idea what I’d been doing because no one asked. As a doctor myself, and even a very empathetic one, the diagnoses you give out affect you far less than they affect your patient. Now I was the patient, and I got to feel what it was like to “get” a diagnosis. All of a sudden it felt very personal. I was not OK with “just doing what I’d been doing” and hoping for a great life. I was determined to never be in a wheelchair and I was going to do whatever it took to make that happen.
And so began my never-ending journey learning integrative medicine, functional medicine, and acupuncture. It’s been a privilege to step back and view health, disease, and the human body from the different lenses of traditional Chinese medicine, ayurveda, and shamanic healing, to name a few. I won’t say it’s been easy putting aside my western brain to understand and agree with something that may not be backed by strong science and data. But having experienced the power of acupuncture at a time when nothing else worked made me a believer. That’s not to say that to this day, I don’t have a healthy dose of skepticism when patients tell me they’re better after I perform acupuncture on them. But I‘ve learned that the human body and its ability to heal itself is remarkable and far beyond our understanding. If you had MS and three little boys, wouldn’t you believe that too?
So when my current neurologist told me to go ahead and live my life as if I didn’t have MS, I decided that I would do just that. I’m lucky to have married this guy who is so obsessed with making dough that he somehow convinced me it was a fantastic idea to open a pizza restaurant. I’m grateful for the three little monsters that have taught me patience and breathing instead of yelling and screaming. And despite the severe lack of adrenaline, I wouldn’t change my practice of integrative and functional medicine for another day in operating room because I get enough adrenaline at home.
So what does a doctor do when she becomes a patient? She does what any other person does who is determined to live a full life. She pushes forward and reinvents herself. She sets the example of living a clean life and helps others do the same. And she fund-raises for good karma.
Dr. Susan Payrovi is one of the leading fundraisers in Northern California, raising much needed contributions to find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis. We ask for your contribution towards the #RISEagainstMS team goal of raising $20K this year.
To thank you, Custom Consortium will give you a $50 Gift Card for every $100 dollar donation (50% of any size donation). You can use your Gift Card towards any brand’s custom product on Custom Consortium.
Simply donate at this link so we can observe your charitable contribution, and we’ll email you your Custom Credit code.
If you are located in the San Francisco Bay Area, join us to run in the spectacularly fun MuckFest.
Where: Solano County Fairgrounds
Date: October 1, 2017
Time: 11 AM
Attire: Slippery When Wet