15 Aug New Health Blog
Sometimes it isn’t what we’re battling that takes us, but simply the battle itself. –Hanif Abdurraqib
“The battle against cancer,”
“The fight to end dementia,”
“The war on drugs and their users.”
In the name of healing, these slogans to cure disease and rally the sick are worn out. People dis-eased with tumor, memory loss, and addiction are transformed into soldiers waging war on the landscape of their bodies. How can there be a winner in such a scenario?
I asked Dr. George H. Bone, internal medicine specialist, what he thought of these catchphrases. “Three little words,” he said “Si se peude, or Yes we can.” The same ones which activist Dolores Huerta penned for the National Farmworkers Association, which like most things sound better in their native tongue, and from a biracial young man from Hawaii who tacked it onto his successful presidential campaign to the White House.
Imagine one morning you wake to find your bones ache or you can’t remember where you put your shoes, or you’ve been up all night with diarrhea, withdrawing from heroin. Words are powerful and your body is always listening. If the words that you say first thing in the morning and the last thing before the light is turned off are: “Yes we can,” then each of your remaining healthy cells will perk up and pay attention. See them nodding with their gelatinous mitochondria filled heads. “Yes we can,” agreeing with every drop of cytoplasm. “Yes we can,” watch as a DNA helix uses its alphabet of A-G-T-C to suddenly glow brighter and twist tighter to correct smarter. It does not take a scientist to know that you will feel better. That is what lay people, your mother included, and this doctor regard as hope.
Contrast this attitude with a kill or be killed message. The bloody battle cry forces the cell to become armed and inflamed. Poised for battle. No matter who wins, you or your disease, in this cluster of generals and chiefs there are still dead things, a lot of them floating around in your body. Once again, no degree is needed to conclude that this will make you feel terrible.
This conversation came during a drive home from the play, “Laughing In Spite Of” written by a patient of Dr. Bone. It tells the story of a family almost torn apart by a mother with dementia. Dr. Bone had a quite handsome doppelganger act out his role as the caring inclusive physician contrasted against an initial prescription wielding, hurry-up-and-get-out-of-my-office doctor. The playwright personified dementia as a wicked trickster that crushed the protagonist, a working class black family. Dressed in his Sunday best, Dementia laughed like the wicked Darth Vader. The daughter took on most of the caregiving role even while her mother lashed out in the way of most forgetful people. The spirit of the play was “Yes We Can.” And with the help of the grandchildren and son, the family survived.
Modern medicine has so many new remedies, not to mention a better understanding of disease. It is time we change our relationship with these chronic diseases. Yes we can be cured. Yes we can be healed. Together with wise medicine, yes we can.