Mail (Sep-Oct, 1998)

Homeopathy Experience
from Foxtrot

It's almost 1 A.M. and I've just finished reading this month's mail and most of the archives. Like the other respondents, I am most impressed: Your warmth, understanding, and empathy shines through every reply!

I'd like to share my story, as it has taken a rather different turn than the others I read tonight. I was "officially" diagnosed with psoriasis at about 20 years old, shortly after graduating from college and after about a month after recovering from a particularly bad flu (although I now suspect the "rash" that got me out of having to take swimming in the ninth grade was probably, unbeknowst to the family doctor, the first instance of P). Shortly after the official diagnosis, I also developed arthritis, later confirmed to be NOT rheumatoid (for which there was definitely a genetic link) but psoriatic arthritis. Years later I discovered my maternal grandfather had had a sister who suffered with psoriasis most her adult life!

For about 15 years, in three different cities, I went through most of the treatments described in the archives, PUVA and psoralen, PUVA and coal tar (this at Stanford University's noted clinic directed by Dr. Farber), cortisone creams, Methotrexate, Dovonex ... ad infinitum.

About seven years ago, when I was told liver bioposies were needed to continue the Methotrexate, I decided I'd rather live with plaques than continue to put these poisons in my system, and decided to go to a homeopathic physician. I had done this once before, about ten years previously, in another city, and the arthritis (psoriasis was negligible at that time) went into remission for about a year (until I moved up here)! Before I could do this, I, a seven to ten cup drinker, had to give up my beloved coffee, as it could interfere with the remedy. However, I was at that desperation point and ready try do anything.

The homeopathic principles state that the body heals from the inside out, meaning that the joints needed to be treated before the skin. The remedy that worked for me (but will not be the same for everyone—those interested must see a well trained physician—was rhus tox, which at first I took in conjunction with the traditional NSIDs (anti-inflammatory arthritis drugs), gradually decreasing the NSID dose and later the remedy until both were eliminated.

Amazingly, I have not had to take even an asprin for arthritic pain in over five years (with the exception of a brief flare up while on holiday in Hawaii about four years ago). The skin has not responded as quickly, and I wear the long sleeves and skirts/pants bit for most the year. About a year ago I had to switch homeopaths when my former physician moved half way across the world. The new physician tried homeopathic sulphur, which is very slowly starting to reduce the patches (which have involved about 50-60% of my body). After about six months of use (but not as consistent use as I should have been doing due to overseas holidays and other poor excuses), my patches have shrunk at least 30%.

Although at times I get very depressed about the way my skin looks, the length of time will be worth the wait if the psoriasis, like the arthritis, leaves for good!

I wonder if anyone else out there has had experiences to share regarding homeopathic treatment (from formally trained physician and/or chiropractor)?

I was recently separated from my partner of 12 years. The psoriatic condition , which had been under control when we first met, bothered me a lot more than it bothered him. In fact, even after the post-Methotrexate flare, he was completely nonplussed by the psoriatic condition. I always considered myself quite fortunate in that regard.

I find myself in the "newly single" situation now, a bit reluctant to become close to a new potential partner, as, being a bit shy to begin with, do not know how (or when) to comfortably bring up the P topic (BTW, you are correct to note I do not use a possessive adjective when discussing this condition; as I don't want it so I refuse to claim it as mine). I guess I just need to take a deep breath and do it, but the fear of seeing a poor reaction gets in the way and I haven't yet been able to do it well. I read some of your suggestions in the archives, but don't know how to let things go from that great friendship base to the next level.

This has gotten way too long—time to say goodnight—and thanks again for a wonderful site! -Foxtrot


Ed's Response: Thanks for a most revealing story re: homeopathic treatment for P. It is a recurring theme (as it should be) and sometimes an emotionally charged one. Let me diverge for a quick moment into some of that armchair philosophizing...

When I play that little mind game, What will history remember about us? I always come round to a consideration of what I call the Great Schism of the twentieth century. I wrote and presented a speech about it in ninth grade, wrote many term papers about it in assorted schools after that, still love to read about it, and will probably go to my grave dwelling upon it. (AM I in a rut, or what?) Another, more descriptive, title for the Great Schism would be Science versus Everything Else. (I promise this won't be yet another thesis: We'll consider this an "Executive Summary.") What it boils down to is a hard-to-penetrate wall between rigid scientific method and every other means of problem solving known to man. As we all know, scientific method is based on two axioms: replicability and statistical significance. If something is "true," it is always true and that truth is significant (meaning it is consequential and therefore important to take into account). I perceive in a lot of science a pursuit of truth that looks like this: As a presumed truth is replicated (experiments done over and over) and results vary statistically, more and more "conditions" (variables) are added to the statement-of-truth (operational statement). Those involved in this process hunker down and pray that their string of variables won't get so long as to make the "truth" statistically insignificant. No scientist wants to say, "This is true if ... and if ... and if ... and if ... and if...." Scientists want to get at fundamental truths. This is true. Period. The problem with long strings of conditions ("and if ... and if ... and if ... and if....") is that a normal thinking human being has every right to respond: So what? How many times are all those "and if" conditions going to apply? Of what significance, in real life, is your hard-won "truth?"

You might think my little preoccupation is no more than a thought-hobby, but I believe it plays itself out VERY SIGNIFICANTLY in twentieth century health care. Today we have a medical establishment that appears to be hardline science based. Homeopathy is a fringe activity (perhaps, fortunately, less so today than a few decades ago) because it fares badly under scientific scrutiny and depends largely on haphazard probabilities. If you stop ingesting caffeine, probably there will be some positive consequences. (I made that up to overstate my case in the interest of brevity.) I don't believe the medical establishment is morally opposed (at large) to the loosey-goosey axioms of homeopathy so much as they are uncertain of its money-making capability, and fearful that it's a sure path to lawsuits. Fundamental truths are always a better bet as income generators. It is true that if I cut you open and scrape the crud out of your arteries you are not going to become exhausted having a bowel movement. Now, how much is it worth to you not to fall asleep on the toilet? The exactitude of scientific proof pretty much ensures income from performing arterial roto-rooting. Not so the alternative, which might be, Suck pee-wee root juice every day for five years and you'll eventually stay awake on the toilet.

But now we all know that scientific truths can be misleading. We affect what we measure ... we discover inscrutable paradoxes ... we constantly come across conditions we failed to replicate adequately in the lab, and which skew our results.... And we have come to accept that our need for answers (perceived or real) is always many steps ahead of science's ability to provide answers. (Someone once told me the entire science of quantum mechanics was really just a big apology for having made so many mistakes in classical physics.) So, we make leaps of faith. Especially in our battle to live with psoriasis, we make leaps of faith.

I like the irony inherent in my Great Schism. I like living with one foot on the side of science and the other ... someplace else. If I don't try homeopathy, myself, as a psoriasis palliative, it's not because I possess any certainty that it would not work; rather, it's because I won't work hard enough to give it a chance to work. I applaud people with sufficient commitment to give it that chance. Their successes excite me while their disappointments don't surprise me. I applaud you, Foxtrot, because you did not demand certainty to give commitment. That is the definition of a leap of faith.

And now you face another required leap of faith: How to broach the P business with some new potential significant-other. I don't know which of my epistles on this theme you read in the archives, but I know they were written to people younger than you and me. Advice from me to you would be even more presumptuous. Nonetheless ... It would be a cop-out for me to suggest you'll know when the time is right.

About all I have ever been able to tell is when the time is right for me. Therefore, when I was single and psoriatic some years back, I made this commitment to myself. I am willing to take a relationship "this far" (defining "this far" is the trick) without disclosing all that's not obvious about my P. At the very moment I want to take a relationship further, that is when I will disclose the gorier-than-obvious details about my P. It sounds crass, but I did not want to think too much about the state of my partner at that point. I did not base my timing on any sense of whether or not they were ready to hear my disclosure. In that, I was very much making a leap of faith. Any one of them (there weren't that many, really) could have responded: "What the hell are you telling me this for, Dewke? Why do I care if you got a sore on your butt?"—and that would have been a major setback. Fortunately it never happened that way. And, if you take this as advice, I sincerely hope it doesn't happen that way for you, either.

Thanks, Foxtrot, for the excuse to think about my favorite topic again. I hope it wasn't too boring. -Ed

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