Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Lessons from disease

Constructive mess

I've been on hiatus with some construction projects. They always seem to take longer than I imagine. I haven't been oblivious to what's happening in the world right now though. Because it's impacted us in some significant ways. The kids are now at home, for the foreseeable future. Not because I believe in the social distancing strategy - I'll share my thoughts about why, soon. Rather, it conserves our resources to use this opportunity to keep them home. Serving the same goal I guess.

I have a study pack organised by the school, for our youngest. But the eldest is meant to graduate this year. Providing extra challenges for her, and her teachers. Not to mention, finding work, when everything is shutting down. An opportunity however, to think differently about creating her own avenues of production. As for my husband's job, it's relatively secure. He provides meals, in an aged care facility. As long as there are residents, the facility will remain open.

Another project about to begin

Now for my thoughts on the medical advice being dispensed, through this rather confusing, and disruptive time. I've had 30+ years, living with a compromised immune system. Which means, 30+ years, navigating such advice and attempting to make sense of it. At the tender age of 15, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Told all the horrible things that would potentially befall me, because I was living with a broken endocrine system. Basically, what operates hormones in the body. I was specifically lacking insulin.

At the time, I thought it was a terrible thing. Cancelling my hopes and dreams, because I was being told I could die. With the only caveat being, if I did everything they told me, I had a better chance of survival. I went on a self-destructive bender afterwards. Not intentionally. I was just angry, heartbroken and terrified of everything I did, may lead to my demise. Because suddenly, I was being told, I was responsible for whether I lived or died. Based on every decision I made.

I see echoes of it, playing out now, in the community. Which is why I'm disappointed with the medical advice, being dispensed. It's predictable advice (for me) but I hope to shed some light on it's limitations. When you've lived with a chronic condition, for as long as I have, you get to see how the medical system processes information, to determine treatment. Statistics. Spreadsheets. Numbers involving mortality. Problem is, the numbers aren't where the answers are found. Nor are they your fate, because you are captured in a susceptible group. I would prove it to myself, three decades later.

This project, nearly done

But the first 10 years, after my diagnosis, was a mess. Running on emotional confusion. Answers came in the next decade, along with a change in attitude. Remarkably, those answers didn't come from my immediate care team, in charge of my treatment. This is where my lessons from a disease, come in:

  1. Deconstruct medical rhetoric, about who's responsible for someone's mortality, and don't apportion blame. Most people don't want to kill themselves, or others. We cannot appoint executioners, by them merely existing on a spreadsheet of analysis. Often argued, it's a concrete place to start, rather than plucking numbers out of thin air. Vetting the odds, is still gambling though. In my experience, it's not where the concrete answers are found. Only confusion, as to where to start looking for them. You're not exactly going to trust your own judgement though, if you've been appointed your own (or someone else's) executioner. So dispense with the blame. It never helps you understand, what you need to.

  2. Your mortality follows the data, unless you choose your own path. I was advised, the older you get, the more insulin required. Double your age - that's how much, daily insulin. This accounts for less mobility, slower metabolism and potential complications from co-morbidity. Meaning, other diseases are diagnosed and treated, with the original. I'd be on double the amount of insulin now, had I accepted that advice. As well as developing co-morbidity. Because that's where I was heading. I charted a different course away, once I realised the answers were not found, in the spreadsheets of decline.  

  3. Don't treat your compromised immune system, like it's compromised. When I say I've lived for 30 + years with a compromised immune system, I mean I've tried natural exposure, and preemptive vaccination, separately. My immune system was 100% compromised after the preemptive measures. Taking several weeks to get over the symptoms, I was trying to avoid. One-hundred percent exposure, when I opted for the preventative measure. Communal illness was far less eventful - if I got anything at all. Therefore, jabs with koolaide, don't alleviate a compromised immune system. To fix a compromised immune system, learn what strengthens them, through every day actions.

  4. Silver bullets, are for shooting yourself in the foot. If you have a compromised immune system, get used to treating your body like an ecosystem. It takes years to replenish a healthy biome, once compromised. Any medical claims involving silver bullets, only diverts attention away from the longer strategy - learning from medical research, how biological systems work. Yes. Work! We take that approach in the garden. Why not, our own bodies? Spraying a pest, only begets another (worse) infestation. There are reasons for the infestation, and it usually comes from filling complex systems, with holes from silver bullets that pass straight through. Monoculture solutions, for our bodies, in other words.

  5. There is no cure around the corner. Autoimmune diseases, are a system-wide failure. There is no "one" component which can be treated, as the cure. Like an eco-system, it comes from many interconnected components, working together. This is where resilience, comes from. So learn what foods and moods, effect your immune system. Whether you are healthy or compromised - empower yourself with a broader field of medical research, than those which specialise in avoiding demise in a crisis. Because it's the interconnected relationships, in the body, which need repairing. The endocrine system (hormonal response) is the direct communication network. I say this with success, building those relationships back up. It's not a cure, but it turns the statistics, upside-down, Tracking towards better health outcomes, than predicted. 

  6. Food, be thy medicine. It's an obvious solution, but I would argue the most crucial. As food triggers everything in the endocrine system. Which affects your immune response. Take it from someone who has to survive, by understanding the biological response to food. Our bodies are reacting all the time. It's more beneficial to understand how we might set ourselves up, to better withstand a viral infection - than wait for the cure, that will never come. Food and mood, intrinsically affects your capacity to heal. So program your system, to dispense the right medicine, at the right time. 

An ecosystem, can withstand flood and drought, and continue to grow

Above all else, please don't wait for the doctors to provide the answers, if your immune system is already compromised. What they're suggesting with the coronavirus is exclusion, and if contracted, let nature take it's coursed. Hospitalise, if necessary. In the meantime, wait for the silver bullet vaccination, to fix everything. At 15 years old, when I thought my life was over - I was really being armed for this moment in history. When, as a compromised immune patient for 30+ years, I could translate those medical claims, into the analytical data they are. Because they have absolutely NO answers in them. Exclusion. Let nature take it's course. Wait for the cure.

No wonder people feel upset with others, when their lives are on the line. They haven't had their own power, explained to them in medical terms. Which is where my change in attitude comes in. There's more useful medical research, which explains how the immune response works - than what limited soundbites can explain, how it fails in a crisis. Our bodies do not exist in a petrie dish of disaster. They are an advanced ecosystem, which are incredibly resilient if treated correctly. You have the power to understand, how the ecosystem of your body works. And program it for resilience.

Dealing with the deadwood, by removal

If you wish to be more empowered, look for medical research that explains how the endocrine system works, effectively. A complementary field of research, is dietetics, or the food sciences. If you have plenty of time to kill in isolation, please research the only system, responsible for surviving viral/ bacterial infection, successfully. Your immune system.

My takeaway message, is not to avoid medical advice altogether. But take back control, of understanding medical advice, better. From a broader field of research. When it's limited to the individuals, charged with making a response in a crisis, it's going to be limited advice with long-ranging impacts on your health. At the moment, exclusion through social distancing, attempts to starve the coronavirus out. Unfortunately, that strategy has knock-on affects too. Honestly, it's not the best solution.

Food for the garden - aged, chicken manure

It's not the best solution, because it labels healthy people, as nothing more than disease carriers and responsible for killing sick people. A society which must be immunised against itself, entirely. What comes out of situations like this, and I've seen it play out in my own biology (under medical advice) is turning what is otherwise healthy and functioning, into something sicker and malfunctioning. Just because of the way the data is being compiled. People get scared. Resentful of others. But don't do their own research, on what puts them in the best position to survive biological warfare, in their own skin. 

If you're serious about surviving, please heed the lessons learned. Get out of the petrie dish, and into the eco-system. Where your life-saving allies are waiting to engage a full-assault, against what ails you. This is not suggesting to avoid isolation, if that's what you feel is the best approach. Because I know what I'm advocating, doesn't build confidence overnight. It's not a silver bullet. Rather, a long range missile, designed to specifically target deadly bacteria and viruses from killing you. But it takes time to hone and arm, like an ecosystem.

A rouge pumpkin, scales the lime tree, for the best position to bloom

In the meantime, don't use the statistics to determine where you stand. A category on a spreadsheet, has no answers for you, personally. Your target and measure of success, is becoming the statistic, they CANNOT track. Do this by researching what stimulates your immune system response, in positive ways. How do you create actions in your daily life, which supports your endocrine system, in positive ways too? I will have to explain what has worked for me, in a different post. It's quite involved, and this post is already too long!

So how is your biological arsenal looking? Are you packing heat in a serious way? Ready to wage war against what ails you? Tell me what's in your personal toolkit, of long-range weaponry. Even if you're stuck in isolation. How are you finding ways to cope, with the dramatic change?


  1. Chris, you are one amazing woman, and your story is extremely inspiring and hope filled. People need that right now.

    I've tried to limit the "news" information because it has become increasingly sensationalistic. And now the situation is being used for a political power play here in the US, which is absolutely disgusting.

    I heard a radio interview with a immunologist who was extremely pessimistic. At least a year of isolation, he said, maybe longer, he said. Then a radio caller asked what foods we can eat to boost our immune systems. Good question. This guy's answer? "I don't know." That told me everything I needed to know about him. Yet, he's being turned to as an expert.

    Few people want to listen to the voices that make sense. Our level of hysteria is used as "proof" that we're taking the situation seriously. I saw an excellent video by a physician with a background in biochemistry. He's been treating patients with the virus successfully. He was very calm and encouraging. His said if you want to social distance and clean the heck out of your house, go ahead because you're not hurting anybody. That's how he put it! He also explained that coronavirus is an RNA virus. It has no DNA of its own, which means it mutates rapidly. And that is why a vaccine will ultimately be of little value; it's impossible to address all the mutations.

    Very little has changed for Dan and me in terms of lifestyle. Our lives are grounded to the land, and we rarely go out anyway. I still make my weekly shopping trips, so it's been interesting to walk the store aisles. First week was panic buying as people grabbed up all the toilet paper like it was a security blanket. The next week people were stock-up buying; less panicky and more thoughtful in tone. Shelves at walmart were about 50% empty, but food pallets were continually being brought in to restock the shelves. I've never been a "prepper" but I understand the common sense of keeping a well-stocked pantry. We are focusing a little more on immune boosters: beta carotene and zinc supplements, more garlic, and now using our "supertonic" for salad dressing! Other than that, it's life as usual.

    But it's amazing how quickly things can change.

    1. Goodness, what that immunologist said, Leigh. Yet not surprising either. In my experience, many of the Specialist fields don't engage diet as a factor in study, or treatment. Unless its dietetics. Which has no means, to connect with the other Specialist fields of human biology. Except through the patient. And they don't necessarily have the expertise to know what to ask.

      I've got something to address about that, in my next post.

      You're fortunate to have 50% stocked shelves and refilling during the day. In our area it's stocked overnight, and what is cleared out, stays empty until the next overnight stocking. They've had to incorporate special opening hours for Seniors. So they get the first hour of the shop, to buy what they need, without having to tussle with younger folks. I think that's sensible, even if it means, I don't get toilet paper, lol. Fortunately we are stocked. Thanks for sharing how it's evolving in your parts.

  2. Chris that is a great post. My hubby has been eating lots of garlic amongst other things as he has been watching YouTube videos on how to fight the virus and some people are suggesting Vitamin D. Another friend says he has a swig of whiskey to kill the virus. LOL! I take a lot of suggestions with a grain of salt.

    1. Great to see your husband, being proactive, Chel. Garlic kisses though? Hmmm, not sure, lol. Still some useful strategies. I think you wrote about Fire Cider last winter, didn't you? I hope I got that right. That's been on my list to try as well. Stay well you two. :)

  3. This was a great read, Chris. I think there's a lot of wisdom, borne of your own personal experience, that you have shared. Here, I am continuing, as I always do, with lots of fresh and nourishing food like soups and stews made with stocks and vegetables and pulses and herbs picked from the garden. I am grateful for the garden which draws us outside into the sunshine and fresh air each day and which always lightens my spirit should I feel troubled. Meg

    1. Unfortunately, it's not warm enough overnight, for soups and stews here yet. We seem to have hit a warm patch before winter. But they certainly are a wonderful tonic for the body, if made from scratch. Going outside, is definitely a big draw card here, too. Enjoying the day, sounds, and sensations with nature. I'm feeling better, just thinking about it. Glad to hear you're well and finding your way through it.

  4. Wise words, Chris. So many people are medically illiterate and I've seen some really ignorant comments. I have a compromised immune system too, because I take a drug for rheumatoid arthritis which damps down my immune system and stops it from attacking my joints. But every so often it goes into remission and when I feel well, I cut my medication down. I don't visit a specialist and wait to be told what to do, I try it and see. I know how my system works and I know how the drug works and I've experimented enough now to manage it myself and save expensive specialist fees.

    The level of panic about the coronavirus is unreal. There are people pointing out the stats on how many people die from ordinary flu each year compared to this new flu. So far it's minute. The effects of shutting down the whole economic system will be far more damaging. We'll probably never know the ongoing effects on people's lives and long-term health from losing jobs and trying to pay off loans.

    The dramatic changes aren't bothering me. I still shop one a week, although there's not much on the shelves at the moment. I have a well-stocked pantry, always have had. Less cars on the roads and less people in the shops is a bonus. And there's still plenty to do in the garden.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience in the front-seat of medical advice and medications. You've taken a similar approach to me. Opting to find strategies to reduce the need for medication. Every case is different, but the less people rely on medication, the more opportunity for their body's to build natural defenses. So long as it's able to cope. We can always return to adjust the dosage, as required. Understanding what we're putting into our bodies, and experimenting where it's safe to, is a great learning tool and ultimately, provides more options.

      I confess the level of intervention for coronavirus, vs other influenza infection deaths, has me scratching my head too. Potentially, it's how rapidly people are being infected, and dying, which is the concerning factor. Or what the authorities are attempting to get ahead of. That's the only thing I can think of, for raising such an alarm. Always good to hear your thoughts, Bev.


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