Modern women do not trust their own intuition about the health of their bodies.

Who am I kidding? Many women don't even examine their own bodies. Many women can't even reach parts of their own bodies; wouldn't want to examine them even if they dared to do such an unthinkable Puritan thing.

To do so -- if anyone should find out -- would be considered a perversion. Early backlash against feminism, encouraged verbal punishment against self examination. Touching one's own body led to understanding bodily functions including sexuality and we couldn't have that, could we?

The feminist philosophy changed some women. We know the value of listening to our own bodies, carefully searching for the cause of aches and pains before deciding to seek outside advice.

An example of self care is the headache. Could simple headaches be caused by dehydration? Not just by any stress that came before? Has the sufferer ever tried drinking a big glass of water?

Oh yes, we drink enough of some liquid to swallow an anti-pain pill. Pregnant women will take a pill when all her poor head might need is an infusion of water to make more blood for the heart to push to her brain. Remember, the fetus takes its full share first.

Now am I practicing medicine with such an unorthodox suggestion?

Oh please, consult a physician before taking a drink of water, especially if it results in removing the pain.

Every ad for easy solutions, usually an over the counter pill or simple exercise, has to have a warning attached to avoid litigation for practicing medicine without a license.

Women have never been totally dependent on the medical and pharmaceutical professions for good health and well-being. There was a time when women were THE healers, when women used natural remedies for treating aches, pains, and serious maladies. Who knows why males decided to seize the healer's role? Women didn't flaunt success with herbs and potions they used. And when they didn't work, the witch hunt began. Even reasonable men who saw the wisdom of natural remedies were burned at the stake. Just how the subtly and perverse transition of health care from women to men came about we will never really know because HIS story diminished the value of women in every role.
But the health care profession, with the expert psychological help from insurance companies, prevents us from seeking scientific knowledge about our bodies. A patient must have a "problem" before consulting anyone for medical help; how else can doctors proceed with the correct tests if they don't have a complaint to act on? Tests have to be "needed" by a patient before insurance companies will pay.
Women are experiencing more and more trauma from drugs prescribed by well meaning physicians than from disease that brought them to the doctor's office in the first place.

Doctors push drugs of one sort or another honestly trying to help because patients want action.

If we are going to get away from soaring health care costs, we must accept more responsibility for our own health and the health of our families.

Some doctors refuse to believe a person wants to understand the body and seek medical examinations for information.

That was the case when my vagina was sealed by an overgrowth of the uterus lining, preventing a normal menstrual flow. Painful sexual intercourse prompted me to examine myself for a cause. My finger punctured the obstructive membrane resulting in a handful of blood.

I had to find out pronto what that was all about. A questioning nurse-receptionist wanted to know how I could be sure I had a problem that required immediate attention. I thought my pain and handful of blood answered that.

After the well-qualified gynecologist examined me and described what had happened he patted my butt and said I would soon go into menopause and my problem would be over. Or I could have a hysterectomy. He left a prescription given to me when I paid the office fee.

I went home knowing I had caused my own affliction, if one could call it that. Some weeks before, I fell for a salespitch at work that bee pollen would do something magical to my body. I don't remember exactly what that magic was, but I expected the best.

After the doctor's description of what had occurred in my uterus, I knew without a doubt what had brought about the overgrowth of the membrane, -- bee pollen. What a dummy I was. Well, naive at least about effects of Chinese medicine.


Several weeks later I was called by the qualified nurse-receptionist who accused me of rejecting the estrogen prescription the doctor ordered. I explained that I needed the examination to understand what was going on in my body, not to get a dose of chemicals. She was irate that I would not accept the doctor's evaluation that I needed estrogen - a simple solution to women's aging process.

This was during the era when estrogen doses were first suspected of causing uterine cancer but that wasn't the only reason I refused to take it. I was certain that menopause is a natural sequence in the aging of a woman's body and I still am.

Hot flashes, I soon learned, could be shortened and usually avoided altogether by careful selection of foods. These were discovered by trial and error with my own documentation. At the time, short lived hot flashes seemed easier to endure than any form of cancer. Nearly twenty years after a slow-to-arrive menopause set upon my body, I am still sure that is true.

That is not all that made me wary of doctors.

An early experience with doctors' practice of medicine was related to me by an older sister. Mother had broken a bit of a needle that was stuck into her finger too deep for removal with tweezers. So to prevent her impairment in the housekeeping department Daddy took her to a doctor.

In the nineteen thirties, women had neither credibility nor respect and the doctor discounted Mother's insistence of any needle in her finger. Instead he gave her some medication that knocked her out, because of course, she was just a hysterical female, undoubtedly from some sexual frustration according to studies by Freud. Daddy was confused but admitted he knew nothing of medicine.

Mother was carried home and lay for days recuperating from the dose of compassionate medication. How she managed to draw the steel from her veins, my then seven-year-old sister was unaware of, but the tiny point was brought out with some homemade poultice. Mother and my sister were wary of doctors ever after.
Another experience beyond my childhood awareness, involved an aunt who went to the Rochester clinic with stomach pains her local doctors could not treat. The clinic couldn't either and she lived with excruciating abdominal pain for twenty more years. Technology was not available for good medical treatment yet people demanded something so doctors kept "practicing" on willing patients.

When my husband had a serious heart attack we also looked toward the world-renowned clinic for options. The heart surgeon shrugged and said the only option to prevent a fatal attack was open heart surgery which he would immediately undertake. Two thousand miles from home and a teenage son, I asked about other options - like diet and exercise. The doctor sternly said, "I'm a medical doctor," and something to the effect that he had no knowledge of any thing else.

Anyway my husband would not consider changing diet and certainly not undertake any exercise routine. The bypass surgery took place but closer to our home. Successful for eight years, the surgery was followed by several prescriptions that my husband would not phase out, even at the doctor's insistence.

My husband is not the only one who is faithful to the concept that pills are the antidote for all discomfort. I was unaware of the extent of "target" pills. I could take one to lower my cholesterol. Why not simply eat right? I knew when I overdosed in sugar-loaded food and over ate meats and gravies that my bad cholesterol level would shoot right up.

But the difficulties in credibility of medical help by trained physicians and surgeons can be passed on to the pharmaceutical industries and overzealous salesmen -- and they are almost entirely men who sell to clinics and doctors, sweetening sales freely with samples "for dispensing to patients for trial" thereby getting guinea pigs to rack up statistics for the "useful" drugs. You know the advertising pitch - "prescribed by millions of doctors" -- why not? It was free!
Women are experiencing more trauma from drugs prescribed by well meaning physicians than from disease that brought them to the doctor's office in the first place.
We accept an addiction to coffee or carbonated soft drinks as necessary to get through the day. We want quick fixes and ask the "professionals" for help and get harder drugs in other forms. Feminism has made some people wiser. Where do you stand?

Naomi Sherer