I don’t like doctors at all. Some of my best friends are doctors, but they know how I feel. I have a real problem with how modern medicine works.
A few people you know have a great, heartwarming medical story to tell you. On the other hand, everyone you know has a bad medical story to tell. Here is one of my many. I’m almost embarrassed to say this because I didn’t follow my instincts and do what I thought was best for me and ended up paying for it.
I see a GP once a year to do some routine blood work and just check up, but mostly just to shoot the crap, as he’s been my triathlon training partner for years. In 2017 this GP started to worry about my increased PSA (prostate stimulating antigen) count. When I say climbing, I mean they had gone from 3.5/4 to 5 in the previous two years. The standard of care would suggest that once a man’s PSA rises above 4, his doctor would suggest seeing a specialist to investigate the possibility of prostate cancer. Mind you, I had had common benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) for the previous 15 years, was asymptomatic and totally uninterested.
I had no problem with excessive urination (at night or otherwise). Sexual function was excellent. No blood in my urine or pain when I peed. Nothing but a slightly high number.
Also, I’ve written a lot about how bad the PSA test was at predicting cancer in healthy men. For example, 70% of men who have a PSA score between 4 and 10 do not have prostate cancer. So I knew better. Nevertheless, I took my GP’s advice and saw a highly recommended urologist as my PSA was now close to 6. The specialist recommended a prostate biopsy. Knowing what I know about prostate biopsies, I declined, stating that I had no symptoms and was aware that the PSA test was a bad marker and walked out of the office a little pissed off by how quickly this invasive procedure was recommended.
If you don’t know, during a prostate biopsy, the doctor essentially goes through your anus and sticks what amounts to a hollow knitting needle into your rectum 14 times to take cores from the prostate. There is a cleaning process beforehand, similar to that used to prepare for a colonoscopy. Like most medical procedures, it’s somewhat barbaric when you think about it. Suffice it to say, prostate biopsy isn’t just “something you do,” but it’s how it’s treated.
My GP suggested I see another specialist, so I did, this time recommended by my good friend who was director of surgery at a large hospital in Los Angeles. The second said, “I think we should do a prostate biopsy. I asked if there was anything we could do that was non-invasive, and he suggested an MRI, so I said “Okay, let’s try that!” I did the MRI and the result came back “4 out of 5 suspects for something”. Extremely precise language, isn’t it? At that time, I had contacted another urologist who had read the same X-ray report and said, “We should probably do a biopsy. WTF.
At this point, despite my intuition and wanting to avoid what was probably an unnecessary prostate biopsy, but also not wanting to be like Steve Jobs waiting until the last minute and then trying to chase pancreatic cancer away with juice carrot, I joined. We scheduled the biopsy.
The morning of my biopsy, my new, third, urologist said, “By the way, I read the x-ray report and I wouldn’t have given him a 4 out of 5 suspect for something, I would have given him a 3 out of 5.” I said, “What does that mean?” He said, “That means we wouldn’t do a biopsy today; we would be engaged in watchful waiting. But, you’re here, you’re all cleaned up, so let’s just do the biopsy so we know.
He did the biopsy and as I was leaving I asked him if there was anything else we needed to do. He said, “No, just take the antibiotics my office gave you. I said I called his office, and they said they “don’t do that anymore.” He shrugged and said, “OK, here’s a prescription to pick up when you get home.”
I take the antibiotics and two days later, at the end of a long day of organizing an event at our house in Malibu, I started to feel dizzy. I thought maybe it was the result of not eating all day and so I took a ketone supplement which usually helps in these situations I started to feel better then I am went to bed. I woke up in the middle of the night with fever and night sweats. I tried to ignore them to go back to sleep but I couldn’t. something was seriously fake.
Finally, at 4 a.m., I checked into the emergency room at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica. Within minutes I was notified that I had full sepsis and it was a good thing I had come when I did. “If it had been another few hours, you might not be here.”
Sepsis is the third unofficial cause of death in the United States after cancer and heart disease. It’s not a trivial thing, and it’s not uncommon either. Obviously, I had suffered an infection as a result of the prostate biopsy (which, considering the process of taking a prostate biopsy, isn’t that surprising). I spent three days in the hospital on a non-specific IV antibiotic while they tried to identify the exact regimen I needed for the next week.
And then, to top it off, I get a call a few days later from the doctor’s office. The results came back negative, just like I knew they would be. It was for nothing, I didn’t have prostate cancer, and now I have a compromised (scarred) prostate. The medical system took an asymptomatic, healthy man with a common male disease known as BPH, nearly killed him, and left him with a less than healthy prostate. Happens all the time.
What’s worse is that these types of near misses rarely make headlines or statistics. We only hear about fatal errors. We hear of cases where people die from medical errors, which is quite common. We don’t hear of times when someone nearly died or “only” ended up with a debilitating condition for their issues.
Every day, countless people trust doctors and the medical industry as an omniscient and omnipotent force capable of solving their problems. But here’s the bold and unvarnished truth: Doctors and the medical industry aren’t always the answer to everything. Don’t get me wrong, doctors are fantastic when it comes to certain things. If you’ve been in a car accident and you’re bleeding, you really want to be rushed to the emergency room, where a team of medical professionals will work their magic. If you have a bone sticking out of your leg, you’re not going to treat it with magnesium oil and a carnivorous diet. And if you have full-blown sepsis, you want a doctor to stick IV antibiotics on you.
This is not an article giving medical advice. It’s just telling a story, a story that is all too common. I blame myself for forgetting to listen to my own intuition – intuition, by the way, which has been informed by decades of research and experimentation.
Have you ever had a great medical experience? How about a bad one, like mine? Let me know in the comments section.