dimanche 21 septembre 2014

OBSESSION WITH SUFFERING, ILLNESS AND DISEASE

OBSESSION WITH SUFFERING, ILLNESS AND DISEASE
I begin my lectures on Medical Anthropology, discussing how the common metaphors in the society had changed from Religious to Medical. Benjamin Franklin suffered from Gout, because of a Sinful Life, now it would be referred as an Unhealthy Life Style. Metaphors about Cancer abound, and in combinations with military metaphors, dominate the daily headlines.
I have noticed that people take a certain delight to inform you (Is it because I am a Physician?) of the latest catastrophes to fall upon the individuals in their social circles.
Is it a superstition to avoid the same fate falling upon them?
Within a matter of days, I was told of someone suffering from stage 4 Colon Cancer, another with Prostate Cancer, a middle aged man suffering seizures and slipping into a coma, a death from breast cancer, someone’s toe being cut off because of gas gangrene.
I am very optimistic by nature and would like to hold the world not as a dangerous place but a pleasant place to live in. There are certain risks to be taken in achieving this pleasantry and that, one does in ones own stride.
I would like people to be healthy, would advise how to maintain health.
I wanted to know the origins of this obsession with disease rather than Health and was reminded of the little anthropological study I did with myself as the patient.
I approached various specialists in different countries and presented myself with a desire to know more about prevention of disease. But the doctors kept on asking me; do you suffer from any symptoms? No, I said with glee. All of them, American or European or Asian were baffled. They can give me advice only when there is disease but not how to prevent that very same disease.
When the metaphor is about Disease rather than Health, the discourse also turns to Disease rather than Health.
The scare mongering media with its outlook of sensationalism adds fuel to this fear of ill health and harm.
Mary Douglas, a British Anthropologist, devoted her professional life to studying Risk and Danger.
Working with American Indians one good lesson to learn is that Life is chaotic and an order cannot be bought or readily accessible and that one has to accept it. Uncertainty is part of life and one has to adjust to that. That lesson has been very helpful to this wandering Jew!
So I was very happy to hear from my good friend, the humble man of Bogor, who is very interested in Prevention of Diseases among all his employees!

This morning, he had arrived at the lakeside near his house where a few faithful had gathered and they spent the next one-hour jogging and walking and talking. A bicycle ride completed the morning exercises followed by coffee and breakfast in the office for all those present.
I had left a BP/Pulse recording machine with him and occasionally he would send a reading on himself or someone he is concerned about.
My friend the humble man of Bogor who is now 53 years old had the following BP Pulse reading this morning:

BP   105/65 mm Hg
Pulse 52 beats per minute.
He is on no medications.

Thank you, dear friend, for positive news in this world full of so much negative news! Positive in that, emphasizes what is normal, negative emphasizes what is abnormal