The first thing I noticed when I walked into Dr. Thom’s office when I arrived in February of 2015, was a picture of a sugarhouse. Seeing that black and white sketch hanging on the wall amid the saguaro cactus and Arizona sunshine coming through the window, reminded me of home. When it would be time for me to return back to New England it would be sugaring season. I really hoped that this year I’d have the energy to set taps and gather. That time of year is special in Vermont tradition, because it’s about family and friends getting together and catching up around vats of steaming sap. We bring in stacks and stacks of wood for the fire and carefully watch it being boiled down into maple syrup. It’s physical work trudging through drifts, late nights, and your body being cold and wet with snow. For years I hadn’t been able to do this sort of thing.
My health journey had taken me to working with over 30 doctors. From specialists at major hospitals to general practitioners in rural clinics, I’ve sat in bleak waiting rooms hoping to find a physician who would look at my whole health history and take the time to listen. I’d try each new doctor with hope and eagerness that I would be closer to feeling better. After most appointments I’d get back to the car in the parking lot and start to cry. I’d ask God why this was happening to me and mostly I’d feel alone. After years of trying to get well it’s easy to feel defeated.
Every time I tried a new doctor I’d carry my giant black 3-ring binder of my medical records that no one cared to read, I’d fill out forms that would just be glanced at, and I’d carefully explain all of my organs and systems worrying me, but I couldn’t get anywhere. Some doctors thought I was crazy. A hypochondriac, who I guess, just loved getting blood drawn, going into MRI tubes, and wasting money!
The problem with Western medicine is that doctors think of it in a compartmentalized way. It’s hard for my neurologist to work with my endocrinologist, rheumatologist, or dentist. The most organic sharing of information these different entities do is to ask what meds your taking from which doctor. I’ve also found it hard for physicians to treat patients uniquely. Most doctors have their familiar routine of suggested drugs, or protocols, and offer that instead of a time consuming in-depth consultation. This is even true of many Lyme literate doctors we saw who have one protocol they’re loyal to and just run with that, as a one-size-fits all solution.
Every day of my first two week stay at ACBM I spoke with Dr. Thom. I’d sit in his office, often with his dog Taffy in my lap, figuring out a plan. Never feeling rushed, or feeling like I was getting a duplicate treatment plan, an hour might pass as he helped chart a course for my wellness. His focus as he describes it (in the video linked below) was always on “not treating disease, but by supporting health.” I encourage folks to seek out physicians who have this enthusiasm for their practice. Finding someone who authentically listens and cares for my well being was essential for my healing.