Homeopathic Dilution Delusion

My first introduction to homeopathy was at a summer camp when I was a kid. This wasn't a normal summer camp. It was a vegan, granola munching, Birkenstock wearing, tie-dyed, folk dancing, hippy camp. How I ended up there involves my ex-boyfriend getting me a summer job at the camp. I worked in the kitchen making vegan food and homemade granola. Learning how to cook for 350 people at a time was fun, I have to admit.

One of the counselors was big into natural healing and explained homeopathy to me. She had all kinds of remedies in little bottles. She would put a drop of this or that in her mouth. I thought it was weird. Then again, I thought Cheryl was weird. And that's saying something considering the entire summer camp was straight out of the musical Hair.

Maybe because Cheryl introduced it to me, I've always viewed homeopathy as flaky. I didn't bother learning more until I got sick. There's something about the word incurable that sets my teeth on edge. Incurable and hopeless are synonyms in my thesaurus. It's hard not to let them become synonyms in my life. I fight harder than words can say to keep that from happening to me.

Western medicine has no cures for muscular dystrophy or type 1 diabetes. I would like to stop giving myself shots of insulin. I'd much rather drop magic water in my mouth. Insulin is expensive. Wouldn't it be great if we could dilute it and make it last longer? Maybe we could even make it more powerful.

The founder of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann (1755 - 1843) believed that the process of succussion activated the "vital energy" of the diluted substance,[1] and that successive dilutions increased the "potency" of the remedy.

We can also assume that Samuel Hahnemann had never heard of antibiotics, or insulin, or chemotherapy, or anesthesia. So, we can forgive his ignorance. Cheryl the hippy camp counselor has no excuse.

The idea that successive dilutions increase the potency of the remedy makes no sense. Take two aspirin and crush them into powder. Put the powder in a swimming pool. Pull out an eye dropper full of water from the pool, and put that in another swimming pool. Then repeat the process. Diluting eyedroppers full of water, again, and again 60 times. And poof! You have super charged, extra powerful, homeopathic headache banishing medication.

Or, maybe you have an eye dropper full of water.

Maybe it's how they shake the remedy that makes it work. Shaking can make a huge difference. Insulin N is cloudy when shaken. It looks like milk. Rolling the vial in your palms mixes the insulin so it can be used. That kind of mixing is lifesaving. A unit of insulin (1/100th of a cc) dropped in a five gallon bucket of water, does not make the diluted insulin more powerful. Any kindergartener could do an example with one drop of food coloring in a bucket of water. After enough dilutions, no color remains. No medicine remains, either.

Homeopathy should have disappeared a hundred years ago, but it's still around. People like kooky Cheryl are still buying water in fancy bottles. They're still claiming that western medicine is evil. To me, what's evil is selling water and calling it medicine.

How about we force companies to put a label on homeopathic remedies that says in bold red letters, "THIS IS WATER AND NOT MEDICINE. PUT YOUR MONEY BACK IN YOUR WALLET." Maybe that would be a good place to start. But, then again Cheryl would chant over the bottle, and wave incense in clockwise circles, and play a finger cymbals. Ding! Now it's medicine. Good luck with that, Cheryl.

Stupid. More incurable than diabetes.


The Atheist Closet

I have religious family members. Actually, that's not true. My husband Alex has religious family members. It's one thing to tell your own Aunt Tilly that you're an atheist. It's a whole different story when it's your spouse's aunt.

My own extended family isn't close. I hardly know my cousins. Meanwhile, Alex's family seriously reminds me of the Apple Family. Alex is close to his enormous extended family. I know his aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, third cousins, cousins in Europe... On both sides of his family, they are a close knit bunch.

It's a loving family to be added into. I enjoy spending holidays with Alex's family. We went to his cousin Lori's house every Thanksgiving for years. We enjoyed great food and laughs. I love being with my husband's family.

Only... Only, I'm in the atheist closet with them, especially with Alex's favorite aunt and uncle. Aunt Ellie is 81 and Uncle George is 85. They are devoted Christians. That's putting it mildly. Let me try that again. They are card carrying members of the religious right. They watch Fox News. They read John Hagee and love Billy Graham. This is who they are. Like the mechanism inside a watch, this is what makes them tick.

That being said, I think Aunt Ellie and Uncle George may be the kindest people I've ever met. They are giving, loving, and fun to be with. They make me laugh, and smile. They make me feel loved. We visit their lake house several times every summer. Being with them makes me happy.

Aunt Ellie and Uncle George have a son, Tim. Tim strayed from the church. This broke their hearts. I can see it in their eyes, and hear their pain when they talk about him. They believe that Tim is on a path that leads to destruction. Before meals, Ellie and George pray for Tim. They pray for him to return to the faith before it is too late.

Obviously, Tim is somewhat estranged from his parents because of this. I don't know what Tim believes or doesn't believe. He's never told me if he's an atheist. I just know that Aunt Ellie and Uncle George are heartbroken because he's not a right-wing republican Christian like they raised him to be.

After watching how they responded to their son, I knew telling them I'm an atheist would be a disaster. I would become their project. They would want to fix me and help me find the Lord. Everything about how we interact would change. I couldn't deal with that. It's easier for them to believe what they want about me and be a chameleon.

From Christian Graphics and ironic as all hell
While they bow their heads in prayer, I don't join in. I tune it out. While everyone says, "Amen," I keep silent. I used to mumble, "Ramen." But, I don't do that anymore. Their prayer time belongs to them and it has nothing to do with me. Religion and the Bible makes sense for them. They are in their 80's. Nothing I say will change their minds about their beliefs. What I say could forever change their relationship with me and I don't want that to happen.

I definitely don't want to drive a wedge between Alex and Aunt Ellie and Uncle George. They helped raise Alex when he was little. These two people are more important to him than his own parents. Telling them I'm an atheist would just hurt them. I can't do that.

I'm in the atheist closet with them, but it's by my choice. Not everyone has to know I'm an atheist. Do I feel like I can be myself around them? Yes. Even though I don't share their religion or political views, I share their love for nature and the beauty of the woods. Maybe if they were pushy and quoting the Bible every few minutes it would be different. All I deal with are prayers before meals, and brief morning devotions over breakfast at the lake, and that's it. No Bible quotes. No pushy invites to church. Nothing else. Just a few minutes of religion a day is no big deal. I can live with that. Their religion works for them. The atheist closet works for me.


Feeding The Health Care Dragon

Health care in the USA works perfectly, if you never get sick. It works very well if you get an ear infection and need antibiotics. If you fall down the stairs and break your leg, the current American health care system will make sure you get surgery and a cast. It will even cover your crutches and physical therapy afterward. Your deductible will leave you with a massive hole in your wallet, but you will get better. Next year will be better.

Our health care system is designed for people who don't need health care. Just like car insurance, we pay a premium as a bet against needing an insurance pay out. Most people will get through this year without spending more than a few hundred dollars out of pocket for health care. The current system works, except for anyone living with a chronic illness. Then everything falls apart.

I have a deductible I need to meet before my health insurance covers my needs. Once I meet the deductible, my insurance covers 80% of my health care and I am responsible for 20%. It is now September. I have yet to meet my deductible. On my insurance plan, prescription drug costs do not go  toward the deductible. Neither do co-pays when I see a doctor. Nor do lab tests. What a great plan this is... for the insurance company.

Last year I didn't meet my deductible at all and paid 100% out of pocket all year. High deductible health care plans are a disaster for anyone with a chronic illness. I spent all last year skipping doses and cutting them in half so I could afford my medication. This year I have a lower deductible, but I'm not sure I'm much better off. Even with insurance, health care for a chronic illness will slowly bankrupt a family.

How can this be? We have insurance. It's supposed to fix everything. Well, here's what it looks like at my house.

To see a specialist, the co-pay is $50.00 Meaning, I have to pay $50.00 before the doctor will talk to me. The doctor fills out four prescriptions. One drug is Tier 1. One drug is Tier 2. One drug is Tier 3 and the last one is Tier 4.

 What are these tiers I'm talking about? Drugs are sorted based on how cheap they are to sell. Generics are either Tier 1 or Tier 2. Tier 1 drugs co-pays are about $4.00 to $5.00. Tier 2 drugs are $10 to $20.  If all medications were Tier 1 or Tier 2, health care would be affordable. But, they aren't.

The Tier 3 prescription is a brand name. Not all drugs have generic equivalents. Humalog insulin and Novolog insulin have no generic. People who use insulin are stuck with a Tier 3 or worse Tier 4 co-pay. For me, insulin is $100.00 after insurance. My insulin is Tier 3. Now I have one more drug to pay for. It's Tier 4. It costs me 150.00 a bottle.

In one week, I've spent $50.00 on a doctor and $265.00 on medication. That's $315.00  Ouch well, that sucks. At least next month will be better.

Unless I see two specialists next month. And my medication costs double. Now I've spent $630.00 on health care. Then the next month is back to one specialist, but none of the money I'm spending is actually going toward my three thousand dollar deductible. Money is being sucked out of my wallet along with an insurance premium on top of it. It feels hopeless and is hard to face month after month, year after year.

I pay an insurance premium so I can receive a discount on my medication. Without the discount, I cannot afford my medication at all. It's too expensive. In January 2013, I went to the local pharmacy to pick up a box of insulin pens. I was told my out of pocket was $734.00. I burst into tears and left the pharmacy without insulin. This year is better, but not as good as it should be. I can't believe the best system the United States can come up with leaves people choosing between medical care and the electric bill, month after month, year after year.

The health care dragon is never satisfied. I've poured every last penny into its roaring mouth and it still wants more. If you live with a health care dragon, please tell me about it in the comments. How do you manage to pay for it all? Have you had to choose between health care and food, health care and utilities, health care and the mortgage? If you have, you're not alone.


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