The One With the Tumor

I have a tumor/lump/thing growing on the palm of my right hand, just beneath my ring finger. A little over an inch in diameter, the lump causes me pain whenever I stretch out my fingers, grip, or do anything that causes pressure on the palm of that hand.

Internet research tells me it is probably a cyst. Or maybe a tumor from a nearby tendon. Most likely it isn’t cancer, but to be sure I need to get it checked out right away as some cancers, such as breast cancer, do spread to the hand. Some websites report that aliens must have abducted me and inserted a GPS device to track my every move and that I should get it removed immediately! Should I believe anything I read on the internet?

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If only I could actually get an appointment!

We moved to Florida back in May. Since then I have had a difficult time finding doctors. There is at least a two month wait for a new patient appointment. So here I sit with my lump uncomfortably touching the bottom of the laptop. Honestly, it gives me the heebie jeebies. And even though it first appeared in August, I have to wait until the first week of November to be seen by the “hand doctor.”

But here’s the thing. I am more than my hand.

I have some autoimmune issues that could potentially be causing or contributing to the hand lump. I’ve had some issues with blood vessels not working properly. I may be crazy, but I can feel a pulse in this monster attached to my hand, so I wouldn’t be surprised if whatever it is has a blood supply. (Or maybe that’s the alien GPS ticking?)

Yet the hand doctor will probably just look at my hand and will not coordinate with my primary care doctor, especially since I don’t have one yet (I’m still waiting for that appointment, too). Nor do I have a rheumatologist here (yet) who can speak to my autoimmune issues. As I’ve been told by several doctors, a specialist can order certain blood tests that a different doctor can’t (and have insurance pay for it, anyway), and vice versa.

Which brings me to health care reform. We need to re-vamp the way our doctors practice medicine. The human body is interconnected, and one system impacts the others in multiple ways. Doctors need to treat the whole person — all the body parts and the soul — in order to promote health in their patients. This holistic approach means doctors will need to consult with each other.

The consequences of compartmentalizing health care can be deadly. A family member’s oncologist told her to stop taking the drug that her cardiologist said don’t stop taking. If these doctors had been working together on her care, or if her primary care doctor or one of the specialists was the coordinator, then she wouldn’t have been given those dangerous instructions. It’s as if the cardiologist operates in a heart bubble and the oncologist works in a cancer bubble, and never the two do meet. Yet cancer and heart problems affect an entire body, not just specific body parts.

Currently, the only time a patient’s care is coordinated is when they are in the hospital. As science learns more and more about how the body works, it makes sense that patients benefit when a coordinating doctor takes in all the information and is able to make “big picture” recommendations.

One of the ideas Hillary Clinton has for healthcare is to bring together mental health and physical health care systems for better coordination of care. Many physical diseases also go hand-in-hand with depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. For example, migraine headaches and IBS are both often present in patients who are clinically depressed, and clinical depression is often present in patients who suffer from chronic migraines and IBS. Yet insurance companies view health and mental health as two separate entities and provide different coverages for each. This seems absurd as we now know the two are linked. Mind and body connection research is promising and shows that the connection between the two is measurable and real.

I’m not naive enough to think that Hillary Clinton can ride in on a white horse and force doctors to integrate mental and physical health — nor would I want her to. Plenty of doctors are already on the front lines of innovation, talking about ways to integrate their care with other specialists. Telemedicine and other technology is also on the verge of changing the way Americans experience medicine.

But the president of our country has a unique platform to advocate for certain changes. Based on her past advocacy for health care reform, I believe this is one area in which Hillary Clinton will use her “bully pulpit” to spur innovation in health care:

And whether you are a Donald Trump supporter, a Hillary Clinton supporter, or none-of-the-above supporter, you probably agree with me that our medical model needs a makeover. We need to find ways to coordinate our care so that our doctors look at us as we are: beautiful works of art with millions of moving parts that are all working together a masterful whole, fashioned by a infinitely divine Creator.

And if you are a science nerd like me and would like to KNOW more about how the body works together, head on over to YouTube and watch videos like this one. It took my mind off this aggravating tumor, at least for awhile!


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