Chapter 4

Now What?: The Search for Treatments

Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, we often discover that the wizard's black bag holds nothing for us by way of a magic cure. With many chronic illnesses, the best we can do is learn to alleviate our symptoms. Often, this requires a good deal of experimentation to find the treatment that is right for us. Recommended remedies may be expensive, inconvenient, or uncomfortable, and medications may have unpleasant or unacceptable side effects. In search of alternatives to conventional treatment, we may turn to such therapies as herbs, homeopathy, and therapeutic touch, some of which are the subject of much debate in medical and scientific circles.

In this chapter, we'll examine the positive and negative experiences that many of us have with medication, which may be the first line of defense that our physicians recommend. Sometimes, however, medication may be inappropriate or insufficient to ease our symptoms, and we have to explore alternatives to drugs. Some nonmedicinal therapies, such as exercise, are well documented, but many of the treatments we try are considered unconventional. We'll explore the debate between proponents of conventional and alternative medicine and discuss how we decide for ourselves the treatments we're willing to try. In chapter 5, we'll highlight some of the specific remedies we choose as part of an individualized treatment plan.