Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Almost Beyond Medicine

Back in 1986, a 30-year-old man called “Bob” is living a happy life in Togo, Africa. He has a family and his business is doing well. But then it’s like someone put a hex on him.

One morning, Bob woke up to the sensation of a full bladder. But no matter how often he went, the urge to pee would not go away.

A trip to the doctor gets him a diagnosis, an STD, and a prescription of antibiotics. But the treatment only creates more problems.

Now Bob does not just feel the constant urge to pee, he’s also perpetually tired and gets daily fevers.

Fed up with unsuitable doctors, he flies to a reputable clinic in London and undergoes a series of tests. But even the most elite physicians cannot figure out what Bob is suffering from.

As the grown man is trickling urine into a Star Trek-looking toilet bowl, he can’t help but think that his life as a lab rat has only just begun.

Sadly, Bob was right. 

The first breakthrough wouldn’t come until four years later.

Bob’s Indian heritage and recurring fevers led another doctor straight to the answer: tuberculosis. 

After a set of tests confirmed the doctor’s hunch, Bob was put on a drug regimen that instantly stopped the fevers.

The need to urinate, however, stayed thanks to scars left by TB inside his urinary tract.

But then Bob got worse. Much worse.

It’s like a flood of diseases swept over him. Bob got kidneystones, thyroid issues and his mouth and eyes were constantly bone dry.

Bob lived the next ten years of his life like a guinea pig. Until eventually, his personal team of physicans concluded the problem was his prostate.

But scooping the fleshy walnut out of his rectum changed nothing. Worse still, Bob lost all his riches to a bad investment and then his wife.

The once successful entrepreneur hit rock bottom.

Fast forward to now and Bob is in his fifties, still looking for an answer for his health problems.

Through a concerned journalist, Bob gets in touch with medical genius Lisa Sanders—the inspiration for House.  

Dr. Sanders looks over his file and fights the urge to throw the tomb of test results into the trash.

Sanders knows that with enough tests, you’ll get false positives leading in all directions, which obscure a potentially clear and single cause.

So she studies Bob’s symptoms in isolation and comes to a diagnosis. 

But before she hands over her conclusion, she softens Bob’s expectations by quoting Hickam’s dictum:

“A man can have as many diseases as he damn well pleases.”

Which is bitter, but true. 

While it may feel like a copout, medicine is under no obligation to give patients a single answer for their ailments.

Considering medicine is only in its infancy, the first antibiotic was only discovered in the late ‘20s, we can’t expect doctors to be miracle workers.

Dr. Sanders’ diagnosis of Bob? An autoimmune disorder called Sjögren’s. 

Bob was already tested for it twice.

Some issues are (almost) beyond medicine.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach