T H E S T U D I O EXCEPTION
WHAT 10 YEARS OF ILLNESS TAUGHT ME ABOUT MEDICINE
I was very young when I had my son, Liam. In many ways, he and I grew up together. When he was 12 years old and I was starting my first year of medical school, he had his first seizure. Within a year and a half, he was having hundreds of seizures every day, and he had dementia. He started high school with a bright future ahead of him, but from there, it was all downhill. His independence was quickly taken from him, and he was constantly under heavy medication in an attempt to control his seizures. The next several years of medical school were challenging. I was caring for my son, so I walked with him as he lost his sense of normal. In fact, he was forced to reinvent “normal” on a regular basis with each day harder than the next. By my third year of medical school, Liam had dementia, a complete loss of independence, and quite a bit of frustration to deal with in addition to hundreds of daily seizures. It was through the lens of rapid and dramatic decline that we saw, clearly, the limitations of medicine — not just the limitations of medical intervention but especially the emotional limitations of medicine. I realized that in scary situations like mine, practitioners are afraid they can’t help you. This fear leads to hopelessness. It is in the practitioner’s hopelessness that the patient feels abandoned. The feelings of abandonment are devastating and also motivating. Oftentimes in functional medicine, I am a last stop for people. Many of my patients have been to doctor after doctor looking for answers. When it’s the truth, I look them in the eye and tell them I don’t have all the answers for them. But I promise them I will be with them through it every step of the way. I’m not afraid of anyone or their illness. My patients aren’t coming to me expecting that I can solve their problem. They’re coming to me for guidance and counsel and to have somebody who
can be with them through it all. Liam was 23 years old when he passed away. My experience caring for him taught me that it isn’t the dying that is difficult; it’s the living. My firsthand understanding of that truth has been and will continue to be what drives the success of my practice. When Liam was sick, he had the best physicians in the world: the head of neurology at Boston Children’s Hospital and doctors at Dartmouth. But even they didn’t have answers. Through his journey with illness, we realized there are many different options out there, and because we were open to those options, we found some relief. Acupuncture, nutrition, meditation, and yoga were all helpful. I keep an open mind. If one of my patients told me they pray to a red rock they’d found in their backyard because they found Jesus in it, I’d pray to it with them. I don’t understand everything, and I don’t have all the answers. That said, my practice at Doctors Studio is rooted in science and biochemistry. Ten years is a long time to live with an illness that seemed to come on suddenly. Most physicians don’t really understand what it is like to be ill or to have a sick loved one, but I do. I understand the complexities of that journey. I understand what it’s like to have the most beautiful family and be the picture of health one day and then, the next day, to have that future taken from you. I earned that understanding through 10 years of caring for, and ultimately losing, Liam. We can’t control everything. That’s just the nature of the human condition. But we can control a lot more than we think we can, and understanding how to be an active participant in securing your own wellness is a powerful first step in taking that control.
I earned that understanding through 10 years of caring for, and ultimately losing, Liam.
—Dr. Lisbeth Roy
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