Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Panacea

Panacea – noun

  1. a remedy for all disease or ills; cure-all. OR 2. an answer or solution for all problems or difficulties.

Are we not all looking for a panacea – an answer to all our problems and difficulties? Personally, I find chocolate to be the closest thing! Maybe it’s not the healthiest remedy but when I think of something that can be counted on to raise my endorphin levels, chocolate comes to mind!

Recently, some friends came to visit us. They took a trip on the public bus to Bamenda. The trip averages around 6 hours in duration depending on road conditions. During those six hours, there tends to be a “captive audience” on the bus. Frequently, a hawker, will hop on the bus at one stop and jump off at the next. He has a ready audience that is typically bored and ready to listen to almost anything. Probably everyone is so tired that even a hawker can be entertaining.

Hawkers can sell just about anything! They are enthusiastic and guarantee their product with such emphasis that even the most doubtful person can’t fail to be convinced! I doubt most of them have ever heard of the placebo effect, but, if they had, they certainly use it to it’s fullest potential.

“Ee go heal every problem!” he shouted in loud Pidgin. “If you drink dis medicine, you get fit for all your skin!” The hawker goes on to list the numerous common illnesses that his German Liniment can cure: general body pains, nerves problems, rheumatic pains, head ache, sinuses, respiratory infections, filaria, eye itches, lumbago, eczema, ringworm, fungi! The list covers just about everything one can imagine!

Most of the people on the bus stared blankly. Jammed into the bus like a herd of sheep, they manifest a patient fortitude on this bumpy, long journey. It’s a perseverance that is perfected over years of practice. Although most Cameroonians complain about waiting, they are well-practiced in this essential ‘art’. Funerals, weddings, business meetings, buses, meals, scholastic opportunities, church services; the list is endless, are spent in waiting. These waits provide opportunities for communication and interactions. At this time, it is providing a chance for an entrepreneurial hawker to sell his wares.

“Ee go cure all your skin!” he claims. “No be big money. No be dear (it is not expensive),” he repeats throughout the bus.

Some of the passengers on the bus decide to purchase their cure-all. Maybe they figure that even if it doesn’t cure half of what it claims, the stuff might help a little. Culturally, people don’t save up money and usually only have small amounts at a time. People live “hand to mouth” as the saying goes. When they have, they feast. When they have not, they starve. Here is a chance for a quick cure that is within their financial means. Why not try it?

My friends decide to purchase a bottle of this magical liniment out of curiosity. Interestingly, the stuff smells like paint thinner or nail polish remover, depending on who sniffs the bottle! The applications are numerous. “for rheumatism, put 3 drops in ½ glass of water and drink. Massage all over body to ease pains. Inhale through the nostrils for eye infection, catarrh, and sinuses. For cough put a drop on cube of sugar.”

When I think about people drinking turpentine to cure their ailments I am less surprised by the sheer number of stomachaches that I treat on a daily basis. “My belly bites,” is among the top 10 chief complaints. So many sick people, so many cures. Not all of them are effective or even safe. This particular panacea is just one among many I have seen or heard about. Other ‘guaranteed cures” include quail eggs eaten raw, juice made from mushrooms, ginseng root, various teas and poultices, papaya leaf enemas, and others that I cannot remember right now. In fairness, I am not opposed to herbal remedies and natural treatments. When one ingredient claims to cure everything, I am a bit suspicious. God created our bodies with amazing innate healing properties. He has given man medical knowledge on how to take care of his or her body to assist in healing. This can be physical as well as emotional or Spiritual healing. My prayer is that I can help patients find the healing that they need. I do not have the loud hype and ‘guaranteed cure’ for every ailment. But, I do collaborate with the greatest Physician of them all though, Jesus Christ. He is more than a panacea. He helps people to heal from the inside out. Sometimes, he brings physical healing through proper medications. At other times, I believe God brings peace to the troubled soul that brings a healing greater than the physical. It is a healing that calms the anxious heart, brings joy to sad and desperate people, and gives hope to those who live in despair. God pours His love into us as we serve the sick. That love helps people to heal. It is free and it is non-toxic!

“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:5