A Skeptic’s Tale

GooseI was more than skeptical when my friend Liz told me she was consulting Dr. Khalsa. Liz’s dog Buddy, following a number of bouts with chronic illness, had been most recently diagnosed with cancer. Liz had the chemotherapy treatments in her refrigerator, but as a last ditch effort wanted to try this holistic vet located on the other side of the globe. My end of the conversation, eyebrow raised, went something like this: “So the vet is never going to see Buddy? Talk over the phone? Send a hair sample?” I like to think I’m pretty open-minded, but the most I could muster was, “Well, you need to do what you think is right.”

Weeks passed. Liz would mention Buddy’s “treatments” and sweet potato diet. There was also something about a Native American water. “This,” I thought to myself, “is how desperate these animals can make a bright, educated, articulate woman.” Liz thought Buddy was definitely getting better; he was more active, playful, the bouts of explosive diarrhea had subsided (Liz is known for her over-sharing). Psych 101:It all sounded like the placebo effect to me. While I never said it, I thought a number of times, “Liz, your dog has CANCER; that does not go away with the wave of a magic wand and some sweet potatoes.”

I vividly remember my tipping point. Liz had a follow-up appointment with her regular vet, you know, the one that actually touches Buddy. They were going to take follow-up x-rays of Buddy’s lungs where they had initially seen the cancer. Total moment of truth time. When I asked how it went, Liz announced: “The cancer is gone.”
Me: “What?”
Liz: “Gone.”
Me: “On the x-rays?”
Liz: “Nothing.”
Me: “Same vet?”
Liz: “Yep.”
Me: “That… Really…? How could…? Gone? What’s that voodoo doctor’s website?”

I have Goose because I needed cat food on the weekend. The local Petco has cat adoptions every weekend, and I know I’m weak so I try to time my visits during the week. That Saturday I tried not to look in the direction of the kittens, but there he was, all solid grey with gold-green eyes. I had always wanted a grey cat, and before I knew it, I was signing adoption papers. Careful what you wish for…

Goose, now four, around age one started plucking tufts of hair from his back. At first, it was occasional, hardly even noticeable. As the problem escalated, I would come home from work and find piles of hair in all of his usual hangouts. To watch him do it was painful. He would attack his back and rip the hair in frenetic waves. My cat was self-mutilating like an angsty teenage girl. Good thing he couldn’t open the knife drawer. I made an appointment with my regular vet. She did blood tests, fungus tests, bacteria tests, parasite tests, even IQ tests (just kidding)… all were inconclusive. My vet’s best guess was food allergies. We started trying different prescription limited ingredient diets. We had three cats at the time, and there was always somebody who didn’t like the food. Separate feedings were impossible and nightmarish. Weeks would pass, and it seemed like the plucking was subsiding, maybe the food was working, some hair would start to grow back, and then suddenly, the tell tale piles would appear, oftentimes accompanied with bouts of diarrhea and near daily vomiting. Goose was scrawny, usually weighing around seven pounds, and the 2×4 bald patch on his back was beyond unsightly. This ebb and flow cycle continued for over two years. We concluded that Goose’s allergies were partly food and partly seasonal. We would control what we could with diet, and then medicate through the bad stretches. I knew he didn’t feel well, but I was helpless, and certain we had exhausted our options.

Then, along came Liz and this amazing story of Buddy’s recovery. Really, it sounded ridiculous, but what did I have to lose? I read about N.A.E.T. on doctordeva.com and emailed Dr. Khalsa with Goose’s tale of woe. The following Saturday I was standing on line at the post office to mail a sample of Goose’s hair to New Zealand. I wasn’t prepared for the contents-of-envelope question and flushed with embarrassment as I whispered, “my cat’s hair.” I could no longer deny my husband’s “cat lady” accusations. And this was only the beginning.

Dr. Khalsa e-mailed following the hair sample analysis to set up the phone consultation. Goose needed what had to be an unprecedented nine treatment vials. The list of what Goose was allergic to was absurd. I think the only thing he was not allergic to was himself. My husband had a field day with my journey into the world of holistic veterinary medicine. He delighted in telling friends and family that I had invented new and unusual ways to spend money on this cat.

The mockery reached new levels when the vials arrived in the little brown envelope from New Zealand.The customs form read “scented water.” Liz stopped by to show me the “technique.” Worst of all was the fact that the vials were never to be opened, only placed by Goose’s head while I “tapped” on his spine for three minutes every day. With the nine vials, it added up to a 45-day commitment. Goose was a wiggler so I couldn’t do the treatments alone. I needed my husband’s help to hold him. My husband adopted the same look each night, part resignation and part disgust. I liked to joke that his negative energy was a detriment to the aura of healing. Our friends were literally in stitches over the story of the magic potions in sealed bottles. We had the comedy routine down, and I played along, figuring at the very least, I had bought a great story to entertain others. But then…

Suddenly months had passed without Goose plucking a one hair. I thought maybe it was just an unusually long stretch of him feeling good. Surely it was only a matter of time before I happened upon a nest of plucked hair and felt the wave of dread wash over me (I can be pretty dramatic.) But there was no denying it, this was out of the ordinary. Not only had his hair grown in; he was filling out, had stopped vomiting, and was playing like a kitten. I was so afraid of a relapse that I said nothing, figuratively holding my breath with hope. Goose had his regular check-up at the vet, and he had gained over a pound. Really? My mother, who affectionately referred to Goose as Rat because of his pathetic appearance,came to visit, and she said, “That’s not the same cat.” I literally welled up when a friend, fishing for the latest comedic update, inquired: “How’s kitty’s vapor treatment going?”

My husband: “I think it worked.”

We are about six months from the last day of N.A.E.T. treatment. The skeptic in me is still a little afraid to breathe, but I too think it worked.