Exorcising the Evil Cholesterol Spirits

a radio commentary broadcast on Jefferson Public Radio's The Jefferson Daily
Tuesday, June 24, 1997
(c)1997 by Fred Flaxman

HOST: Like many of us, commentator Fred Flaxman has a cholesterol problem. When he decided to do something about it, he went to a medical doctor... or was it another kind of doctor?

FLAXMAN: Once upon a time doctors used blood-letting to get rid of evil spirits. Their patients had great faith in them, even though the price of treatment was often a bit excessive. They paid with their lives.

Well I went to a general practitioner a few months ago, not a witch doctor. But there wasn't much difference. What he did was very much what a sorcerer would have done. Only the words he used were different.

"You should have a blood test," he advised, as he stuck a needle in my vein and blood oozed into a vial. It looked like old-fashioned blood-letting to me.

Instead of showing the red liquid to trolls or elves, he sent it out to an exotic laboratory where - for $95 - they performed some mysterious rites on it and determined that my body was inhabited by many evil spirits. Too many. More than 300.

Of course they didn't call these "evil spirits," because that wouldn't have sounded very modern or justified the use of high-tech, expensive equipment. Instead, they spoke of "cholesterol."

Like spirits, cholesterol comes in two types: angelic and evil. The bad cholesterol must be reduced, the doctor said, or I could be struck down at any moment by a heart attack or stroke. A witch doctor would have said that the evil spirits inhabiting my body must be exorcised or I would fall victim to a curse.

So, having at least as much faith in modern medicine as so-called primitive people have in magicians, I agreed to undergo the rights of exorcism. I stopped eating foods that a special clan of contemporary conjurers, called nutritionists, have determined are inhabited by too many of these demons. I sacrificed eating pigs, cows and chicken eggs, though an occasional low-cholesterol frog or lizard was OK. I made a daily ritual of eating herbs and fibers, especially a magical essence called oat bran. And I swallowed a little tablet each evening that sent angels or anti-devils or something into my blood to fight and destroy the evil cholesterol wherever it was.

I was a true believer, there's no doubt. I accepted on complete and utter faith my doctor's word that cholesterol exists, even though I have never seen, heard or smelt one. I believed unquestioningly the laboratory report. I had complete faith in the M.D. when he told me that I have a high risk of dying at any moment if I don't drastically change my lifestyle and eating habits, even though I've never felt better in my life. And I believed with almost religious fervor in the little pill I had to take each day -- even though it could have been a placebo, for all the apparent effects it had on my body. At more than one dollar each, I had to believe that these pills were doing some good.

Every six weeks I went back to my modern medicine man and had my blood (and money) drawn again. Each time he'd send the red liquid out to the little elves in Purgatory or Lavatory or wherever they were, and lists of incomprehensible numbers would come back a couple of days later which only a witch could decipher.

The last time I went to the doctor he told me that some of the evil spirits had left my body, but I still had many more than was good for my health. If I refrained from ingesting all the things I love most and kept swallowing that pricey pill every night for the rest of my life, I might keep the demons and heart attacks at bay. But, if I really wanted to get my bad cholesterol down to what he considered to be a safe level, I'd have to double the dose of the megabuck medicine... and, I guess, give up eating altogether.

I can't help but think that witch doctors weren't so off-the-wall, after all. This is Fred Flaxman.

HOST: Commentator Fred Flaxman fights the evil spirits from his home in southern Oregon, where he is writing a book called Sixty Slices of Life... on Wry.