Yesterday I got a first hand lesson on the different faces of medicine as it was my long awaited trip to the pain clinic. It was not the afternoon I expected it to be.
My stomach churned the entire car ride. The 25 minutes drive seemed to last forever. So I walked in, handed my stack of paperwork to the woman at the window, and sat in a less than comfy chair. Side note: you would think a pain clinic would invest in more ergonomic seats. Anyways, I hoped that it wouldn’t matter because I would be called back soon. The minutes ticked by. About an hour later, I heard the woman at the window let a patient know that they were running a little behind due to computer trouble. That would have been nice to know an hour ago.
So finally the nurse came to get me. Success! So I thought. She was only moving me to another room to wait for another hour. A room that I believe that they use to also hang meat because it was freezing. And had no magazines. Awesome.
At the two hour mark, I was moved to the exam room. Shortly thereafter Dr. McLate (who I would come to know as Dr B) made an appearance with his catch line, “Tell me where you are hurting.” By that point I honestly wanted to slap him. We went through my medical history – the usual. He went over the notes of my referring doctor and let me know that he didn’t agree at all with his recommended treatment. Ok – no nerve block. I was ok with that. Then he went through the list of possible treatments. Conservative – over the counter medications, physical therapy, herbs, etc and ended with “those probably aren’t going to work.” Then it was anti-inflammatories – celebrex, aleve, etc and ended with “those probably aren’t going to do much either.” Then it was alternative treatments – acupuncture, aromatherapy, etc and ended with you guessed it “those probably aren’t going to be effective either.” The last option was prescription pain medicines which he would give but didn’t want to as tolerance and addiction becomes an issue which would end with “not being effective.”
So basically in the end, nothing was going to be effective. In his words he stated, “I hate to tell you that there is nothing that can be done to treat the source of your pain and honestly you can only expect it to get worse. That’s life.”
So that is what I learned from my visit. I did get a prescription for pain meds – after peeing in a cup to provide I wasn’t already an addict and a contract vowing not to become one.
Today’s visit however was quite different. Going to my primary doctor is almost like visiting family. I know all of the staff and they all pretty much know me thanks to my frequent flier miles. They all ask about Abby and want to see pictures. The lab nurse knows exactly where to look for a vein (and is seriously the only one among the various offices I see that does not have to use a butterfly needle – my veins are that bad). Its comforting after the string of bad doctors visits lately.
Dr. H comes in and we chit chat for a few minutes before getting down to business and she has to haul out my massive file. We started with my visit to Duke Center for Endometriosis and the doctor’s apparent belief that the Center for Endometriosis Care (CEC) is infallible. Don’t get me wrong. I had a great experience with the doctors at the CEC but they are not the cure. It is entirely possible for endometriosis to return after the surgery at the renowned CEC even though he believed that it was impossible for my endometriosis to have returned at my hysterectomy (though it not only returned but got massively worse). We both agreed on a short description for him (I’ll let you take some guesses on your own).
Then we moved onto yesterday. While unfortunately the times call for crazy strict rules on obtaining pain meds, it was unfortunate the way the appointment played itself out. It is true that we are to a point where we are out of a lot of options. Surgery is not an option and we’ve tried just about everything else under the sun. I cried (as usual) and she listened with a sympathetic ear.
Then the appointment took a turn. She said, “I have never written a patient out for disability but maybe its something to consider.” I wanted to both breathe a sigh of relief and break down. I never ever EVER wanted to come to a point to consider the big D but to know that my pain is validated and understood to be severely impacting my life was affirming. So we are doing a trial run. I am out of work for the next four weeks to see how it affects my pain levels. Abby’s daycare is taken care of for December so I will have the time at home to rest.
I don’t plan on this next four weeks being a vacation on the couch eating bon-bons and watching soaps but I want it to be a time of healing. I want my body to heal. I want to my mind to heal. And most importantly I want my spirit to heal. I feel like the life has been completely drained out of me and now I have a change to recharge and refuel. While I know this will be hard financially (in the midst of the holidays especially) I think it is a wise choice.
I go back in four weeks and we will reassess everything and decide whether I go back to work or take a longer leave (thank goodness for disability insurance!).
It does however require other changes as well. I have modified my Holiday Hoedown goals to reflect changes in physical activity. While Dr. Lovely wants me to be active, I need to drop it down a level and be very gradual about raising intensity. So my 5k will have to wait. I am still going to try hard to raise money for Team Gluten-Free for the race since I committed to it but I will not be physically competing. It makes me sad (really sad) but I know its the right thing. I can put my registration fee towards next year’s race so I won’t be out any race fees.
The last 48 hours have been a whirlwind and I have found myself really feeling defeated, depressed, and wanting to give up. But then I remind myself of the words of one of my favorite songs, You Don’t Own Me by Disciple, and that my pain doesn’t have to own me. It is a part of me yes but it doesn’t have to break me.