Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Oh, it's SOMETHING....

Well, today I bit the bullet and went to visit my family physician. Actually, I saw one of the nurse practitioners, which was fine by me. I described my symptoms of sharp pain in the outer parts of my arms when I try to bend them, usually toward the back, or reaching over my shoulders. It doesn't hurt when I extend them forward, it doesn't hurt when I bend at the elbow, if I don't twist in any way, but when I try to do anything beyond that, YIKES! Further, I have had headaches, daily, since about January, maybe earlier. They seem to be tension headaches, as the pain seems to emanate from the place where my neck connects to my skull, but I also have pain in my right temple (site of shingles a few years ago), and across the bridge of my nose.

The FNP, upon exam, noticed I had some sinus drainage, and I have recently been treated with Levaquin for a sinus infection, which I believe has not completely resolved. In January I was treated for a "pseudo-flu" by another nurse practitioner in this office, but it evolved into a sinus infection, and I was given Augmentin then. Around that time is when I became aware of the headaches. The arm/neck/shoulder/upper back pain has been around much longer, but I just kept thinking it would resolve on its own, since I hadn't "injured" myself.

The biggest thing this nurse did for me was hear me and validate my visit. She said she felt that I have a great deal of tension in my upper shoulder/neck/arms, which is common in women, and that I could potentially have fibromyalgia, which is what my psychiatrist said, too, and really kind of scares me. That's a diagnosis that is not taken seriously by very many, and I would hate to be labeled as such.

I have always been leery of seeing my doc unless there was something really severe going on. If you've read my past posts, you're aware of other issues (like fearing not being believed) that keep me from getting the help I probably need. Today, as I was leaving the doctor's office, I remembered this little vignette: My (now) late husband was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and atrial fibrillation on 12/23/93, which was about 2 months after we were married. His cardiac output, we learned, was about 15-20%, which meant he was on death's doorstep, quite literally. The doctor who diagnosed and admitted him was a friend and then colleague of mine (I was a training coordinator for medical software system and had been doing some billing consulting with this doc as he was just starting up his solo practice). He took me outside on Christmas Eve and told me this: "You two need to have 'the talk'. Today. This can't wait." I was stunned, to say the least, and I clarified what he meant by "the talk". He said he meant that we should settle our affairs and discuss anything that needed to be discussed in terms of plans for his death. It was really that bad. We were supposed to have left for my parents' home that December 23rd, but obviously, that couldn't happen. I called my family, who were all together at my mother's house, and told them what was going on. My mother, in her very typical fashion, refused to believe it was that serious -- **SHE THOUGHT I WAS EXAGGERATING**. Therefore, NO ONE came to be with me during this horrible time when I was watching my husband die. Mom blew it off. I was really clear that I was not important enough to interrupt other people's plans, and that I was thought to exaggerate the seriousness of things. That very day I'd had to drive across town to another hospital to retrieve hubby's medical records from his previous hospitalization a few years before for a heart issue, because it would be more expedient for me to do it, being it was Christmas Eve, than for the hospital to go through all the hoops to try to get it. I remember standing in that medical records office, getting some flack from the little clerk who was working. She could see, though, that this crying hysterical woman meant business, and I assured her verbally that if I had to find them myself, I was not leaving that office without his records, come hell or high water. I got the records.

As it turned out, hubby held on, thanks to EXCELLENT care provided by my friend the doc. The one and only difficulty we had was with a floor nurse who did not want to give him the dose of valium doc had prescribed at the time he was scheduled to receive it. Hubby had been a smoker, and was going cold turkey (obviously) with this hospitalization. When he called for his 2pm dose, she came in the room a while later and asked if he couldn't just wait. I became LIVID, and called my friend. I asked him if he had prescribed this drug at these intervals and if he meant for hubby to have it. He said of course he did. I asked if he was aware that the floor nurse was trying to wean him off this drug, after a day, and that it was making hubby very anxious? He did not know that, and I guess FLEW up to the floor and read that particular nurse the riot act in front of everyone. Needless to say, the nurses were coming in ahead of schedule with his meds from there on out. I still get angry thinking about that. But I digress...

I have also been a doctor's office manager, in a psychiatry/psychology practice, and in family medicine, as well as an ENT specialty, so I know enough to be dangerous. I am always leery of seeing a doc with a complaint of pain, for fear that I will be seen as drug-seeking, or just someone with psychosomatic symptoms. I worry about taking up the doc's valuable time with nothing, when there are patients who are more ill or in more pain than I. I worry about the money it costs to see a doctor, even if you have insurance, and I especially worry about the cost of prescriptions, even with a prescription drug plan. I worry about being labeled as a chronic complainer or a whiner. I worry about there REALLY being something serious wrong, like cancer or something equally as deadly.

Another concern is the toll this takes on my psyche -- I don't want to be 'a patient', 'sick', 'needy', etc. I worry about how this affects my husband. Now, he reads this blog, which means that he will, as usual, make a lovely statement about how much he loves me and is there for me, but that only serves to illustrate why I worry for him. He's a good man, and I hate that he's having to deal with a partner with so many issues. He's done his time with a sick wife, and I don't want to do that to him again. I also don't want to deplete our resources, and with my inability at present to work for a living, I'm totally dependent upon him and his ability to take care of us. I've never been dependent on anyone since I was about 19 years old and moved out of the house for the 1st and last time. I've always been the one who earned more and was the stronger partner, but now I'm in a completely different situation. I'm dependent on this precious man who gives everything to me so generously -- money, time, care, affection, love -- anything I need. I don't want to use that up, and I don't want him to feel burdened.

Bottom line, though, is that I got some help. I was given a prescription for a muscle relaxer and for an anti-inflammatory that is stronger and longer-lasting than the OTC things I've been taking. I've also been doing meditations and muscle relaxation, trying to avoid having to take more drugs. I have to take these things for 14 days, and if, at that time I'm not "well", the FNP will send me for x-rays, which she suspects will be benign. Then it's physical therapy, which would suit me fine.

I am hoping that I won't have to go back to see the lovely FNP who cared for me today, but if I do, I'll feel heard and paid attention to appropriately. I will feel taken seriously, which is the most healing care I think I can receive these days. Thank God or whoever for these health care providers who really listen to their patients.



1 comment:

RunAwayImagination said...

Dear WIP,

You're right. Your hubby does love you, unconditionally. Your hubby admires and respects you.

What you can't know is how much you do for me.

You listen.
You understand.
You "get" me.

Before I met you, I never knew anyone could possibly understand me to the depth you do. I have always needed you, and now I've found you.

You stand up for what you believe.

Today you helped a young lesbian couple who were struggling. Last week a local newspaper published an interview in which you proclaimed your stand in favor of human rights. You took a courageous stand in a red state. You earn my respect and admiration, because life has taught me that too few people actually stand up for what they believe.

You love my retarded sister like your own. I have never seen her respond to someone the way she responds to you. Now she has become a real part of my life for the first time, thanks to you.

You have embraced my ex-wife as a good friend. She is the mother of my children, and so it brings me deep joy to be able to maintain a friendly relationship with her, which would be impossible without your participation.

You share my dreams and understand my many passions. Thanks to you I can anticipate a rich and fulfilling life in retirement. In fact, I can't wait! Your intelligence allows me to enjoy discourse with you on my favorite deep subjects: music, writing, philosophy, politics, religion, geology, metaphysics and more.

You share my joy in discovering new places, and you let me show you new things. I can't wait for us to visit places you've never visited, such as Yellowstone, the Rockies, the Outer Banks, New England and British Columbia. The list goes on and on.

You delight me, and let me delight you, in ways that I should not say in this blog. I never knew how exciting marriage could be!

After writing these few paragraphs, I realize that I could go on forever saying what you do for me. You give me a future of joy, discovery and unbounded love.