I went to a new doctor this morning and after a solid lunch of apple cider and popcorn, I’m going to try to sort out a few things we talked about today.
As is the case with most of my great doctors, I found this new one by showing up in her office pretty sure that my lungs were trying to crawl out of my body. I had been pretty sick for a month, been on one round of antibiotics already and was feeling worse than ever. She took her time, took me seriously, and decided that a better and more intense round of antibiotics would probably convince my lungs to stay put.
I always cringe when a new doctor looks through my medical chart, which comes in three or four handy volumes, since I never know what is going to come out of their mouths. I’ve heard everything from “Why did you get a mastectomy?” to “I’d like to recommend you to a mental health expert.” While I’m pretty sure I know why I got a mastectomy, I don’t think I need a psychiatrist to help me figure it out for sure. This doctor just read for a bit, looked up and said, “I think I’d like to see you again to discuss your medication”. I said something super coherent like, “Um, ok” and coughed my way out of her office.
Sometimes, it’s hard for me to talk about going to a new doctor because so many people are absolutely positive that this doctor will be the one to find me a cure for my chronic pain. I would love for that to happen, but since my life isn’t as neat and tidy as an afterschool special, I usually just take a deep breath and hope this one won’t make my cry on the way out.
When going to a new doctor, I sometimes feel like characters in novels who see fairies or mermaids and no one takes them seriously. No! Really! My body hurts. A lot. And it isn’t any disease you can name, nothing is broken, nothing is torn, nothing that we can see is in the wrong place. My kidneys are functioning, my brain is fairly normal, and on good days, I can bike 20 miles or run 8. Good days I feel like Wonder Woman. Bad ones, I’m more like Gollum. I have been x-rayed, MRI’d, and CATscanned until it’s a miracle I’m not some mutant superhero.
While it sounds funny, and my sense of humor can make just about anything funny, it’s serious and it hurts and I wish it would go away.
There were several indications that this doctor wasn’t going to make me cry. It seems silly, but one of my favorite things is that she didn’t insist that I sit on the examining table. I absolutely refuse to sit on a cold table covered with cheap paper, with my too short legs dangling over the edge unless there are medical instruments involved. If we are just talking, I can sit in this big chair like a grown up. She was also quiet, she listened again, she asked intelligent questions, she had good answers for my questions, but most importantly, she believed me! She accepted the fact that as far as we can tell, my neurological system was, probably, permanently jacked up by chemotherapy and by living so far above sea level. I love that she didn’t fight with me about that.
We talked very seriously about the kinds of drugs I’m taking, how often, and my mental approach to the medication. I don’t talk about what kind of drugs I’m on since that has gotten me nothing but grief, but suffice it to say that you won’t find them in your average medicine cabinet. She believes that my attitude towards my drugs is healthy and that I try very hard to NOT take drugs.
She also helped me understand the role of my pain doctor. I have been frustrated by how involved he was at the beginning, but when every test came back negative, we moved on to pain management. But, apparently, that’s what pain doctors do. They are the drug babysitters, making sure we all aren’t taking too much, aren’t taking too little, and aren’t going to jail for passing them out like candy.
We talked about some places in Denver and at the University of Colorado who, similar to UCLA where I went for a while, have a mindset of thinking a bit more outside the box. Or outside the jar of pills. She recommended two doctors in particular who I could refer myself to who take a more integrated approach to medicine and bodies. Which is just a fancy way of saying that they bring in chiropractors, therapists, and other holistic fields to figure out what could bring some relief.
As we were getting ready to go, she hesitated and looked me squarely in the eyes and said, “Are you looking for a cure?”. I was caught off guard since nobody has ever asked me that. I told her what I believe, which is that I don’t need a name for this, or promises that a doctor will eventually have to break. I want help. I want relief. I want more manageable days. She smiled and said, “They might be able to give you that. No promises, though.”
Then, she said something I’ll never forget. She cracked her first real smile and said, “You’re a zebra. You don’t make sense. They’ll want to work with you.”
I’m not sure what I’m going to do next. It sounds neat and tidy to go to Denver for help. I’ve been through this kind of thing before, though, and it totally throws my life out the window. It involves thousands of dollars, five to six hour days that I don’t have to give up right now, more procedures I’m not anxious to participate in. I could barely pull it off when I didn’t have Jake, but now that I do, I’m not sure it’s even possible for a while. I know that my health is a big piece of our family, but it’s still only assigned one part. I need to be sure that the other parts aren’t going to get squeezed out of the picture entirely if my health gets too dominant. I’m not ruling it out or deciding anything right now. I’m going to think about it, pray about it, and make the best decision I can.
In the meantime, I’ve decided I like being a zebra!