Going to the doctors office has never been one of my favorite things to do. When I was 5 years old, I filled my suitcase and “ran away” because I was afraid to get my Kindergarten vaccines. Now, I’m all grown up and looking forward to retirement; but I’m still that 5 year old deep down inside, more afraid of doctors than ever before. Why do they have so much power over us? Why do some use that power to make us feel inferior? Eleanor Roosevelt said “No one can makes us feel inferior without our consent”, but I feel it and I don’t remember giving anyone permission? We are living in difficult times for anyone who has debilitating, intractable chronic pain. There also is no place to “run”, no matter how big your suitcase is or how much money you have. There’s no grandparents at the other end to scoop you up and tell you that “it’s going to be OK”. Mostly, because it’s NOT OK.
Have you ever seen an action/crime movie where an innocent person was being tortured and/or thrown in jail, for something they did not do? A person being “beat up” but totally innocent? This is what is happening to the chronic pain patients in America today. I’m going to share a short story about what happened to me the other day. We always think these things only happen to “other people”. That “it won’t happen to us”. That is wrong and untrue. We live in a civilized nation, or do we? How can they treat us like this?
Here is a summary of what happens to me every 30 days. Each time I have to visit the pain Dr.’s office, I get physically ill, worse than usual. A few days prior to my upcoming appointment, I get more frequent stomach aches. I want to stay inside more and just sit in my “Lazy Boy” chair, with my blanket and with my cat cuddled up next to me. I wonder if “this will be the visit that “it” happens to me”? As the appointment time gets closer, I get more clingy to home and all things comfortable to me. A fear deep inside of me grows worse and worse. Then the morning of the appointment comes. I get nausea, dry mouth, diarrhea and I don’t want to leave my house. I cannot leave because no matter how much I talk myself out of these feelings, they won’t go away. My blood pressure, which has normally been low to normal, is very high for me at about 150/95 to 155/100. I feel sick and afraid. But I’ve never smoked anything and I have never taken any kind of medication or “drug” that was not specifically prescribed to me by a licensed physician.
The time of the appointment grows closer and I get even more distressed. Sometimes I cry and I just verbalize to my husband that “I don’t want to go”. I wonder why is life so cruel to those who are already living with agonizing pain and illness? I’m not one to feel sorry for myself. I really trust and like my pain Dr. too, don’t get me wrong. But I know he’s not my “friend”. He has heard every excuse in the “book”. He has no reason to believe anyone and he must go by what he sees in text. All day long other people have ruined it for the “good patients” who don’t deserve this kind of questioning, contracts and treatment.
It’s time to leave the house. But I cannot leave the bathroom. I take a bucket with me because I don’t want to vomit in the car. It’s a 30 minute drive and my painful RSD/CRPS feet are shaking even though they hurt. I cannot control it. My husband chuckles, kindly telling me that I’m “shaking the entire car”. We arrive at the pain Dr.s office. There are cameras everywhere, in the parking lot and in the office. For all I know, theres one in the restroom? I know that I left a urine sample last time, so I feel pretty calm about that not going wrong. I had not heard from them, so Im just sure that there’s no “false positives” with me. That only happens to other people, right?
We sign in at the front desk. I answer the several questions that I am asked every 30 days now. For crying out loud, what changes in 30 days? It’s just too often to put people through this, aside from the cost. My name is called and my stomach is in knots. I’m sweating and sick to my stomach with my heart is pounding. I feel afraid and “guilty”. I hear the footsteps faintly coming down the hallway and then a knock at the door. I calm my inner fears and I tell myself “Suzanne you are a good person. You’ve never done anything wrong and you follow the directions exactly. This is crazy, why are you so afraid?” I’m afraid because of the horror stories of others who are also innocent. The pain Dr. enters the room and asks me the same questions each month. Every 30 days, the same dialogue. But this day I hear different mantra than usual. I feel as though I’m in a tunnel as I hear these words “Your urine test came back positive and I had to send it out to another lab. In case you wonder when you receive a $200.00 or $300.00 bill from an outside lab. I just wanted you to know.” I started to cry and then I was asked “why are you crying?” Next, I was informed that no matter how long he’s known me, if the test had ben positive, I would be kicked out of the practice with no place to turn. Innocent or not, I would have been “guiilty”. It doesn’t matter that these tests are many times false positives and false negatives. Nothing matters anymore. The truth doesn’t matter any longer. I was literally terrified just hearing those words come out of his mouth. I asked him “What could it be positive for? I did not do anything different?” He proceeded to tell me that I tested positive for PCP and Oxy-something? But I don’t take those! I don’t even know what “PCP” is? I had to ask and he did not answer. He could not understand why I was crying uncontrollably and inconsolably.
We had received a $265.00 bill from a lab just a few days prior. We were going to call because we thought it was a mistake. Now we are supposedly responsible for this very large bill. I never signed anything promising to pay for all of those tests? But what happens if I fight it? Next time there is a “false positive”,they won’t perform the tests, therefore I won’t be exonerated and I will be kicked out for no reason whatsoever? It was explained to me that no matter who I am, how exemplary of a patient I might be and no matter how long I’ve been going there with a perfect “record”. I will be treated as if it were my first visit and there are no second chances. We are perceived as “guilty, bad and lying” if the tests says it is so. Yes, there is a second test, but then you are hit with this grossly overblown bill and there’s no way to pay for it. The second test, of course, came back negative and I was exonerated. He told us that his regular office urine test has a “90 to 95% accuracy”. So that means every once in awhile there can be a glitch or a mistake. That means that every once in awhile someone gets hit with this huge bill, through no fault of their own.
I am tired of people telling me that I should not be on this medication. People who are supposed to love me or at least care about me. It feels like nobody understands the predicament we are in. I take medicine that still helps to relieve my pain even though I’ve been on it for quite awhile. I have almost no side effects and I’ve tried many many other medications and therapies first. This was a “last resort”. It helps and I don’t want to stop because it gives me some semblance of a life. I get the pleasure of being a grandmother. Without it, I would be in bed or in my chair 24/7. I’ve been there and done that. I don’t want to go back. I’m tired of being judged by people who don’t know me. I don’t get a “high”, and I never take more than prescribed. Why can’t I just continue to do what has worked for me? Why can’t we all? Why do we have to feel persecuted and judged? Why do we need to feel traumatized and terrorized every 30 days, to the point of feeling physically ill?
My story up to this point, ended on a positive note. My Dr. still had to send out the first test because he said that “it is the law”. I have never done anything remotely considered to be “bad” or “wrong” and definitely not “illegal”. I’m a good person who graduated college with honors. I raised my daughters mainly by myself for about 8 or 9 years. I worked full time and took care of everything and everyone who needed me. I try to be kind, thoughtful and I am always trying to think of new ways to help others. Nobody deserves to feel this way. Theres something definitely wrong with this and someone needs to fix it.