From whence I’ve come

I was surprised by the number of comments to yesterday’s post about Trigeminal Neuralgia. A reader posted it on the TNA Facial Pain Association Facebook site, which brought new readers to my blog. I read heartbreaking stories and learned about what people suffer with this terrible disorder.

A couple of people said they tried alternative therapies, but were still on the drug. Others said they experienced life-threatening side effects from the drug. And a couple of people suggested that I wasn’t very smart about my choice not to take the drug.

That’s because they do not know from whence I come.

I have a lifetime of experience trying to find a balance between what allopathic medicine has to offer and what alternative therapies have to offer.

The TN diagnosis is not the first I’ve had to deal with.

Today I received another diagnosis. This one four years overdue. After five podiatrists, four physical therapists, a nerve conduction test, three MRI’s, two bone scans, and numerous x-rays, a simple ultrasound revealed a peroneal tendon tear in my right ankle and cuboid syndrome in the cuboid joint, something I’ve suspected all along, but no one could confirm.

Two years ago this same podiatrist said I had arthritis. I’ve given up walking and hiking, two of my loves. I’ve been depressed and hopeless, not because I’m depressed and hopeless, but because no one could help me find the answer and I couldn’t walk around the block, let alone across the living room, without pain. And now the same syndrome is developing in the left ankle and cuboid.

A year ago, the same doctor who gave me Monday’s TN diagnosis suggested I take an anti-depressant because I had what he referred to as a “chronic pain cycle,” as if it was in my head, and I needed “to get on with my life.”  He never stopped to consider that I might have a reason for the pain.

I knew all along there was a reason. But I was the only one.

I didn’t give up. I went to a new podiatrist who also didn’t know what was wrong, but she was willing to refer me to a physical therapist of my choice with Therapeutic Associates. He hung in with me and kept looking for answers. He’s encouraged me to do strengthening exercises and has done hands-on physical therapy. He’s the one who arranged for me to go back to the podiatrist for the ultrasound—and met me there.

We will find a way to heal this pain. The podiatrist said surgery isn’t a good option because if a person doesn’t have tendonitis before surgery, they will after. At least he was honest. For a change.

But my journey with doctors didn’t start four years ago.

When I was 18 and about to be married, my fiancé and I agreed I would work while he got his college degree. That meant birth control. In the 60s doctors prescribed 5 mg doses instead of .5 mg doses given today. I went off the pill when I was 22, expecting to get pregnant. I didn’t ovulate.  A doctor gave me Clomid, a drug to promote ovulation. That didn’t work. USC medical doctors suggested Pergonal, a drug that can cause a litter. I refused, knowing I wasn’t equipped for more than one at a time.  At Utah medical center, I was told to have an ovarian section. I still don’t know what that means, except cutting.

Six years later and a few years after my divorce I was told I was at risk for intrauterine cancer because I wasn’t having periods. I cried for two hours and a month later had my first period in six years. They remained irregular. But at that point I decided that if God wanted me to have a baby, I’d have a baby. But without medical intervention. Thirteen years after I went off the pill, and seven years after my divorce, I dropped a random egg, who, along with a “random” sperm, (that doesn’t mean I was sleeping around…it means I was rarely spending time with my boyfriend) is the son for whom I’m deeply grateful.

For years before I became pregnant–and even after–I blamed doctors for misleading me about the pill, and blamed them for not knowing how to help me. I prayed and did counseling and grieved for those lost babies. It wasn’t as if I had miscarriages or stillbirths I could mourn, but their absence was a loss.

But it was my choice to take the pill. My choice to forego drugs and surgeries, which might have helped me have a baby.

Instead, I decided to trust God and the body He had given me to heal. He’s had to do some heart work as well.

That doesn’t mean I would recommend other infertile couples wait it out. That was simply my choice.

My experience with the doctors also led me to become a midwife and health educator. I helped women and their families have choice about the birth they had either been denied before or the birth they envisioned. In 1966, I stopped doing births for a variety of reasons, but the passion for medical consumers to have choice and to exercise their intuition and body-knowledge remains strong.

I have experienced other medical challenges, each giving me fodder for my position. However, that position does not mean I won’t seek medical help when needed. I had a tumor on my thyroid removed in 2004 and take thyroid medication daily. I had unsettling heart palpitations after our trip to California to bury mom’s ashes. One evening I went to the emergency room, where kind and supportive medical staff reassured me I was having benign premature heart beats. I declined the beta blockers, later had a stress test, and went to an acupuncturist. She prescribed GABA and Glycine, two amino acids and did needles. The palpitations are gone.

I made choices for my good based on my experiences, utilizing the best of both worlds, traditional and alternative.

So if anyone tells me it’s not smart to take a drug that’s offered five minutes after I’ve walked in the door, I’d say, think again. I know better.