Bullies

I don’t know if I can really look back at this objectively, but I’m going to try.

Growing up, I had one parent out of four who really, really didn’t approve of me. I was always too fat. It made him really upset that my hair fell out in perfectly round circles – what was up with that? I must have been doing something to myself, I should just stop it! (But it was my body attacking itself.) He told me that he loved my sister more than me because she was the first born, and my brother more than me because he was the boy he always wanted.

While I was still in elementary school, we moved from a large city to a very tiny town of 300. This was right in the middle of my awkward years when I couldn’t figure out what to wear on my strange new body and my teeth were still crooked like I could eat a carrot through a fence because the dentist wanted to wait a few more years before recommending braces. Fifth grade was brutal. I had almost no friends the entire year because a girl from my class (who was tall, also awkward, with blond frizzy hair and shifty eyes) gave me a horrible nickname and meanly declared that no one could be friends with me or come near me. She got one of the boys in our class to write me love letters as a joke. He then made a big deal of “breaking up” with me, or as much as you can break up with someone after a few badly written letters, and their little group passed around what I wrote to him. (Imagine my surprise when I visited my step-cousin’s cousin’s house and it was HER house a few years later. I thought she was going to shit her pants. I had no idea where my step-aunt was taking us, I was just riding with everyone.)

I also had bullies on my bus. They didn’t just pick on me, my sister was a target too. Our bus ride was a long one, nearly an hour in the mornings and about 40 minutes in the afternoons. The worst of them was the stop immediately before ours but still quite a distance from our house because we’re talking farm country. She was MEAN. ROTTEN. The others were further along the route. One was a girl in my class who has always been very mean spirited. Her whole family has taken on the same persona as her mom; her dad busted his ass, but it seems that her mom was never happy with that and was always focused on appearances and putting her dad down. So that’s what she embraced. So I was an easy target. Fat, awkward, and crooked teeth. There was a scrawny boy, I think he may have been a year younger than me, also part of their little group, that my sister ended up punching because he lifted her skirt. It’s too bad she didn’t break his nose. And then the last regular in that group was another girl, who, again, was spiteful. She was good friends with the girl with the nasty mom and she seemed to thrive on the nastiness herself. (As a side note, I have become friends with some of these people on Facebook to see if anything has changed. It hasn’t.)

I’m just going to skip way ahead here, to the bullies online. First there’s the guys who have dating profiles on the various dating websites. After a few decades of doing online dating between being in relationships, I have decided to not use online dating anymore as a means to find connections, because it can be pretty brutal. In my 20s and into my 30s, there were times when I would take things that were said to me very personally. It was really tough to let stuff go. This was also the time when I was in the process of losing all of my hair, so I was really self-conscious of my appearance and didn’t really know how to initiate the conversation about looking like Mr. Clean to prospective dates (or guys that I had already been out with a bunch of times). But everything nasty that was said to me was excused by the guys as being in the interest of not wanting to waste time. They HAD to say it. They couldn’t wait. They couldn’t filter. I had to take it or they would move on. They had to be shitty. If I couldn’t handle it, then it was my problem and not theirs. How can you reason with that anyway?

Now of course we’re in the era of Facebook. We thought this would be a fad that lasted maybe 5 years, maybe a bit more. But they keep changing the algorithms so we stay hooked. I try to take breaks, but they usually only last 4 of my waking hours. Facebook is filled with all kinds of ills. I belong to some rare disease patient groups because I know it’s likely I will hear something I’m not aware of, and it’s also a good way for me to keep track of doctors and medications. I don’t often comment, though. I will see the same people posting – sometimes daily. I know that some people need to find any reason to connect. It drives me a little batty because sometimes they ask, “Has anyone tried ______?” and of course there was just a long discussion about it the day before. If I have something different and useful to say, I will add to the discussion.

Recently in one of the groups, a guy posted that he was taking hydroxychloroquine for our condition, the same as what “cures the virus.” That really upset me, because first of all, no one takes that medication for our condition. It’s the wrong medication. Second, that medication also does not treat COVID-19. So I posted that along with scientific journal articles, plus the CDC directive stating that that med should not be used because it has caused people to die. Suddenly 4 guys jumped on and said all kinds of personal things about me, including one who said he hoped I didn’t have children – as if that related to me correcting this misinformation that this guy put up in the first place. So a few days later he came back on and said he did indeed put the wrong medicine up, that he was actually given an antibiotic of a completely (not even close) name. No one apologized to me for being shitty to me. Then two days ago from today, a woman jumped on and was shitty to me, telling me I was off topic and I should apologize for that. I wrote back and told her that ignoring all of the other posts and focusing on me for correcting misinformation, misinformation that the original guy admitted he was responsible for, was shitty. Then she just wrote another line saying, “Well, it was off topic.” Yep, it sure was, initiated by the original guy. But I’m going to correct it with science every time if someone else is going to put the wrong info out there.

Just yesterday, I was in another patient group for another rare disease. It’s a little more difficult for me to describe everything that happened or is happening with my brain and cerebrospinal fluid in a short enough paragraph that will make sense. Part of that is conveying this understanding that my symptoms are unusual and disarming to the doctors, to say the least. A fellow patient basically called me a liar. My fuse is pretty short these days, so I tend to stomp and snort once as warning, and that’s all you get. After that I will cut a bitch. I explained how many doctors I had encountered (over 100 in 10 years) and being banned from the Mayo in writing, and added that Barrow had just told me to go to a “neighborhood neurologist” because they didn’t know who to send me to in their own organization. This other patient continued on her crusade to tell me that I didn’t know what I was talking about and there was no way I could guess that doctors hadn’t seen my symptoms before. So I told her congratulations on deciding to be a bully to a fellow patient. In fact, all of the doctors were stumped by my symptoms, their words.

Also not too long ago was the issue with my cousin who lives on the east coast. He told me to get off my lazy ass when I became disabled after the ten failed brain surgeries (but before the issues with my vertebrae and the bones in my hands starting to fuse together). I did mention this before, but I didn’t hesitate to tell him to eat a bag of dicks. He is a drunk bully, and I just kind of feel sorry for his wife and daughters.

I’m 46 years of age now. There’s certain things you stop caring about, I suppose, but I think my thing is bullies. I mean, really, I think I’ve experienced them all. My feelings just aren’t getting hurt anymore. After the most recent exchanges, I did a temperature check and I felt nothing. That parental bullying is gone. My cousin hasn’t ever really been in my life. Elementary school is long done. I haven’t ridden a school bus since 10th grade. I’m definitely not doing online dating anymore, I think I gave that the old college try and then some. And those patient groups…well, now I can just scroll past them. Sometimes I get random comments online because of articles that have been posted that I respond to. Those are usually the lowest of the low. I think I remember one lady telling me to “get that thing in the middle of your forehead fixed.” I still have no idea what she was trying to say. It seems no one else did either because she didn’t get any responses or reactions.

I think one of the truest tests was after an exchange with complete strangers in a comment section, a stranger sent me a message that said, “Have you been drinking? You must be lol” and I was thinking, wow, he came all the way over here just to say that. No imagination. He’s the laziest bully ever.

It’s Hard Out Here For A Crip

[This isn’t a plea for more help. I try to spread my requests out, because everyone has their own lives. I have actually had certain friends get mad at me because I asked for help more than once in a year. So in the spirit of friendship no, I don’t need anyone to get my groceries or prescriptions.]

Facebook is great until it’s not. Just hang with me as I explain this.

I’ve got so many medical conditions, allergies, prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and supplements that I have everything alphabetized on a sheet that I keep updating and printing every time I go to appointments. I can’t remember everything. I’ve got two injections that I give myself every week in my stomach and thighs, and it’s possible I’ll be getting a third. One of them really hurts and it takes a long time to push the syringe down; my hands cramp up and a few times I didn’t go long enough and have shot the solution all over myself when I pulled the needle out. (I hate wasting that precious medication.)

Nothing is simple with my healthcare. I just got done coordinating a treatment for hidradenitis suppurativa, which means I have to fly to Minnesota for two different lasers and get Pronox gas since Lidocaine doesn’t work on me topically. One of the issues we had to figure out was what to do about me breathing back OUT into the air – what if I was breathing out contaminated microbes and spreading COVID-19? So the office had to track down a device to add to the machine. It took me a week and a half to put everything together and find flights/hotel that I could afford that would also work with the office’s schedule.

At the same time, I was also scheduling surgery for some scarred areas with the hidradenitis suppurativa. Again, since I don’t get numb from Lidocaine, I have to be put under completely to get the spots removed. They are not going to be closed up but rather left open because of the nature of the condition; it’s better not to make a tunnel, that would just encourage the disease to start again in those spots. So now I have to also reschedule other doctor appointments because I will be uncomfortable for a couple of weeks, especially since I can’t take pain medications because of mast cell activation syndrome.

I met with a new cardiologist because I’ve been having major problems with pitting edema, despite being on a very high dose of spironolactone. He put me through a very thorough ECG and ultrasound of my heart and carotid artery, and wants me to have a tilt table test performed. I have a resting heart rate of 110+ now but a very normal blood pressure which sometimes dips low and have had the diagnosis of POTS since 2017 (but symptoms since 2000), but he wants to be sure that that is what I’m still dealing with. When it gets into the summer months here in Phoenix, it gets a lot harder for me to deal with the heat, and I get closer to blacking out frequently, even in my apartment with air conditioning.

I saw my OB/GYN because I still have cysts in my breasts. I get checked every six months. So far they haven’t changed in size, so I might be able to go once a year.

I was being lectured by my primary care doctor and rheumatologist about being on steroids long term for ankylosing spondylitis. I told them that going off for even a day is very impactful, but of course, they didn’t believe me, so I had to demonstrate it. I went off for 7 days and then went in to my rheumatologist’s nurse practitioner. She saw my hands twisted, red and inflamed to three times the size of what is normal, and also observed the spasms in my back that also severely affected my breathing. I’m allergic to all NSAIDs including ibuprofin and naproxen sodium because of mast cell activation syndrome, so I’m not able to take anything besides Tylenol at this point, which is absolutely unhelpful. After seeing for herself, she agreed to continue the steroids. (Side note: the cardiologist told me that I obviously gained weight on the steroids because I was eating more. Wrong. I eat about 1,000-1,2000 calories a day. Doctors love to shame women. One of my fellow patients was told to lose weight when she only weighed 95 pounds at 5’4″.)

I went back in to Barrow to follow up on an EEG. I had reacted to the strobe light even though it hadn’t been noted on the report and the tech saw it happening and kept asking if I was okay. I also have been having issues with my tongue and mouth going numb, and my left arm has been having spasms. I know that my brain has had changes that are different from the last two MRIs. This appointment was set up with a nurse practitioner because the neurologist I previously had left Barrow (yes!!! he was horrible), so we had never met. It seemed like she understood what I was explaining about my history. She left the room, came back, and said, “We’re really specific here, and no one knows what to do with you. Can you just go to a neighborhood neurologist? Maybe they will know what to do with you.” Seriously. When I go to a neurologist who is outside of a big organization like Barrow, they throw up their hands and say, “But I’m just a neighborhood neurologist!! What do you want from me?” The NP gave me two names as a suggestion, but since I saw a different doctor in the same office already, I can’t see anyone else.

My thyroid stopped working at optimal, which explains why I was feeling extra tired and achy, and looking even more like a defensive tackle. Whenever that happens my cholesterol also goes through the roof. So I had to adjust all those meds again.

I’m being monitored for clotting by an oncologist/hematologist, so I had to go in for more tests. Right now it looks like my factor IV and fibrinogen are high. The fibrinogen makes sense because of what has happened to all of my shunts.

I need to have a laser treatment on my gums and one of my molars pulled but that has to be put off indefinitely because of the current situation. These are complications in my mouth because of mast cell activation syndrome. I can’t ever get dental implants, also because of mast cell activation syndrome – I’m allergic to metal, cement and glue/bonding.

Throughout all of this, I’m also trying to coordinate all of my meds. Some are traditional meds that I can get through a place like Walgreen’s. However, I’ve encountered some shortages. So it’s been left up to me to follow up to try to figure out how to get them. One of my meds I couldn’t get for FOUR months. Some of my medications have to be compounded because they aren’t available in the form I need to take them on the regular market. For instance, one is available as an eye drop, but I need to be able to take it as a pill. But the prescribing doctor is in Minnesota, and I’m overdue to see him, and he can’t do a televisit because I’m not physically in MN. None of my other doctors will write the script. See how this shit gets complicated? Besides that, I also had to go through the approval process multiple times for the shots because I failed out of multiple medications. I talked, I faxed, I talked some more, I faxed some more, I scanned, I talked, I waited on hold, I faxed, I scanned, I faxed…you get the idea. Oh, and they also ran credit checks on me. That’s something new all of them are doing. They are saying it’s because they want to make sure I’m getting all the benefits I can get, but obviously that’s a big fat lie. I’m wondering who they are withholding medication from. Drug manufacturers have a lot of power.

That sums up everything I have been dealing with for the past couple of months.

I’m on Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), which means I worked before I became disabled. In fact, the judge that decided my case said I truly worked as much as I possibly could before I really couldn’t work anymore. I now fall into the category of having a very low income, but it’s not low enough to receive any additional help. I don’t get any assistance with housing/rent, food, utilities or transportation. Some people get discounts but I don’t. The last time I had this income was 1993.

With this income, I have to pay for my monthly medical premiums. The premiums alone add up to $438.20. One of the plans I have isn’t from the state I live in. The state of Arizona doesn’t believe that someone could exist who is below the age of 65 and receives income above poverty level, who is also disabled. That’s me. They don’t have any policies for anyone under 65 who isn’t poverty. The craziest thing happened, though. I was actually living in another state when my case was decided, and the state had one – only ONE – policy that I could buy that could travel to any of the other 49 states no matter where I lived. I just can’t miss a payment for the next 22 years, ever. If I do it could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars of extra costs for me because of all of my crazy health stuff. This dollar amount does not include the money I spend on prescriptions, OTC meds or supplements. The supplements are absolutely necessary because they help to treat mast cell activation syndrome.

I spend something in the neighborhood of $100-150 on transportation a month because of having to go to doctor appointments, labs, scans and to the pharmacy. For about a month and a half Medicare was allowing our medications to be delivered, but they stopped allowing that, so I have to go and get my meds now. We can’t do mailing here in AZ because the heat degrades medications. (There have been a few times when the ice packs have been barely cold on my shots that have been delivered to me.)

I am signed up on two different transportation programs for disability, and I’m supposed to wait outside and be visible to the drivers. This is fucking hell in AZ in the summer. My heart condition makes it so much harder for me to be up and out in the heat.

So let’s talk masks, and COVID-19.

I have 8 masks now, with vents. My very first mask a few years ago was a Vogmask. I started wearing it on flights because I wanted to avoid breathing in the shit everyone was passing around in the cabin, because I was sure to catch whatever they were dishing out. So far it’s worked. And let me tell you, those vents make all the difference. Right now I’m on a list for the backordered masks from England for the fanciest of fancy vented Cambridge masks; I’m in for 2.

I’m up on COVID-19. I’m comfortable with the science, been correcting misinformation. One of my drivers tried to tell me the 19 stood for it being the 19th version of the virus. Ha. Ha. Nope. I think the people who walk around saying their freedom is being taken away are complete assholes and deserve what they get. I think the people who say they will make themselves sick with bronchitis or other lung infections by wearing a mask are assholes.

So when I’m going around to all of these appointments, seeing my doctors, getting labs and scans done, I have my mask on. There have been a few times where there blackness has been closing in on me because transportation has insisted I be outside in 100+ heat, my wig is dripping hot, I’m gasping for air, and I have to pull the mask off because I can tell my pulse is through the roof and my BP is dropping.  It will happen at the grocery store too. I’ll be walking around and suddenly my body will just crash. I have to take the mask off for a few so I don’t end up on the floor. I do my best to stay masked up unless my body rebels. When the episode is done, the mask goes back on.

Last night, a friend posted on Facebook that if someone didn’t mask up, he was going to cut that person or people off (with an exception for some medical situations). I saw some people posting, including comments about how there was no way there should even be exceptions for medical. So I raised my hand and said hey wait a second, there has to be exceptions, and we still need to go out. And one guy lectured me about how I needed to have my groceries and prescriptions delivered and my doctor visits should be telemed. I told him to fuck off.

I don’t know this guy. He doesn’t know my shit. But groceries cost me at least $30 extra delivered because of the delivery fee and tip, and they NEVER get what I need and they never do substitutions when I ask for them, which would result in another run to the grocery store. Do I have tons of extra money to spend? Do I have $30, or $60, or $120 a month to throw away on delivery fees? Prescriptions were only allowed to be delivered by Medicare for a short amount of time. Now I have to go and get them again. As far as the doctor visits go, my shit is so complicated that I am required to go in. The docs don’t give me a choice.

This guy’s response was that he thought I would want to not spread the virus and be responsible, and if I didn’t wear a mask, I should just at least pull my shirt up over my mouth and nose. So I told him that I’m not a bottomless pit of wealth, and he’s telling someone who uses a cane and two arm braces and whose face is also partially paralyzed to walk and pull her shirt up. He then offered to “get my groceries” and I told him to stop talking. His response was “Damn.” A particularly dumb broad piped in about how rude I was to refuse his help by telling him to fuck off.

Being a disabled, middle-aged, single, adult female is a fucking challenge. There was that time when a complete stranger grabbed me by the arm and dragged me into an elevator because I was waiting for someone to turn around their power scooter and he assumed I couldn’t handle the elevator on my own. So here’s this guy on Facebook telling me that I have to pay for delivery and get only half of what I need, get my prescriptions delivered (even though Medicare doesn’t allow it) and just see my doctors on video (even though they won’t allow it). Yes, I’m going to tell him to fuck off. He offered to get my groceries AFTER I told him to fuck off. He wanted to feel better about being an asshole and making HUGE assumptions. I would never, ever, ever let someone near my groceries, my medications or my living space who would try to ridicule me like that and then try to strap on the hero cape. “No, really, I’m a good guy.” Don’t ever trust a guy who tells you he’s a good guy right after he does something shitty. And I’m still masking up.

 

 

Let’s Play Family Feud

This week has been really tough.

First, I had to run to the pharmacy to get some meds. I belong to a reduced rate program for disabled people and it’s contracted with a cab company; I just have to let them know I’m in the program when I call. I did that. The phone rep didn’t want to take down my address or the address where I was going. I found out when I got in the cab that the rep also didn’t specify that I was on the program, because the cabbie was expecting cash. He was pissed. He called into the home office and kicked me out of the cab, telling me to call for a different one. I had already waited 45 minutes for him (but I didn’t tell him that). My anxiety went through the roof. 

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But then he called me back and said the home office fixed it, and he would take me – but he wasn’t happy. I ended up giving him some extra cash on top of my fare, which he appreciated, but I had to fight back tears when all of this went down. I did everything right, yet I was punished for the fuck up. 

Two days ago, I had to go to an appointment because of my tunneling infection disease. If any of you have hidradenitis suppurativa, or you feel brave and have a strong stomach and you want to see videos, have at it. There is a guy here in Phoenix who has posted some pretty gnarly videos of his hiney. Mine DOES NOT look like that (yet), but I do have lots of scar tissue and tunneling. The crazy thing about this disease is that if you drain or squeeze any infection out, it actually forces the tunnels back further, like what a gopher does if you try to chop into its tunnels. The infections are incredibly painful because of the acidity of the bacteria. It’s also not the oil glands that clog up, but the sweat glands. My active areas happen to be the places where I sit. Most women have trouble under their arms. Bless you, ladies, for having it anywhere. It’s three times more common in women than it is in men.

Anyway, I had to get one spot tended to (I have over 50 active spots right now) because it was getting so painful that I couldn’t sleep. The doctor was trying to inject me with steroids and Lidocaine, not realizing that Lidocaine doesn’t work on me. So…I don’t get numb. Not one little bit. Before anyone came in to work on me, I had another panic attack and more than a few tears, feeling overwhelmed by everything happening at once.

At some point when I was sleeping last week, I hyper-extended my left knee outwards. When I got out of bed, I could barely put weight on it, and I noticed bruising around the knee cap. My quadriceps above the knee cap also swelled up. At first I put on a couple of knee braces, but then my left hip started hurting from the misalignment as well, so I gave up and went to my pain doctor. The doc and his nurse practitioner were reading up on my conditions and asked me to do the laying down/sitting up trick to move around my CSF. I got a referral for physical therapy for someone who specifically knows how to treat patients with hypermobility, but I had to put it on hold, because my short bus transportation has been a problem. 

In August, I received a notice from the company running the accessible transportation in the Phoenix area that I would only be eligible if the temperature was 90 degrees or greater. I sent in a 3-page letter and some highlighted medical records. I was scheduled for a hearing to try to overturn that decision on Tuesday. I received a call today from an extremely cheerful woman (think Sesame Street) who told me that they decided to approve me unconditionally, no hearing needed. I thanked her and told her that it had caused me a lot of stress. I wanted to swear at her but didn’t want my privileges revoked.

So now, tonight. There was a meme going around of Trump and Kanye making out, because let’s face it, that’s what they do. A cousin who is all the way up Trump’s ass decided to comment on my sister’s post and say that he was disappointed in her post, that he loved our dad who passed away young, that I (Chelsea) had unfriended him (the cousin) for his viewpoints and that he still loved us. Well, I’ve got some screen shots – not all – so you can read them. But the conversation that led to me unfriending him in the first place was him telling me that he was tired of paying for me. Basically, he believes I should die rather than get healthcare. This is someone who has been to rehab and probably needs to go again. But he’s telling me to get off my lazy ass; I must be lazy because I’ve had 10 failed brain surgeries.

Andrew1
Andrew2
There was a little more that I typed before I blocked him, but I ended it with this:

Because he really should eat a bag of dicks. He wasn’t around for any of my surgeries, or for the 7 years it took me to figure out what I had with very little help with any of the 60 doctors I saw up to that point. I guess he even threatened me for crossing him, but I jumped off that conversation before seeing it, but other people did. What a great guy, huh?

Are You Being Served?

in·ter·sec·tion·al·i·ty
ˌin(t)ərsekSHəˈnalədē/
noun
  1. the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.
    “through an awareness of intersectionality, we can better acknowledge and ground the differences among us”

    The state of Arizona doesn’t believe that I exist. I’m a woman with a bachelor’s degree, but I also have some rare diseases that have disabled me to the point that I am unable to work. I really had worked my ass off until I had my last shunt failure and surgery, when my neurosurgeon threw in the towel and gave up on me. The judge that I sat in front of for six minutes in March of this year noted in my paperwork that I had an exceptional work history. So my monthly pay is above the poverty level, because it’s based on the amount of take-home pay for the past 10-15 years (at the judge’s and state’s discrimination and calculation).

    Let me back up a little. I got my official judgement saying I’m disabled. Yay. Then my attorney told me that I might have to wait a number of months to see any money. But on May 24th, I got a call from the federal office saying that my money would be released on May 27th. I asked how it would be paid. They said it would be sent how I asked it to be sent. I asked how that was possible, since I hadn’t specified. They said, oh, it looks like we have info from Arizona. (Instant panic, since I haven’t lived there for 3 years.) I said no, absolutely not, I have all of my info updated for Minnesota, there’s no reason for it to be sent to Arizona. They said too bad, if you want it sent to Minnesota, you have to go to your local Minnesota office.

    So I did, on the morning of Friday, May 25th. I was a little worried because it was right before the holiday weekend. Luckily it wasn’t a long wait. But I found out that the money was already sent to Arizona – they didn’t wait until May 27th. It was sent on May 22nd. My former bank in Arizona reopened my account, accepted this rather large amount of money, and just sat on it. They didn’t tell me, and didn’t send the money back. For days. I was able to work it out so they could send the money to my current bank so it wasn’t lost. Anyway…

    So, while at the Social Security office making sure they didn’t send anything else to Arizona, I mentioned Medicare. The man helping me said, oh, didn’t you know, you’ve had it since January of this year? Another panic. I knew just from reading some info and talking to others that meant that I had a deadline coming up in just a few days. I had to sign up for a supplemental insurance policy and medication policy or I could lose out on tens of thousands of dollars. And Monday was a holiday. That meant that I had Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to make phone calls and sign up.

    This is no small task. I take 19 prescription medications, one of which is a weekly injection. The doctor that prescribes that had actually been working on getting an exception because my condition has been worsening. I reached out to the Minnesota SHIP office to talk about supplemental plans and medication plans. We found a supplemental plan that costs hundreds a month but could possibly transfer if I moved out of state. For the meds, I plugged in all of the names and we found out the injectable is not covered. It costs $37,000. Welcome to the world of rare diseases! So I had to call the manufacturer and talk to them about a patient assistance program, which might also allow me to get on a higher dose.

    So now back to Arizona. When I talked to their local office that helps seniors find supplemental plans for Medicare, they couldn’t believe that a disabled person under 65 had a disability check that was above poverty level. It isn’t a huge amount, mind you, but it doesn’t meet the standards for poverty. So I can’t qualify for medical assistance as my supplement, which is their only option in Arizona. I also can’t qualify for utilities assistance, transportation assistance or food assistance. The woman on the phone had very little experience but offered to find out more info and call me back. When she did, she told me to buy the policy in Minnesota and take it with me, as there was no hope for me in Arizona. 

    So Wednesday afternoon, I purchased the supplemental plan for Medicare and verified it could come with me (in writing) if I moved out of state. It’s possible it’s going to become much more expensive, but not nearly as expensive as having nothing.

    Thursday I finished sifting through all of the medication plans and tried to pick the best one. It was the least restrictive with the medications that I currently take (most of them wanted to restrict my Singulair, for some reason, of which I need double the normal dose). So I managed to get everything signed up before my June 1st deadline.

    However, while all of this is going on, there’s something else that’s been cooking in the month of May.

    Actually, this started in March. I had a crown fall off. A bunch of decay was discovered – first on that tooth with the crown, then the tooth next to it, then two teeth above it, then a bunch of cavities all over my mouth and it’s painful to eat or drink. I actually had to file a complaint against my dentist that I was seeing for about 2.5 years because he was physically abusive. When he was examining or treating me, he would pull my mouth roughly – so much so that the last time he left bloody fingerprints all over my exam napkin, and I had a swollen face for five days after. It was only after my massage therapist asked me who had been abusive with me that I filed the complaint.

    The complaint was supposed to have been anonymous, according to my insurance. However, they revealed all of my info, and the dentist counter-complained (like I was the asshole, because I was the one sitting in the chair with my mouth open). Then my insurance told me to go to two other dentists, which I did, and then they told me to go to my original dentist, and he refused (DUH), all to get this decay and a root canal taken care of. The two new dentists told me that they wanted me to go fully under and to be in an oral surgeon’s office or hospital because of my anaphylaxis history as well as my inability to numb with Novocaine. They referred me either to the U of MN or to Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC).

    I called the U of MN for five days straight, and got different answers each day. They would say they didn’t do sedation, or didn’t take care of complicated patients like me, or were too booked. In the end, I got nowhere. So I turned my attention to HCMC, which happens to be a trauma 1 hospital. They told me they weren’t taking new patients (a huge lie). Then they told me to get a note from my doctor specifying which medications I’m taking – but that was only after they refused to answer my messages for 3 weeks. They wanted to see if my medical assistance would run out before they had to do anything.

    Well, ta da! First day of no medical assistance, June 1st! That means I get absolutely no dental coverage. So even though they have been aware of this issue for a few months and I’ve done everything they told me to do, I got zero help. By the way, it’s likely I’m having the trouble with the decay in my mouth because the abusive dentist put metal back in my mouth even though I told him in writing and verbally many times I’m allergic. I found out after the two other dentists examined me that he put metal-based crowns in my mouth after I paid thousands to remove all the metal in my mouth because of my allergies.

    I’ve already talked to my dental office that I used to go to in Chandler, Arizona for 11 years, and they have an in-house plan. For $100 a year I can have my cleanings, checkups and x-rays, and then 20% off of fillings and other stuff. So that’s the route I’m going to have to take. Plus I like them and I know they’re not going to rip me up and make me bleed on purpose.

    If there was ever a time that I have felt the impact of being poor and being female and being ignored completely, this is certainly one of those times. I’m sure I’ll have many more opportunities.

Exhaling

April 10, 2015, was the last day I commuted home from a paying job. It was the last day I was on a dreaded conference call with a bunch of frustrated staff members. It was a Friday, and only three weeks into a contracting job after being laid off from a place where I had worked for over twelve years. I was already nervous about surviving because work had been interrupted by so many shunt surgeries prior to that time, but April 10th was the final straw.

I remember driving home during rush hour and having the familiar “lights out” sensation cloud my vision. I was only working about 8 miles from home, but since it was rush hour, it would take at least 45 minutes, and the darkness squeezed in almost right after I got behind the wheel. It took all my energy to focus on my lane and not crash into anyone else. I don’t even remember how I made it to the hospital after that, which was another 7 miles in the opposite direction. But I remember having to call my boss the next day to tell him that I would never be coming back in; they wouldn’t hold a short contract position indefinitely.

I wasn’t even sure my neurosurgeon would do surgery #10 in less than 4 years at that point. He had already said after #9 back in November that if I failed again, he was not willing to operate. But he did – sort of. He only did half of the surgery. And of course it failed. And then he sent me away, telling me I had to figure out what was the source of the problem, because he wasn’t going to continue doing something that was going to keep failing. It was all being put on me.

I did figure it out. It took me from 2010 to 2017 and 65 doctors to put all of the pieces together, not to mention the fact that I am one person, not even an entire lab or radiology department. I got zero support from the NIH’s Undiagnosed Diseases Network. The Minnesota Board of Health decided not to discipline 3 doctors (among many) who falsified information to get out of treating me. The Mayo Clinic banned me so I wouldn’t hurt their success statistics and change their #1 in the nation status in 21+ areas.

I lost everything: my car, my house, my ability to earn a livable wage, my confidence, my sense of security and self-worth, friendships, independence, and every last penny of my financial reserves. Thank goodness I already lost my hair over 15 years ago because if I had to go through that right now I’d absolutely lose my shit.

After filing three years ago, I finally had my disability hearing on Wednesday the 28th of March. I didn’t know what to expect. My attorney pulled me into a small conference room prior to the hearing and prepped me, telling me that if the judge asked me questions, to not take longer than 15-20 seconds to answer, and to speak up because he was older and may be hard of hearing. I was also told it may go as long as an hour.

But five minutes, and we were done. Long enough to read my name, and say that it was obvious I was disabled and not making anything up. The letters I asked Dr. Afrin and my current immunologist write for me were key for my case and noted in the judgment. The judge also specifically said that the way I was treated by the majority of the 65 doctors was appalling.

What’s next? I have to wait for Social Security to process the judge’s ruling, and then enter my info for payment, and like the Kool-Aid man, all you’ll see is my silhouette – I’m busting outta here. I gave Minnesota a fair shake for three years, but the fact that so many doctors lied in my medical records and refused to treat me has made my decision an easy one. I’ve decided to head back to Arizona where I will pick up again with 8 of the doctors I previously had; only a few will be switched out, including getting in with a neurologist who specializes in MCAS and Ehlers-Danlos. (Minnesota is a great place to be employed as a nurse, because they are paid relatively well, but it’s a horrible place to be a patient, and I’m far from being the only person who feels this way.)

I want to be clear about what this disability status means for me: 1) It doesn’t change any day-to-day abilities that I have. I still have to lay down and rest for the majority of my day, about 20 hours every day. 2) The actual status of disability is not permanent; I’ll be reviewed and my medical records will be combed through every few years by Social Security to make sure my health and abilities haven’t changed. 3) I still have to take the short bus everywhere, especially now since I’ll be making “too much” to get medical assistance (which is more than $0.00). 4) I still can’t get a motorized scooter – do you really want a half-blind person driving one of those??

My prediction is that this is all going to go down by the end of May, but I’m at the mercy of Social Security.

Did I Ask You?

One of my fellow rare disease/chronic illness warriors/sufferers posted a thread on Twitter tonight. She’s quite well known because her condition is very unusual and obvious, but she doesn’t shy away from the camera or public speaking engagements. Her post tonight detailed an eye doctor visit that was made all the more difficult because 1) The eye doctor googled her condition rather than talking to her directly about it – and she is a much more knowledgeable source than Google; 2) The eye doctor left the light shining in her retina while he took a personal call, after finding out that she is extremely light sensitive because of her condition. 

Her post had to do with the appalling way that she was treated. As each of us who have chronic and rare diseases either have done or would like to do, she had some choice words for the doctors following her as pointers on how NOT to treat rare disease patients. At no point did she ever say, “Gosh, I have no idea what to do. I don’t know who to talk to about this or how to go through the proper channels [in Australia] to file a complaint.” There wouldn’t be any reason for her to do that. She’s lived with this condition all of her life and she is actually a very vocal and active advocate.

But of course, there’s some asshole who decided to announce that she should file a complaint. 

No. Shit. Since the original poster wrapped up the thread by saying that she confronted the doctor and quite forcefully said that the rare disease patient is the best source, and a light sensitive patient shouldn’t be left in front of the light scope while a personal call is taken, and she would be following up with the office, and she just looked forward to trying to relax after being in a lot of pain, I responded. I said, “It’s okay – she knows how to handle bad appointments. She’s had this condition her whole life. She’s an advocate and speaks out often.” In other words, go fuck yourself.

Also recently, a young woman ended up in respiratory failure and was in a medically induced coma and on a respirator. She lost days of her life. When I say young, I mean young. Her significant other has been updating us and has been an absolute rock, but they are both scared and worried and facing big changes. Wouldn’t you know it, in the middle of the updates, I see something about, “Can you guys not offer advice, please?” She’s also a rare disease patient with some of the same stuff I have, but some is different, and I know some asshole is telling her that she needs to do yoga or chew on bark and vitamins from the Himalayas or something. So to whomever is sending her unsolicited advice, fuck you too.

Why does this get me so worked up? I was always a sick kid who grew up to be a sick adult. I became really sick in 2010 and it has been a mystery that has been mine alone to solve; no one has traveled with me to see 65 doctors, or see me through all 10 surgeries. There have been a few people who have helped to fill in some gaps, but they have been sparse. I know what I’m doing. I am educating doctors and nurses and physical therapists as I go along. I teach people how to maneuver through insurance. I help people search for doctors – even when there’s a few thousand miles between us.

I have never said I don’t know what to do, I don’t know who to call, I don’t know where to look, I don’t know where to go, I don’t know what to eat, I don’t know what to take, I don’t know what I like, I don’t know what’s best for me. And though I am currently well below my natural quota of 8 doctors, I know how to care for myself.

The next person who says, “Oh, it must be the acidity” after I tell them I can’t eat pineapple because I’m allergic to it, I’m going to throat punch them. Fuck them too. And fuck anyone who gives me unsolicited advice. I’m so over it and you have been warned. This video is much nicer about it, of course.

And Then There Were Three

The holidays – the general term given to Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s – are tricky. Part of me wants to put up all of my decorations, but my 360 sq. ft. apartment is tiny compared to my former 2,200 sq. ft. house, and I’m constantly shifting piles because every surface is occupied. I just don’t have the energy to pull lights and ornaments out and make them look decent for 35 days.

And then there’s the whole thing about what to do with me. This year for Thanksgiving, my sister and brother-in-law decided to drive us (including my two little nephews) up to my parents’ house about two hours away, but that meant there wasn’t room in the car for their dogs. We arrived, hurried and ate, then drove back again so the dogs weren’t left alone long. To fit all of us in a vehicle at the same time, they have to rent a van – which they’ve done for funerals. I really hate being a burden.

Right before Christmas I had an appointment with my primary care doctor. I had thought we were good. It seemed like she was supportive and understood that my case was complicated, and she was up to speed on my attempts to get help through neurology and neurosurgery at the U where she works as well as every other healthcare system in Minnesota including the Mayo. She also knew about what happened with the Undiagnosed Diseases Network falsely diagnosing me with myasthenia gravis and telling me to go away. We even commiserated over how hard it is to be a female in the medical field.

So when I approached her at this latest visit to fill out paperwork for my upcoming disability hearing, I was completely floored when she acted surprised and asked, “So, what makes you think you are disabled? When was the last time you worked?” I reminded her that I haven’t worked since the last time my shunt failed, which was April 10, 2015, and that I very obviously had the facial paralysis and severe ptosis. (I even have two videos that my neurosurgeon in Phoenix recorded in April and May of 2015 showing these symptoms, him physically peeling my eyes open, and telling me that he was giving up after the last surgery.) In addition, I have severe vertigo and fatigue and fall constantly.

The doctor asked me why I hadn’t gotten help from neurosurgery. I reminded her again that I had attempted to from every single group in the area that I was allowed to under Medicaid, and had been denied by all, including the Mayo, because my case was too complicated. I also reminded her that the doctors at the U had written in my file that my symptoms were psychosomatic after only seeing me for 20 minutes, despite the fact that the symptoms are always resolved with a new shunt – except we now know I’m allergic to the shunts.

She then looked at my forms that I brought with me and told me they “didn’t look official.” I told her they came from my attorney’s office, not the Social Security office, and quite frankly, I could write them in crayon and they would still have to accept them because they were my testimony. The doctor then said she wasn’t qualified to say anything about my status. I said that wasn’t correct, and she absolutely could speak about my difficulties with daily activities. She told me that only a neurologist could talk about that. I asked her if she knew any neurologists who wouldn’t be jackasses to me; her answer was that it didn’t matter anyway because they wouldn’t be able to assess me prior to the hearing.

So……..

The visit ended with me telling her never mind. And yes, I was crying. I just was not prepared for her to be an ass to me. Now I have to worry about finding another primary care doctor. So that leaves me the allergist/immunologist, pain doctor and GI doctor in charge of my care for all of the crazy stuff I have going on with the mast cell disease. It really should be more like seven.

Because of things going on with immediate family members, I was going to be alone on Christmas. I was totally fine with it. It was shaping up to be a bitterly cold day, so I looked forward to being in bed and watching really bad holiday movies. But I got an invite from cousins, and found out the short bus was traveling there on a limited basis that day, so I planned on being there for a few hours.

Unfortunately, I ended up on my feet the whole time there so my heart condition went haywire and the fluid in my brain never drained, so I was miserable. Then the short bus was supposed to pick me up at 3:30 pm; I waited until 4:06 pm and was told that even though I waited at the pickup spot from 3:20 pm until the time I called, the driver marked me as “no show” and took off. The worst part was that they were no longer doing any more driving in that area for the rest of the day. I had to throw a fit with the dispatcher, who was already horrible, and when someone finally came to get me, they tried to charge me again even though they shouldn’t have. The trip home took 3 hours. 

I didn’t have to go anywhere between December 26th and January 2nd, so I didn’t. I stayed in bed as much as I could.

I’m not a big believer in resolutions for the new year. However, on December 24th, I did go to two services at my very woo-woo spiritual center, and I feel like my burdens are lighter. I don’t know if it’s because at the stroke of midnight I shed 2017 or what, but I’m leaving all of the floatsam and jetsam back there and only taking with me that which will be helpful. I need that to help me through the next part, which is the hardest yet.

That Time I Went Back To Arizona

About five months ago, I decided fuck it, I’m going back to Arizona to visit. I miss everyone and everything. A few weeks after that, I figured out what started this whole thing with my brain. (Yes, I mean figured it out, not the doctors.) I knew I’d have a place to stay with friends, and eating out was out of the question, so I’d just have to come up with a plane ticket. Done. It might be my last opportunity to travel depending on how much worse the scar tissue and the brain damage gets – literally no one fucking knows.

I have about 35-40 people that I would have liked to have seen, but I was only there for about 8 full days, so it was impossible. One night a bunch of people came over and we had a little potluck and hung out. The rest of the time everyone was gracious enough to drive to me, or I took the short bus to see them.

It was my first time traveling without being able to drive, either at home or my destination. First of all, nothing can happen on a whim. It took me about 2.5 weeks to assemble all of my medications and a vog mask, and that included negotiating with the insurance company to get an override on 8 of my medications that would have needed refills while I was gone but couldn’t get in Arizona – they can only be done in Minnesota, because I’m on medical assistance. I also had to make a trip to a compounding pharmacy.

Then the day before I left, a medication I had been trying to get for about 7 weeks was finally approved, so I had to go and get that – but it was such a high volume that there was no way I was going to be able to fit it in my luggage, so I decided to start it after my return. Every time I have to go somewhere, I have to request a ride from Metro Mobility – but I’m only allowed to call one to four days ahead of time. I can’t call on the same day. So I was on a dead run (or as much as I could have been for someone who is half blind) up to the day I left.

It was so worth it, though. Arizona was all blue skies. As I’m writing this, we’re getting rain in Minnesota.

Hopefully my friends know I love them, but I forgot to take pictures of them. Apparently I shoved them aside and made a beeline straight for their animals, which I am deathly allergic to. I did a little planning for that too. One of my doctor visits beforehand was to get my regular and steroid inhalers refilled so I could start on those prior to my visit. I also packed extra diphenhydramine and Claritin (above the 12x daily dose I already take) in anticipation of the fur balls, and every time I came home from a house with pets I changed clothes and put the contaminated clothes into a plastic bag and did a big scrub down.

First were the rescued baby kittens, all black except for a few white spots on some bellies. My friend was just grabbing and distributing them around the bunch of us, and I just happened to get my soul mate – a little one who has neurological problems. It just wanted to get as close to me as possible so it curled up tight against my neck and slept. Once in a while I felt it have tremors and twitches that were not at all normal. I was laying back so the fluid wasn’t trapped in my cranium, and I swear, it was heaven. I wanted to stay there forever. At one point the kitten woke up and started putting its little paws right on my mouth. (I’m in the blue.) I did get hives, but they may not have been as bad as they could have been because apparently the night before the kittens pooped all over each other and so they had to have an impromptu bath, which they loudly protested.

Back at my host family’s house, a large lizard showed up on their property wall. Usually they do not get this big!
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I was lucky enough to be able to spend two afternoons with my friend and his wife. He was instrumental in getting me to be active on Twitter after reading my blogs, which has led to guest spots on other blogs, podcasts, and our Blab series (now deceased because they couldn’t figure out how to make money off of the platform). These two are quite funny; the male, bright orange, is loud and LOVES women. The female, green, is a lot more quiet but likes to ring her bell ball to communicate. The male will say both of their names together and then swivel his body from side to side when he is showing off or pleased.
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Next were my good friends including a couple and their live-in mom. They were usually the first ones I would call when I needed a kitty fix while I lived in Arizona – they had three kitties I knew well. Within the past year and a half they ended up adding another cat and dog under pretty terrible circumstances. Their friends relocated from another state; my friends didn’t realize there was drug addiction and abuse happening. The kids have since been placed in foster care, and the animals were traumatized. Actually, the really big, long, grey kitty seems mostly okay, but the dog has suffered terribly.

When I came to visit, I was told to expect him to pace and whimper. I was also told that I shouldn’t expect him to eat, or approach me, because anyone else who has visited hasn’t had any success even though they were animal lovers too. So this poor, beautiful dog did start pacing. I made sure that I moved slowly, and told him that he was a good boy whenever he paused to look at me. Then I put two treats on the back of the sofa and turned away from them, and eventually he worked up the nerve to get close enough to take the treats. Then he paced close enough to smell my hands while I wasn’t looking, and then quickly paced away again. While this was going on, he was carefully watching how I was interacting with each cat, making sure I wasn’t mean. A couple of times I closed my eyes. I suspect my friends thought I was tired, but I was actually sending him messages of love.

We sat down to dinner, and I couldn’t eat part of mine because of an allergy, so I put it down on a plate for the dog. Another win! And he came over multiple times to sniff my fingers. I made sure again to not be aggressive. I told him over and over he was good.

I stayed long enough to go on his last walk of the evening, which he loves. He wasn’t even confused about there being a strange lady with him on the walk until one point where he crossed over to me and then suddenly was like, “Holy shit, who is this???” and then quickly walked on the other side of the sidewalk.

At the end of the night I was saying goodnight to everyone (read: handing out the last pets to the pets), and the dog was near when I was petting the pretty calico. He was again watching very intently to see if I was being mean. So I carefully got down on all fours and made myself small, put a treat in my hand, and put my head down, and HE ATE OUT OF MY HAND. Everyone was stunned and thrilled.

My friends ran me back to where I was staying, and let me know that when they returned home, all of their animals were lined up at the door, as if they were waiting for me to return. They had never seen that happen before.

The last evening before I flew home, I was able to visit with a former co-worker whom I had the longest work history with – something like 8 years together on our team. I also remember when she had her kiddos – vividly! Our conversation went something like:
Her: “I feel like something isn’t right.”
Me: “You’re in labor. Go have your baby.”
Her: “I’m not really sure. I’m going to wait a little longer.”
Me: “I don’t think you should wait. I think you should go.”
45 minutes later: Baby.

They have two cats and a dog. I failed to catch a photo of the dog, but she was a sweetie. The white cat, Gracie, is quite elderly now, and doesn’t put up with anyone’s shit, including the dog’s. The kissy photo was taken right before Gracie got pissy about the dog bothering her. Seamus is a year-old instigator of trouble and very handsome.

Obviously the mast cell disease is preventing me from being a crazy cat/dog/bird lady, so I suppose I should be thankful.

Anyway, it was really difficult to come back to Minnesota. The night I flew home, my friend’s little boy called me and told me to come back. Sheesh, kid – right in the feels.

The Tender Trap Of The Gender Gap

I received three letters in three separate envelopes from the state medical board. I tore the first one open; a single page with the name of the respondent at the top and an official signature at the bottom. “Dear Miss: We are writing to inform you that your claim will not proceed because there is not sufficient evidence…

What the board was telling me is that my claim against three doctors is being denied. They saw my facial droop, my staggering walk, my shaking legs, heard my stilted speech, and then saw it go away when I tilted my head to manipulate the CSF in my cranium, and they wrote in my medical records that I was making it all up. It took me close to a year to get the correct testing after that. When I had everything together, I bundled it and sent it to the state including the disc with my complete MRI showing my brain had collapsed. I sent documentation from my previous surgeries. I outlined how their notes directly affected my life – both by delaying my care, and because I was denied by the Undiagnosed Diseases Network based on their notes.

The only conclusion that I can possibly come up with is that I’m a woman. Who could believe me? Why not attach a hinge to my cranium so I can flip my lid open for everyone to see, and then maybe, maybe, they will consider the notion that I’m telling the truth?

The irony is that this very place where these doctors work tweeted an article today about how there’s such a big gap in women being tested in healthcare trials, and how there’s still a huge gender bias against women when it comes to our symptoms being recognized and validated. THIS EVEN HAPPENS IN LAB RATS. So they are willing to admit it happens,

but

not willing to admit it happens with them.

Here’s another article that speaks directly to the phenomenon of being a woman in the healthcare system. Women are “emotional” and therefore shouldn’t be believed. By the way, female doctors can be just as unforgiving as male doctors.

I’m going to take a little time out to compare and contrast. I have a male family member who had rotator cuff surgery when he was a teenager, at least 13 years ago. He just had to have an EMG of his arms and possibly legs. I was explaining to him what to expect since his doctor’s office didn’t do a very good job. Let me emphasize that there’s a 13-year span between those two medical events. Yes, recovery from rotator cuff surgery isn’t pleasant, and an EMG isn’t pleasant.

In comparison, I’ve had 10 brain surgeries, 12 abdominal surgeries, 4 infections cut out, 7 crowns, 10 spinal taps, 2 EMGs (including my face), a year-long CSF leak, and a spinal blood patch in a 7-year period. For a lot of these I couldn’t have Lidocain because my body doesn’t metabolize it, and it’s the same for morphine. So every time I was poked or sliced or stitched, I felt it. I also tore the capsule and the tendon in three places in my left shoulder (but couldn’t get surgery because of all of the scar tissue I make). I’m also horribly allergic to my shunt that is still implanted and runs from my brain to my abdomen, so I constantly feel like I am being stabbed in my lower abdomen.

This male relative’s doctors immediately jumped at the first sign of his trouble. The help he has received is in stark contrast to how I have been treated, which is to be called a liar and to be treated as a hysterical woman. He was also considerably nervous about the EMG. I tried to reassure him that if he could get through rotator cuff surgery, the EMG would be much easier. Seriously, I would trade that CSF leak with just about anything. An EMG is a walk in the park.

So, what exactly do women have to do to “prove that they are in as much pain as men”? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

A Slap And A Poke

It’s crazy being me. I say this so many times. I had mentioned the rare disease in my regular every other Tuesday get-together (most everyone has heard about it at some point), and a new guy had it in his head that he was going to school me on how he was going to cure me with diet and a holistic doc. He had the usual probiotic and chelation recommendations but also insisted I should eat sauerkraut. He couldn’t believe that said sauerkraut would instantly release histamines and give me hives. He also couldn’t believe that the Mayo would turn me down. I told him that I don’t ask for advice because I am always 1-7 years ahead of anything anyone can ever tell me, and I’ve never met anyone with my particular neurological symptoms with the mast cell disease.

<sigh>

On Monday, I was supposed to get a high volume lumbar puncture. That was the way it was ordered. This meant that the opening pressure was supposed to be read AND fluid was supposed to be taken off. When I was in the fluoroscopy room, I asked the radiologists and staff if they could carefully document everything before and after because my symptoms would change. They then offered to have a physical therapist evaluate me. I said great, yes, no one has ever offered that to me so I didn’t know it was an option. So they called the doctor to see if he would change the order.

However, when they got the doc on the phone, he changed the order and said forget it, only get the pressure reading and don’t take any fluid off at all. I was floored. First he wanted at least four vials (which is a lot), and then he wanted nothing?? I said that even if the opening pressure was normal, if they took some off, they would still see an improvement in my symptoms for a few hours. The doc said no way. Do not take any fluid off.

The radiologist hung up with him. He told me that he couldn’t go against this new directive and I had two choices: go ahead and get the pressure reading only, or stop everything and come back some other time. But here’s the thing: I only got this lumbar puncture because I called this neurosurgeon that I saw two years ago and begged for it, because I haven’t had my pressure checked since then. My current neurologist has been telling me I’m overdraining (even though no one has checked me) and I’ve been saying that the pressure in my head is high when I’m upright, and I felt like getting this check would help settle the fight. But the neurosurgeon wouldn’t agree to see me in the office. This was all I was going to get. So I went ahead.

I don’t metabolize Lidocain properly, so even though the radiologist juiced me up liberally, it wasn’t enough. It was also tough for him to penetrate my dura – possibly because of the sclerosing issue caused by my high histamine levels. After all of that pain my opening pressure came up as a boring normal level. Nothing to see here, folks. Except it completely rules out what my neurologist is saying about my shunt overdraining. My guess about why it’s not giving me a high reading is that the pressure lowers when I’m flat. There’s only been a couple of times when I’ve had high readings and I’ve been flat.

On Monday night, I ate some homemade spaghetti sauce and woke up the next morning to find that my entire mouth had swelled up, and the lining had sloughed off. I also had sores all over the inside. So tomatoes are now a big no-no. That’s a bummer because I make killer chili and lasagna.

Also kind of new in the past few weeks is another diagnosis. I’ve been struggling with this for at least the last 7 years as well. Doctors were telling me that I must be doing something wrong, blah blah blah. It’s super painful. I have hidradenitis suppurativa. I’ve had it come up in two different areas not close to each other and had to have “surgical intervention,” which makes it officially grade II. I’ll be seeing a new doctor Monday to talk about injections; it’s controlled by a medication that is similar to Imuran, which I was on in the past. The crazy thing is, I saw a very extreme case of it a month prior on a British show on Netflix called “Embarrassing Bodies” but had no idea that it was the same as what I had brewing. (Let me tell you, if you are fascinated by all things medical, that’s a good one to watch.)