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The majority of the time I have gone outside in 2019 were in order to do two things. I was either going to get groceries, or I was headed for the doctor’s office.

To me, it feels like I’ve needed more trips to the doctor this year than typical. I haven’t had the energy to keep up with writing about it, so I’m just going to put the whole story into this blog post.

January

In early January, I tried to get an appointment with my newly assigned doctor. (The previous one had left what I call “the clinic for the poor people). The earliest appointment they could give me would be… three months later.

The reason I was trying to get an appointment was because I was fairly certain I had a sinus infection. I get them often, and it felt like this one as at the point where I needed treatment.

I grumpily told the person on the phone, who was assigned the task of dolling out doctor appointments, that I couldn’t wait three months to see a doctor for a sinus infection. The person suggested I go to a MedStop.

There was a chance that it wasn’t a sinus infection. Spring pollen season was waging war against me. The pollen was winning.

Having no other choice, I called the MedStop. They don’t assign appointments. People have to wait around until a doctor can see them.

I was not looking forward to having to sit around in the MedStop, surrounded by sick people, while experiencing intense sinus pain. My immune system sucks, and I was concerned that I’d catch something while waiting to see the doctor.

The most interesting thing about this MedStop visit was that everyone working there was completely aware that the people coming in would rather be seen by their regular doctor.

The receptionist took my ID and health insurance card, and looked me up in their system. “Congratulations,” she said, “You’ve managed to avoid us for three years.”

The co-pay cost $75. That charge took into account that I have health insurance coverage. I thought it would be lower.

To my surprise, it didn’t take very long to see the doctor. After about 30 minutes of waiting, a nurse came and got me. She took my vitals (all good) and put me in a room to wait for the doctor.

The doctor appeared in less than 15 minutes. She checked my sinuses. She diagnosed me with a sinus infection, prescribed an antibiotic.

The doctor actually listened to me. I complained that I was here because my doctor’s first available appointment was three months from now. She nodded her head. I bet she hears that often. She said, “That’s why we’re here. We are filling a need.”

My prescription for antibiotics was sent to my preferred pharmacy. It only cost about $3.50 – thanks to my health insurance coverage.

The pharmacist had no idea whether or not the antibiotics were gluten-free. I had a bad experience with medication that turned out to have gluten in it, and really didn’t want to go through that hell again.

After that happened, I did my research and figured out that the gluten was in the pregelatinized starch (or pregelatinized modified starch) that is an inactive ingredient in medications. It could be made from corn or potato – which are gluten-free. Or, it might be full of wheat or barley malt – which absolutely NOT gluten-free.

I become unnerved when I learn that I know more about how to determine whether or not a medication is gluten-free than the pharmacist does. He handed me a bottle of the antibiotic, told me to peel off the folded paper of information that was adhered to it, and… figure it out.

Fortunately, I knew what to look for. This particular antibiotic was gluten-free. Someone else like me may not know that. This careless lack of labeling is going to eventually hospitalize or kill someone.

I tried my best to educate the pharmacist about how to avoid getting people like me sick from the medicine that was supposed to make them better.


It’s no fun being on antibiotics, due to the side effects. But, it was better than dealing with the intense pain of a sinus infection. The worst side effect was exhaustion – to add to my usual level of exhaustion.

I work as a freelance writer, and the more I can get done in a month the more pay I can get. On January 11, I realized that a huge project from one of my regular clients resulted in almost enough money for me to get some needed dental work done.

My dental insurance covers regular check-ups. It does not cover the cost of removing a failing metal filling and replacing it with a brand new (non-metallic) cap. All of that would be paid for out-of-pocket. I was quoted a price of about $1,000.

This was the second out-of-pocket filling I needed to have replaced. My husband and I paid for the first one by taking out a loan. It feels like we paid it off in time for my metal filling to start breaking down. Lucky me. Neither one of us wanted to take another loan for this filling replacement.


February

In February, after I got paid, I made an appointment with my dentist. This time, they quoted me a price of about $800. I have no idea what made the price come down, but I’m very glad it did.

I spent Valentine’s Day – February 14 – at the dentist getting a metal filling removed. I’ll spare you the details other than to say it was not a pleasant experience. The dentist numbed me up real good, and I didn’t feel any pain while he was working.

This was a longer procedure than I was expecting. The metal filling was huge, and what remained was a small bit of tooth and a non-metal filling. While working, the dentist said he found a cavity and would take care of it while I was there.

(A few months later, a bill arrived from the dentist’s office. It was for $45. I’m assuming that was what it cost to have a cavity filled?)

Getting a temporary cap, after what felt like a long time in the dentist chair, was uncomfortable. The numbing was starting to wear off, and the process takes a while as things set. To me, one of the worst parts of filling replacement is having a temporary cap to protect until the real cap is ready.

The receptionist told me we needed to pay “thirteen fifty-eight”. Dazed, exhausted, and starting to feel pain, I interpreted that to be $13.58. When my husband went to pay, I noticed the screen said $1,358. I quickly pointed that out to the receptionist, and remind her the price I had been quoted.

Financial crisis averted.

Unfortunately, the lengthy stay in the dentist chair fucked up my fibromyalgia. Having my upper jaw poked and pounded on for… I’m going to figure close to an hour… made my fibromyalgia angry.

I have never in my life had so much jaw pain – not even after I had all four wisdom teeth removed at the same time. The pain came and went, and nothing took it away. I was miserable.


March

The permanent cap was going to be ready on March 4. Meanwhile, I was struggling to eat and was extra exhausted. On March 3, I went outside on what was yet another high pollen day. As I write this blog post, I cannot recall why I did that. It wasn’t to go to the doctor, so it must have been to get groceries.

When I got back, I took a nap and was woken up by an excruciating muscle cramp in my leg that quickly became a fierce leg spasm. I screamed for my husband to bring me a heating pad (which helped lessen the pain the previous time this happened).

The heating pad takes a long time before it starts to lessen this kind of pain. I went through hell, and was left sweating and with my whole body shaking by the time the muscle spasm passed.

It was this particular flavor of hell that helped me decide that I was going to seek out CBD the next time I was well enough to go outside and get it.

March 4, I was back at the dentist. The dental technician (if that is the right job title) took some x-rays and then tried to remove my temporary cap. It was supposed to be quick, but she was struggling to do it.

My best guess is that she was new, and that the temporary cap was trying to make itself a permanent one. She also seemed terrified that she was going to cause me pain. The cap removal did not require numbing.

My leg had not fully recovered from the day before, and when she stopped to get additional tools, I sat up and tried to move my legs around a bit. She seemed confused by this. I explained that I had a muscle spasm in my leg yesterday, hadn’t fully recovered from it.

Long story short, the dental technician kept asking me if I was feeling pain, and seemed hesitant to just get the job done. I told her to just do it, that I was not in pain, and would be fine.

Honestly, the leg spasm from the day before was way more painful then anything she was going to do to me. I wanted to go home and take a nap, and hoped I could speed her up by insisting that I wasn’t feeling the pain she expected me to feel.

The dentist kept checking on her, and eventually was able to come by and take over. He did a cleaning, and it was clear that I was “guinea pig” for this new dental technician.

Not a problem. Better me than someone with a severe dentist phobia and a low pain tolerance. My chronic illnesses mean that I’m often in pain. I’ve learned how to cope with it because there often is no other option.

That done, the permanent cap was placed and I was free. The bill for this had already been paid when the filling was removed. All that was left now was for me to slowly regain the ability to eat “normally”. Or, as close as all my food allergies will let me get to “normal”.

March 9, the CBD my husband ordered for me arrived. The shop in town stopped selling the kind I wanted, and the ones they had included some things that I am allergic to.

Long story short, I learned that the CBD works really quickly (for me), even though I’m taking way less than the suggested dose. This is great, because it is kind of expensive, and I can make it last longer this way.

March 15, everything caught up to me. I am borderline anemic, and my body crossed the border while I was asleep. Trying to make tea was a challenge. I selected what kind of tea I wanted, put it next to the coffee maker, and… forgot all about it.

March 25 found me at my acupuncturist’s office, hoping to heal and regain energy. It was only the second time this year that I’ve been able to go. It really helps me to regain energy, reduce stress, lessen pain and more.

My health insurance doesn’t cover my acupuncture or the supplements that I need to take. All of this is entirely out-of-pocket, so I have to ration care until there is money for it.


April

April 2 was “exciting” because I finally got to see my new doctor for the first time! Doctor Z was smart, attentive, and had some good ideas. After I educated him about all my chronic illnesses, he asked if I wanted a referral for my rheumatologist.

Unsure if my health insurance required that – I said “Yes!”. Doctor Z said he would send a referral over for me. He also assigned me to get some blood work done. My rheumatologist would call me after he got the results of the blood work.

I’m going to spare you the details about the amount of blood that was wanted. The purpose was to check my cholesterol, my liver, and to give my rheumatologist information that he would need.

The blood work required fasting. My period started before I could go get the blood work done. I’m borderline anemic, and that plus fasting, would literally knock me out. It was going to have to wait.

In other words, one of my chronic illnesses was preventing me from getting the testing that would check on the progression of some of my other chronic illnesses. Only “spoonies” have this particular problem!

On April 11, my sinuses were causing me a ton of pain. Spring pollen season was still in full swing, the plants were happily spewing pollen, and I was slowly losing my ability to function.

Once again, “the clinic for the poor people” told me that Doctor Z didn’t have any appointments open. The person on the phone suggested I come in today and see someone else – Doctor H. Sure.

The receptionist looked me up on their computer and said, “Oh. You were just here!” “Yep,” I responded.

“There’s a bill from your previous visit. Want to pay that now?” I was not coherent enough to deal with numbers, what with all the sinus pain. My husband paid it. I found a chair to sit in, troubled that I’d needed to return to “the clinic for the poor people” BEFORE the previous bill had time to arrive.

The bill was $75 (I think). My best guess is that this is my co-pay now. My health insurance premium tripled in cost at the start of this year. The co-pay got higher. A big chunk of my monthly income goes to healthcare. Health insurance isn’t covering everything I need.

Doctor H. was extremely pleasant and exuberant. She was more than willing to listen to me explain all my chronic illnesses to her, to catch her up on how long Spring pollen season, and to describe how all that fit together to destroy me.

There were several days in a row where the pollen count hit nine. There was one day where it was at 10, and two days where it was past eleven, but not yet at 12.

“Sorry for all the frantic typing,” Doctor H said. “This is fascinating! I want to get it all into the computer.”

Doctor H. went through the usual allergy suffer checklist. The process involves what I tend to think of as “call and response”.

  • “What antihistamine are you using?” – “Zyrtec”
  • “Do you want a prescription for it?” – “No, the generic version is cheaper.”
  • “Have you tried [this antihistamine that’s newer than Zyrtec?]” -“Yes, years ago. It made my heart feel weird.”
  • “What about HEPA filters?” – “Just got a new one.”
  • “You need more than one. Put it in the bedroom and close the door and it will really help clean the air.” – “It is in the main room.”
  • “No, really, you need to put it in the bedroom and close the door for best results.” – “I live in a mobile home. It’s tiny.” – “Oh. Then one will do.”
  • “Air conditioner?” – “There’s one in the bedroom.”
  • “Want a prescription for Flonase?” – “Um, I’ve used it before… but I think mine’s expired. So, yeah, let’s do that.”

Doctor H. sent a prescription for Flonase to my pharmacy of choice. The pharmacist gave me the generic. It only cost about $3.50.

April 15 was the day I was able to go get the blood work done. My rheumatologist’s office had called twice asking if I’d gotten it done yet. From this, I figured that Doctor Z’s referral had gotten there.

Instead of calling back, I decided to send my answer in the form of blood test results. My period had finally stopped. I accidentally fasted for longer than necessary (because I fell asleep early). I was anemic as hell, and about to lose some more blood.

Neither my husband, nor I, drive. Our chronic illnesses prevent us from doing so. He convinced a very kind friend of his to drive us to “the clinic for the poor people” early in the morning. (Doctor Z. suggested I use this lab, which is in the same building as his office.)

I was starving, so I brought an entire bag of zebra kettle corn with me. Goal for today was: don’t pass out! It was a gamble. If I lost, I’d pass out inside a building full of doctors that was located right next to a hospital. What’s the worst that could happen?

Oh, and the pollen count that day was 9.1, which is too high for me. My chronic illnesses make life incredibly difficult to navigate.

My other concern was that I would not quite clot after the blood was taken. Last time, I sat in the waiting room, hoping not to pass out, when I realized I’d bled through the bandage. Freaked out the receptionist who promptly got the phlebotomist to fix the problem.

Today, it was a new phlebotomist. I had to do my “educate the doctor” spiel again, letting her know that I’m allergic to latex, am borderline anemic and might pass out, and that I don’t always clot after the blood is taken.

Long story short, things went well. There was no one else in the waiting room except my husband and his friend. I was able to sit there until I knew I had clotted. We left, and I ate half the bag of zebra kettle corn on the way home.

Didn’t pass out from blood loss. Fell asleep from anemia after I got home.

April 17, I finally won the “phone tag” game the lab insisted I play with them. The person informed me that I still had the RH factor. This was not a surprise – it doesn’t go away. So, I probably still had rheumatoid arthritis and undoubtedly still had fibromyalgia.

April 23, I returned to my acupuncturist. I told her that my blood test results were “normal”, and that it said I still had the Rh factor. She asked me to get a copy of the results for her.

She approved of my use of CBD.


May

May 7, I was able to see my rheumatologist for the first time in years. I stopped going because we had reached an impasse. He had gone back and forth on whether or not I had rheumatoid arthritis, but was certain I had fibromyalgia. Unfortunately, he didn’t know how to help me.

My rheumatologist is a lovely man who is probably old enough to retire. He is gentle – which important when working with patients who have chronic pain. He came into the room, sat down, and said something like: “Lets go through what we know and see if we come up with anything new.”

He also approved of my use of CBD.

To summarize, he is certain that I don’t actually have rheumatoid arthritis. He is certain I have fibromyalgia. He assigned me to go do more blood work.

It turns out that my rheumatologist never got the results of my other blood test. This is confusing because my rheumatologist, Doctor Z., and the lab, are all in the same building.

He suggested a different lab. That one sends my rheumatologist the results of the blood tests he orders.

The new round of blood tests is to help him figure out what kind of arthritis I might have. I didn’t have to fast before getting this blood work done. It would have been possible to get it done that day, but I was menstruating, and had no idea how much blood was required for these tests.

Before leaving, I went to Doctor Z’s office, asked for a copy of my blood work. Once obtained, I walked it into my rheumatologist’s office and allowed the receptionist to make a copy for him. I now have a copy to take with me whenever I go back to accupuncture.

May 14, I was able to get the blood work done. It would make me anemic, because it was happening not long after my period stopped. This time, I forgot to bring food with me to eat after the blood draw.

The lab I went to this time was one I had actually been to before. The woman behind the desk was extremely nice. She pointed me towards a memo that, in short, stated that patients could tell her what pronouns they wanted to use, and if they wanted to be called by a name that isn’t on their ID or paperwork.

The goal for today, as before, was: don’t pass out! The phlebotomist asked me what I like to do for fun right as she started to take blood. I said, “Video games and Dungeons & Dragons”. She had played once, a long time ago, and we had a nice discussion about that.

After I was done, my husband and I went to get food from one of the many restaurants that were nearby. Food was obtained, and I did not pass out.

The man behind the counter understood what gluten-free meant. He even brought out packaging so I could read the ingredients and see if there was anything in there I was allergic to. The food tasted fantastic!

My next rheumatology appointment is in August. I suppose I will have to wait until then to find out the results of the blood work.

May 15, I got a letter from “the clinic for the poor people”. It informed me that Doctor H. had decided to leave the clinic. Her last day will be in June. I doubt there are any open appointments left.

May 19, I woke up with a leg cramp. I’ve taken to sleeping with my CBD on a step stool near the bed. The CBD stopped the cramp from turning into a spasm seconds before it would have started. I was left exhausted and limping, which I could deal with.

The main reason why I got the leg cramp was because I’d been overdoing things for months. I’ve been pushing myself to get more writing work done, even when I’m very tired.

My husband and I have also gotten new desks, and this required a lot of moving furniture, building, and cleaning away dust and debris. I helped out when needed, and went beyond that in order to do additional cleaning.

On Mastodon right now, people are playing around with the “there are two wolves inside you” thing. I find it fun to watch them create various iterations.

Mine would be this: “There are two wolves inside you. One wants you to do all the things. The other just wants you both to get more sleep.”

Always at the Doctor’s Office is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites.

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