Waiting Eight Months
My Visit with an FMS Specialist
First priority in the office was getting weighed. "It's pretty good," remarks the nurse, smirking as she checks my weight. I cannot help but notice her doughnut breath! Next she measures how high my head is from the floor. "Take off the high heeled sneakers", orders Florence, who comes up to my waist. "They are adding to your height." I am amused. I can see that she has a slight bald patch on the top of her head. "I take them off" struggling hard. There is nothing like having to bend over and get out of sneakers for causing discomfort and pain. A comparison would be struggling out of wet tights after aerobics!
"Yes ma'am...!" I give the nurse some credibility, I mean, she is wearing a baby blue stethoscope slung carelessly around her neck. That tells me she must be a health professional! Doesn't fool me though, she and I both know that she is on a trip ... a power trip!
"Humm," she repeats, scratching behind her left ear...I peer at her hair curiously, looking for dandruff.
She catches me staring and frowns. But like every self respecting Mermaid, (I left my tail at home - Velcro comes in handy sometimes) I avert my eyes and study the poster of the human spine pinned up on the wall in front of me. The graphics are done in a fantastic array of browns, grays and reds. "Make my day," I think acidly, wondering why all I can think of is spaghetti.
I am briskly ushered into a little green examining room. She motions for me to slip into a green gown. "Gee," I mumble to myself, "why do they all have to be extra large!" I struggle to tie up the back,! One tie is missing. I grimace at the nurse who is staring suspiciously at my bra (body icing) and simper "Forgot my needle and thread." And then I immediately think of a dragon fly! "Sew my mouth up." I shriek to myself in mock horror, as I see that she is NOT amused.
She leaves the room and I can hear her footsteps making a squishing noise as she tramps down the hall. In search of.... My angel, my chosen one, my beautiful savior in a white doctors coat - The paragon who is going to rescue me from shouldering the constant cloak of pain I have been wearing for so long. The doctor I have waited eight long months to see.
I notice my feet are turning blue with cold. I shiver in the cool still room, fumbling for my sunglasses under the exposure of the merciless florescent lights streaming down on top of my head. I visualize a picture of myself lying on a beach in Florida, as little beads of sweat form on my upper lip. My body responds as I mentally wrap the warmth of the southern sun's rays around my shoulders.
I suddenly wonder if I remembered to put on deodorant. Stumbling around with the fairy sleepy dust in the corners of my eyes at four thirty in the morning this morning left it all a blur. I was almost walking in my sleep and still dreaming of the most delightful things. I faintly recall using the deodorant stick and heave an inner sigh of relief. Some things just come in automatic rotation. Because of this, it is sometimes hard to recall the things one does regularly. Mindless things like brushing your teeth, feeding the cat, and eating popcorn between meals.
I shake myself awake out of my reverie as my golden angel strolls in the door with crisp efficiency. My eyes scrutinize her, looking for the halo, an aura, a rosy glow...a rainbow. Oh please, please, give me a SIGN! This is probably the tenth doctor I have seen regarding FMS. This one has a reputation a mile long. This is going to the one who can actually help me!
I find myself shaking a firm white hand. The hand is cold and dry and I feel myself shivering, way deep inside myself, as if my heart is about to break open like a piece of ice caught in a warm spring wind. I can almost feel the splinters as my hopes fall around my icy feet. The vibrations are already negative. I shake them away, forcing a positive look into my eyes.The doc smiles and sits down, her little blue eyes squinting through thick horned rimmed glasses. Good grief, I think to myself, I thought they went out with the dark ages. I force myself to concentrate on her words. We sit and we discuss. Her accent is confusing and surprisingly thick.
She examines me, remarkably strong and adroit for such a tiny little wizened elf of a person.
Once I am lying on the examination table, she flings my legs around, cooing with satisfaction at my agility. "OH you are so good", she sighs, grabbing my sore leg and flinging it behind my neck. "Such good hips!" I suddenly feel like a good piece of steak on a platter. She rotates my hips, cooing in satisfaction. I wince and hold my breath.
I note through a blue blur of pain that her stethoscope is black and that it bends her neck awkwardly. I find myself wanting caution her sharply against forming a widow's hump. She listens to me with a bright and cheerful smile. Why do I find the smile and those eyes robotic in nature? Why do I think of a human answering machine? She smiles again as she taps her pencil on the desktop. I suddenly expect her to don a red and white checked apron and burst into song. I expect blue birds to perch on her glasses and apple pies to magically appear on the desk.
And barring the bells and whistles, I expect her to talk to me about my problem in depth, with knowledge, understanding and compassion. I expect this educated woman to help me deal with a pain that is becoming unbearable for me to manage on my own.
I tell all - I bare my soul - I explain that the pain is too much. That I do not take medications, but that I need some right now for pain support and that in all my years of suffering with FMS pain, I have never been treated for pain. I can taste the anguished words tumbling out of my mouth as I relate my story and she frowns a little, nodding and then looking down at her hands.
She glances at her watch and I feel that I have lost her. I also notice that it's a Timex. "Wake up!" I want to shout! "I pay for this service. Listen to me!" I now realize that I am getting lip service. My fifteen minutes is over. Her mind is in Kentucky Fried Chicken or at the sale at the downtown mall.
I am now, as my pal Trich would say, "blethering" in my mind. My knees are getting cold. I shiver. I swallow hard and keep on talking. For the Celt in me is determined to explain, to let this woman know why I am here and what my expectations are!
She listens and makes notes, pausing to ponder, and then rapidly writing little illegible scribbles all over the body of the graphic drawing on the paper. I squint at her handwriting and try to imagine that I am standing behind her. I am yearning to read her thoughts. I can see that she has drawn a smooth round egg. Does this mean that she thinks I am a chicken heart? She covers the drawing with her left hand.She hesitates and then stands up and gives me a broad smile. I bask in the radiance of the smile. My heart warms as I sit there waiting in high hopes for her pronouncement.
"You are terrific," she tells me, beaming at me and looking as if she hatched me. "I was right about the chicken," I tell myself bracing myself for what I feel is coming. I find myself mentally practicing a chicken squawk!
"You do everything right!" She flicks a strand of my long hair off my shoulder. I am now her possession. I wriggle uncomfortably, shrinking from her touch. "You are my MODEL patient. " I flinch. "Hey, hold on," I cry silently, "I have never seen you before in my life. Give me a break!""I do not have to see you again", she says, smiling broadly, (did I really forget the deodorant?) "for two whole years!" She pats my hand and beams. I force a smile, grinding my teeth. I can feel despair knocking at my heart.
She slaps me on the back and pokes me in the tender spot. I howl out loud. "Ha!" She says, "you are tough!" Her foreign accent is suddenly jarring to my ears. She takes my arm and pinches my flesh, whispering, "and you even meditate! You are SO GOOD! You are perfect." I cringe as my skin burns with pain.
"So hang me out to dry on the wall." I think to myself, "so that everybody can look at this perfectly miserable and hurting specimen. Hang me up like a side of beef to display to all your patients."
"The Pain?" I ask her delicately. I feel as though I am in a bakery surrounded by chocolate cakes and I am asking for another piece. She flashes me a benign smile. "You are handling this so well I cannot give you pain support. For I don't need to SEE you for two more years and how would I monitor this from here?"Her little eyebrows lift up quizzically and I find myself wishing I could eat a piece of Alice's cookie and grow into a huge overbearing monster.
"There is nothing to be done for FMS or for the pain!" She is dramatic now, and a tad self-righteous too, I observe rather bitterly, as a complacent smile creeps around her small mouth.
"Well," I mumble, thinking quickly. "My family doctor sent me to you for pain support." How can I come across as not being a complainer, a whiner, or a drug seeker I wonder? Why am I suddenly put in this defensive position? Why should I be shoved into this miserable, ingratiating little corner?
"The American doctors provide some pain support for their patients," I begin again, clearing my throat," and I know others who DO get some pain support." She waves her hands...dismissing the Americans with impunity! I can see that she has lost interest and is already planning dinner."I do need some pain support," I begin again, my Celtic jaw hardening with determination to get my point across. "I am in pain...too much pain...I need some relief." My voice trails off, and I silently kick myself around the block. There is something degrading and intimidating about asking a doctor for pain support.
"You will ask your family doctor then," she answers, thumping me on the hip. I wince as her ring catches one of my aching muscles. "You are so hard and tough!" She cries with delight. "I will write to your family doctor if you insist and suggest that he give you pain support because you are so good! You do aerobics, you walk, you have your own business, you meditate, you eat right, and your body is in great shape! You are so good! Your mind is so healthy and so is your body! YOU ARE GOOD! SO GOOD!"
"Yeah but I can't ever sleep because of the pain," I mumble, diving into my sweater and reaching for my tweed jacket. She watches me shimmy into my jeans. I can't wait to get out of there. Eight months of waiting, eight months of hoping, eight months of suffering, and I gave birth prematurely to an infuriating woman who pronounces that "I am so good!"
"But you have your own business, you can sleep whenever you want to. You do not have a boss!" Her smile has turned me into a rainbow warrior and I am not a physical person! Does she really think that just because I work for myself, I can sleep when I want to? Arrrrrrrrrrgh! I edge towards the door.
"I will talk with your doctor and tell him that you are so good." She sighs with pride at the sound of her own voice. I find myself wondering if she understands her own accent.
"Amen," I mutter to myself, grabbing my neck x-rays and heading for the door. I give a furtive look at the overhead sign. "Could I in the psychiatric department? Could I have made a wrong turn? Is her long white coat a signal? Could she be a patient?I turn around at the sound of tapping footsteps following in my wake and see that the little doc is right behind me. I swing around and face her squarely.
"I know", I say, winking, "I AM SO GOOD!" She beams, and turns right. I can hear the nurse snapping "next." I head for the door, hoping that the road back home isn't icy. I have a three-hour drive ahead of me.
GOOD GRIEF! I really think I was in the wrong place - at the wrong time. But it doesn't really matter. What she did do for me was make me realize that I had to help myself.
Yup, and I've been trucking on and coping as best I can - without her help - not on my own - for I have been fortunate enough recently to consult with an American Nurse Practitioner who is helping me. She is conservative, but she has the compassion and understanding to know that when I am in the kind of pain that I cannot overcome or cope with, I need help! She also is cognizant of pain management. That's all I ever expected! A little help! Was it too much to expect from an FMS specialist who knew less about the syndrome than her patient?
Tori Cunningham - Dec/1999