Monthly Archives: November 2009
I’m the kind of girl who requires a butterfly needle for a blood draw. I’m the kind of girl who requires a warm compress on my arm before even attempting a blood draw. I’m the kind of girl who usually spends more time in the lab chair getting poked and prodded than in the waiting room.
You think you comprehend? No, I don’t think you quite understand.
I’m the kind of girl who shows up to work after a blood draw with a compression bandage around each arm AND one around the back of a hand, bruises developing quickly on all three sites. Yes, it’s usually that difficult to get enough blood for a “simple” A1c, TSH, and lipid panel.
For whatever reason – enough water consumption in the past couple days (thanks to past lab tech advice) or being warm enough on my own bundled in my winter coat until my name was called (thanks to a blood draw veteran’s advice) or all the planets were correctly aligned – Ryan the lab tech had absolutely no problem finding a vein this morning. AND I was in and out of the lab itself in only five minutes (though I still needed that necessary butterfly needle), only slightly shorter than my time spent in the waiting room.
And look, ma, no bruising!
1. First book to leave a lasting impression?
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. Written in the years following World War II with the rise of suburbia, this speaks to today’s world with how much has changed since then. We’ve made progress, sure, but are we happy with it? This was my favorite book as a smaller child and I still think of it often.
2. Which author would you most like to be?
Barbara Kingsolver. She’s managed to marry her love of biology with her talent for writing beautifully.
3. Name the book that has most made you want to visit a place?
Anne of Green Gables – Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, Canada
Margaret Truman’s Murder in Washington series – Washington, DC
Many novels, including Dracula, Great Expectations, and (dare I say it) Bridget Jones’s Diary just to name a few – England
4. Which contemporary author will still be read in 100 years?
John Irving, Barbara Kingsolver, Cormac McCarthy, Kazuo Ishiguro, Marilynne Robinson
5. Which book would you recommend to a teenager reluctant to try ‘literature’?
Anything by Mark Twain. Or Ray Bradbury. Or Markus Zusak.
6. Name your best recent literary discovery.
John Irving. Despite my brother and mother having had adored his works for years, I’d been reluctant to tackle the looming volumes of his writing. I’m glad I did, even if it takes weeks instead of days to finish the stuff. It’s so detailed, so funny, so devastating.
7. Which author’s fictional world would you most like to live in?
Tralfamadore from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.
8. Name your favorite poet?
I don’t like most poetry, even though I can bullshit my way through analysis of poetry much more easily than through fiction. That being said, I do like Marianne Moore and John Donne. Some specific favorites include Andrew Marvell’s “To his Coy Mistress”, Robert Herrick’s “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time”, and Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce Et Decorum Est”.
9. What’s the best non-fiction title you’ve read this year?
All Creatures Great and Small – James Herriot. (You could put this one in the books that have made you want to visit a place, too.)
10. Which author do you think is much better than his/her reputation?
Alice Sebold. I adored The Lovely Bones, as she was able to conquer the point of view of a dead person with surprising results, and Lucky, the memoir of Sebold’s own rape and its aftermath allow us to know what a victim feels, thinks, sees, hears, etc.
I wonder if Neppie knew how silly she looked in this picture:
(Yes, she was happy about being held like a baby. And yes, she was purring like she almost always is. And, why, of course, that’s her tongue sticking out.)
Yesterday’s comments in reaction to this post made me think. They made me think about calling my endocrinologist for a recommendation to a new primary care physician or even an orthopedist, as our insurance allows us to go to specialists without referrals. They made me think about the fear I feel about how a doctor might react to my indication of pain.
For the most part, I’ve learned to tolerate pain. The primary care provider who diagnosed my type 2 diabetes also had a propensity for insinuating that I was a hypochondriac. Two different areas of abdominal pain turned out to be “nothing” under her care and I felt she brushed me off as the typical depressed hypochondriac who was a difficult patient.
Since then, I’ve diagnosed and treated several episodes of tendonitits, but yes, I had to seek medical help in January when I experienced significant myofascial pain of the left shoulder. I was fed painkillers and muscle relaxants for a week, then when that didn’t work, the stronger painkillers and stronger muscle relaxants were released. Before I even had I chance to try those, I’d undergone withdrawal from the weaker painkillers that led to the first (and hopefully only) migraine of my life. By the time the migraine had lifted, the myofascial pain was gone. Isn’t that always how it goes?
I admit this possible ulnar nerve entrapment or neuropathy or whatever you want to call it does scare me. I didn’t think this would be a possibility so soon after diagnosis, particularly when I have taken good care of myself since.
I know that it could be completely unrelated to diabetes – after all I’ve spent years sleeping “wrong” and leaning on my right elbow on the bus or on airplanes or in the car – perhaps the nerve just finally had enough.
The fact of the matter is I don’t want to be labeled a diabetic with a complication. I don’t want doctors who treat me in the future to think I don’t take care of myself because “neuropathy” might end up in my medical record.
But I’ve reached a breaking point with this numbness, tingling, and pain. I know I can’t treat it on my own. Since speaking up yesterday, it seems worse. It’s not quite as silent as it was. And I now need to push past the fears of being labeled a hypochondriac or a person with a complication of uncontrolled diabetes.
September 28, 2009.
The alarm goes off early. Oh, so early. Whose bright idea was it to take an early morning flight home to Denver from this quick weekend trip “home” to Wisconsin? Oh, yeah, ME. After all, I’ve burned through all my vacation time and need to get to work as soon as possible on this Monday morning.
Hey, wait a second… My right arm is still completely asleep. And numb. This better end soon. Come on already. Come on, wake up!!!
Six weeks later.
And from that moment, I’ve had an issue with varied degrees of numbness, tingling, and pain along the right side of my arm and hand, in my ring and pinkie fingers on that hand.
Of course, I freaked. I Googled. The most likely problem is ulnar nerve entrapment, sometimes called ulnar nerve neuropathy.
Yeah. That word. I saw that word and I haven’t seen a doctor. That word which should scare the pants off anyone with diabetes. Most certainly someone who claims to be a diabetes advocate, right? Even at the Connected Council meeting, I was quietly suffering with the knowledge that something was not quite right.
Truth is, I’m still searching for a primary care physician. I need to find one who listens to me, who understands how my type 2 diabetes is treated, and who isn’t willing to pass me off to a bottle of Vicodin or muscle relaxants. I’m not willing to go back to the one I was seeing – the practice managed to lose my electronic medical record, for goodness sake!
Obviously, this presented a problem. Fear of what might happen at some doctor’s office was holding me back from seeking a live-and-in-person medical opinion. I didn’t want to be chastised for poor blood sugar control (because I control it pretty well according to my endocrinologist) or even worse, getting that dreaded “all in my head” phrase.
I chose instead to take the suggestions of what Google searches told me about the condition. I stopped leaning on my right elbow on the bus while I slept during my morning commutes; I limited the time spent at the computer in the evenings; I stopped sleeping on my stomach with my elbows bent at my head; I even gave up my wimpy 3-lb dumbbells. The numbness and tingling and pain is much better than it was and I’ll be willing to bet that by the time my endocrinologist appointment comes around in three weeks, it’ll be gone.
And if it’s not, the possible ulnar nerve neuropathy (cringe – there’s that evil word again) will be the number one issue I bring up at said appointment. The number two issue? Asking for a recommendation for a good primary care provider who works well with the endocrinologist’s practice.
Kim commented yesterday and said it’s never too late to become a nurse.
That is true. What is also true is that my pre-requisites are expiring for some program and that I don’t have the desire to sit in the classroom again and the end result I would desire would take years (and money) to achieve.
When I began my pursuit of pre-requisites, the end goal I sought out was becoming a nurse specialist in cardiac care. Back in 1993, while my father recovered from his heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery, the nurses who educated him and our family had a definite impact on me. Compassionate and knowledgeable, they were there to make us all comfortable.
After I was done with pre-requisites (anatomy & physiology, microbiology, statistics – oh my), I worked as a nursing assistant for about two weeks. It didn’t go well. I was seen as too compassionate in a setting where speed was key. It turned me off to general hospital shift work, that’s for sure.
Now that I’m a few years separated from that experience, I don’t regret all the classes I took. Like I said yesterday, it helps me understand disease mechanisms and research studies (and how research can be skewed any which way you’d like).
What I’d love to do is be a formal patient advocate for those newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Show them that small steps can lead to improved health outcomes. Encourage them to slowly change eating habits and add exercise to daily routines. It’s a shame that there is no program for people like me to become certified diabetes educators. I’d have to become a nurse or a dietitian or psychologist or a myriad of other possibilities that require more education than I’m willing to take on at this time.
For now, I’ll just continue my informal diabetes advocacy and freelance writing about health issues. For now.