Happy 2011

Woke up with a great Saturday feeling. No plans today. I will probably read and write in bed for a few hours. I might decide to go to the gym, or an Indian New Year’s ceremony at the Art of Living Center. If I want to–but I’m giving myself permission not to.

And I feel healthy–thanks to my friend K!
On Tuesday I felt a UTI coming on, and went to the doctor. The urine test showed up negative for bacteria, so he sent me home with no prescription for antibiotics. This made me very nervous, since the holiday weekend was approaching, the health center was going to be closed. If I was right, and this was the earliest phase of a UTI, I’d up on New Year’s Eve or Day trying to get someone to see me–or I wouldn’t, because I can’t afford it, so I’d just spend the weekend in misery hoping that no permanent kidney damage occurred before Monday. I expressed my worries to the doctor, who reassured me–I could call the next day if I was still having problems, and we’d work it out. I left empty-handed because of this promise–and because I questioned myself. If the test was negative, maybe it wasn’t an infection–even though it felt like one. I hadn’t had a UTI in years– maybe I was mis-remembering something. Maybe it was just an inflammation of some sort that would resolve on it’s own.
I tried to keep telling myself this on Wednesday, although I didn’t feel any better. I decided I really needed a back-up prescription, even if I didn’t fill it. So I called–twice. I got sent via a chain of receptionists and nurse attendants to two different voice-mail boxes. I left messages. I called a third time, the office was closed–ten minutes earlier than their already shortened holiday hours. That’s okay, I told myself, I can call first thing in the morning tomorrow. My assigned doctor had indicated he wouldn’t be in, but the website showed they had hours on Thursday, so I figured I’d just talk to anyone who was there.
But Thursday when I called, I discovered they had decided to close a day early.
Fine. I’d take more cranberry juice tablets. It was my mom’s last day staying at our house, so it was ridiculous to spend it in a random short-term medical clinic–and, what if I was still wrong, and another test turned up negative? I’d have wasted my day for nothing.
But by evening, after dropping my mom at my sister’s house, I had a familiar ache in my back. The infection had traveled to my kidneys. But maybe it was just a back-ache? I stopped off at the CVS for a home UTI test. The dip-stick showed bright purple–lots of white blood cells from trying to fight off an infection. Great. I was in exactly the position I had dreaded–after business hours the night before New Year’s Eve Day, feeling terrible, with now prescription. I wanted to throttle the doctor for being so cavalier, for not trusting me, and for making me question myself. And I wanted to throttle myself for not being so forceful–for questioning myself despite my own experience and my recognition of physical evidence, just because he was in a position of authority. If anything, I should have stopped trusting him when he babbled some stuff about acid and alkaline that didn’t jibe with any of my research–and I do a lot of research! I was mad at him for not looking at my record and making some assessment of me as a patient, realizing that I’ve had one round of antibiotics in eight years–I’m not a misuser. Then I was mad at myself for making that point myself–for not saying, Look, I had cancer, and I turned down chemo, I’m not a frivolous medicine user!
But the time had passed, and now I was in that place…Should I ask our friend who’s a radiologist if she can write a prescription? We hadn’t spoken in over a year, but she and her husband had sent a Christmas card. Still, I hated to put her in that positions…
Eventually, I settled on calling family and friends to see what they had hiding in their medicine cabinets. On the second call, I hit gold–my friend K had seven Septa tablets–expired–from her last UTI. Yes! That would exactly get me through the weekend until Monday, when the clinic would open again.
The doctor’s refusal to give me a prescription to begin with has to do with a very real concern about the overuse, and misuse of antibiotics, which then cause tougher strains of antibiotic resistant bacterias. This is why doctors are loathe to prescribe when the problem won’t be helped by an antibiotic (for a cold that is caused by a virus for example), they ask us to finish each round, and not hoard old pills and try to self medicate later.
The irony, of course, is that what I have learned from this experience is that it doesn’t pay to have unconditional faith in the medical system or the people in it–and that if I ever get prescriptions for anything–pain-killers, sedatives, antibiotics–I will fill them and hoard them for a rainy day, the apocalypse, or the day a friend calls in need on a holiday weekend!
Oh–All that was going down a long road that I hadn’t actually intended. The point I was getting to–is that every brush with ill-health makes me super grateful for good health. And that little bottle of pills on the dresser, from my friend K, makes this day a completely different day from the kind of day it could have been. And I feel gifted by the universe in this regard. A great start to 2011!

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