Saturday, February 13, 2010


By Susan Esther Barnes

Several weeks ago I woke up with a case of tendonitis. I tried to ignore it for a couple of weeks, but when I found the pain was keeping me up at night, I finally went to see the doctor.

It’s not that I don’t like doctors or hospitals. I have no problem getting regular checkups or visiting people who’ve been hospitalized. It’s just that when you go to see a doctor about something that’s wrong, you get one of two responses. Either they tell you to wait and it will get better on its own, or they want to give you a prescription. The first response is embarrassing, and the second leads to the thing I don’t like, namely, drugs.

You see, drugs and my body generally don’t get along well. Augmentin makes my face swell up and turn pink so I look like a sunburned albino. Most antibiotics make me want to puke. Tylenol turns me into a mindless, angry zombie and Contac gives me hallucinations. So any time a doctor prescribes a drug for me, I tend to be a bit wary.

This time, the doctor prescribed a medicine that is a combination anti-inflammatory and painkiller. The pharmacist said it’s in the same class of drugs as Advil. I do occasionally take Advil, usually for headaches, without any noticeable side effects, so I accepted the new medicine without too much trepidation. At least, until I got home and read the list of possible side effects. But hey, what are the chances of my intestines suddenly starting to bleed, anyway?

I started taking the medicine, and although my arm didn’t stop hurting entirely, it certainly felt a lot better. After about a week and a half, though, I started noticing other issues. Part of me would like to describe those issues in graphic detail, however, my beloved husband has spent several years patiently attempting to teach me that most people would rather not hear the messy parts. Let’s just say, after two weeks on the medicine I had sufficient motivation to stop taking it.

On Wednesday night, the night before my birthday, I quit cold turkey. That’s when the headache kicked in. Maybe the timing was a coincidence, but when I stop taking a painkiller and end up with a big headache, the last thing I’m going to do is start with a painkiller again. That’s just not a cycle I want to get into.

So for the next day, and night, and into the next day, I lived with the throbbing and the nausea, which came in waves tricky enough so just when I thought it might be over, it started up again. Clearly, what I went through is nothing in comparison to what an alcoholic or drug addict goes through when they summon up the courage to detox. But I have to say, it wasn’t the best way I’ve ever spent my birthday, either.

Now, I’m happy to say, my arm is still sore, but the headache is mostly gone and the other effects from the medicine appear to be receding. Even better, there is still plenty of birthday cake left. But I’m not planning to return to the doctor to give her any.

It’s not that I don’t like doctors; it’s that I don’t like the drugs.

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