Friday, November 18, 2016
Day 18: Shootin' up in my kitchen
I gave myself a shot for the first time tonight. My daughter-in-law Montana is a paramedic, and she showed me how to do it last week and then oversaw me this week. Next week, I'm confident I can fill a syringe and shoot myself up in my thigh muscle all by myself. It wasn't really that bad. In fact, it didn't even hurt, which is good since I'll be doing it again. No, I haven't joined the heroin epidemic. And I usually don't write about health issues, because who gives a fuck? We've all got our own shit, AIR? I'm going to share this one though, because you might have symptoms too and not know what the problem is.
It all started when my second left toe went numb. I consulted my doctor, Dr. Google. Probably a pinched nerve, he advised. Nothing can be done. So I did nothing. And then the toe next to it slowly went numb and the one on the other side .... and then on my right foot, a little less .... and then -- oh, fuck -- my fingertips, especially my right thumb and forefinger.
Well, shit. This time Dr. Google gave me possibilities that I didn't like to contemplate. Possibilities that required going to the doctor. Best case, it was a B-12 deficiency. Worst case, I don't remember now. Repressed.
I hate going to the doctor. There are sick people there. Contagious people. And I don't even like my doctor for reasons I won't go into, because joy of all joys when I called to make an appointment, I found out she was gone, and I hadn't been assigned another doctor because it had been well over a year since I'd been to that clinic.
The appointment clerk at the base hospital asked me why I needed the appointment. I had decided I might as well get everything done at once, so I told her about my numb fingers and toes. "OK," she said. "So tingling and numbness in your extremities."
"No," I said. "No tingling. Just numbness."
"I can't make that appointment for you. You'll have to go to the emergency room."
"No way," I said. "I've had this for about 3 weeks. It's not an emergency."
"They don't want to see numb fingers and toes in the clinic. You'll have to go to the ER."
"But I have other things I want to see the doctor about besides just this." We go around a few times. If I'd really needed the emergency room, I'd probably have died while I was arguing with her. I refused to give in.
Heavy sigh. "Fine. I'm going to transfer you to someone else. Hold on."
Someone from the clinic came on the line. We had the same conversation, but this one gave in and said she'd make the appointment.
"OK," she said. "Is that all? Just the numbness?"
"No, I have a rash on my eyelids that's been there since May. And I want a referral to dermatology for a skin cancer screening. And my ears have been ringing more than ..."
She interrupted. "Ma'am, you can only see the doctor for one thing at a time. They don't want you to bring up several things at one appointment. You'll need to make an appointment for each of those things."
"So, I need to make an appointment for each symptom when they might come from the same cause?" I hate stupid. This is why I don't go to the doctor. I hadn't even told her about the fatigue, foggy brain, and joint pain, not that I had intended to. I've been complaining about those symptoms for almost 3 years. Nobody wants to hear that shit.
"They just don't want you to bring up more than one problem during your appointment," she said.
"OK, just make the appointment, and I'll handle it from there," I said.
"I can do that, but if you try to bring up all of these things, please don't throw me under the bus and tell the doctor I said it was OK," she said.
"I won't throw you under the bus. Who's the appointment with?"
"Will you spell that please?"
"Beverage? My doctor's name is Dr. Beverage? Like a drink?"
"I never noticed that before, but yes, her name is Dr. Beverage."
Now I felt a little better about going to the doctor. At least my doctor had a cool name. A name that could be literary. I started feeling better about the upcoming appointment.
A few days later, I tell Dr. Beverage about my fingers and toes. She checks my reflexes and strength. I'm good at both. She tells me she's going to run some blood tests and check my B-12, magnesium, electrolytes, and a bunch of other similar stuff. And that she'll call me. Anything else?
I decide not to tell her about the other symptoms, because I really want that referral to dermatology. So I tell her about the rash and that I want a skin cancer screening. She types on her computer and tells me where to go to make that appointment and gives me some cream to use on my eyelids until I can get in to the dermatologist. She doesn't seem mad at all, so I don't get a chance to throw anybody under the bus. (The cream made the rash a million times worse, so she didn't bowl a 300 on that.)
A few days later, her nurse calls and says I have vitamins B-12 and D deficiencies. She says I'll have to have B-12 shots for a few months and blah blah blah. You don't care about that, nor about the 2 hours I waited at the pharmacy the next day because Dr. Beverage didn't prescribe syringes with my little bottles of B-12. I never did get those syringes, but Montana brought me some from the hospital where she works. Shhh.
So, after all that, here's the thing you might want to know. The symptoms of B-12 deficiency are many and varied. For me it took neuropathy in my fingers and toes to finally make someone check for it. I've been complaining to my GYN's for almost 3 years about my foggy brain (I tell my kids I've got the dementia. They laugh, but I'm not kidding), joint pain, and fatigue. They've messed with my hormone dosage, added testosterone, even put me on thyroid hormone for several months, and none if it had an effect at all on those symptoms. The ringing in my ears started about the same time as the numbness. I always have a degree of tinnitus, but this is much worse. Like after a loud concert, all the time. Turns out that too can be a symptom of B-12 deficiency.
As for the vitamin D deficiency, some of my symptoms, like fatigue and fogginess, can also be attributed to that. But so can ..... wait for it! Weight gain! YES! OK, I'm not putting too much hope into vitamin D to help me lose weight. Probably losing some chocolate and wine consumption would help more, but a girl can hope.
Anyway, this is what led to Montana shooting me up with some evil-looking red liquid in my kitchen last week, and to me doing it to myself tonight, and to my writing this post that sounds like your 83-year-old great-aunt. If you've been experiencing any of these symptoms, you should know that vitamin B-12 deficiency is pretty common. And it might be worth checking out while you've still got medical insurance, especially if you've just reserved yourself a room in the nursing home.
So far, I don't know which, if any, of my symptoms these shots will alleviate. It takes a while to get the levels up. I'll keep you updated though. If nothing else, I now have a new medical skill for the zombie apocalypse. That's never a bad thing.