Please forgive the ridiculously long headline.
I occasionally use an analyzing tool, to see if I’m leading with engaging prose. This one scored off the charts, but more importantly, it made me laugh. Who knew that dogs could be dinner dates or that ass-kicking boots and diabetes could share space in the same sentence with ice cream sandwiches?
But I digress. (Even though every noun in that headline is relevant to my story.) The reason I bring up ice cream sandwiches is that I used to eat them for dinner every night. Yes, I lost weight while eating ice cream. In fact, I lost forty pounds by eating ice cream every night. (Of course I know how absurd it sounds, but it’s also far more dangerous than it sounds, too.)
You’d think by losing the forty pounds, I could walk around kicking ass in my ass-kicking boots anytime I wanted, but it was actually more difficult than you’d think.
Guys, let me tell you this about women and shoes: We love shoes because we can buy any pair of shoes anytime that we want, and wear them anytime that we want, too.
We have fat-clothes, not-fat clothes, and the in-between clothes for every possible occasion, from weddings to work and concerts to funerals. We struggle with hostile hormones every week of every month of every year, and they cheat us out of our favorite clothes more times than not. BUT NOT OUR SHOES!!!
We don’t have to have fat shoes! We can wear any shoe for any occasion, and it’s the one damn thing in our wardrobe that never shrinks, never makes fun of us, never lets us down. They do what they promise, every single damn time.
So, I had a new pair of high-heel boots (some would use boot and hooker in the same sentence. – scratch that: it would be my husband who would use them in the same sentence, with his wicked smile.) But after wearing high heels for over 30 years, I was having trouble. My feet hurt really bad, for one, and for another, I didn’t have the same “feel” in my foot and ankle that I did when I was younger.
It was a really strange feeling. I felt like I was walking on stilts, very stiff-ankled and completely awkward. The ankles that used to strut in a three-inch heel felt like they would turn on me in a very bad way.
Four years ago this month, I went to see my doctor because of the shooting pain in my feet and legs. (really because I wanted to wear my hooker boots.) I was in fact having those shooting pains all over my body. I called it the sparkler effect. It was painful, sometimes almost debilitating.
I was also exhausted.
Mentally and physically drained after eight hours of work. I’d come home and after supper, I’d hit the recliner and I might not move for the rest of the evening. My mind was fuzzy and lazy in the evening. I sometimes panicked, becoming extremely overwhelmed with life. (This, from someone who’d never spent more than an hour at a time being unhappy.) I was emotional. I was grumpy. I wasn’t hungry, ever, but I could never get enough to drink. AND, my feet hurt like hell.
I was really hyped about losing that 40 pounds, though. I ate ice cream sandwiches for supper. It was the only thing that tasted and felt good, and it wasn’t causing me to gain weight- Win! Yes, there was a little dark voice in the back of my head asking me if I thought it was funny to have lost weight without trying when I’d been trying my whole life without luck, but hey, who was I to complain that my clothes all fit so nicely now?
My husband kept brow-beating me and so I finally made an appointment with my doctor about the foot pain. I remember walking in there, proud of my recent weight loss thinking that she would be as excited as me, since every other doctor in my life had forever given me hell about my weight.
Ummm, not so much. She looked over my bloodwork, told me that my Hemoglobin A1C was 10.5. (Normal is generally considered to be below 6.5 or 7.0, and the lower, the better.) My blood pressure was ridiculously high, 198/131.
After the nurse took my blood pressure reading twice, my doctor took it again, four more times. She even had me lie down partially, resting my upper body across the exam table, while I was seated in the side chair, trying to get my arm even with my heart when she inflated the cuff. Still high. Really, really high.
My doctor was debating admitting me to the hospital because of my hypertension! Me! The one who was never sick. NEVER!
Instead of walking out of that office with tips about treating my foot pain, I walked out with five prescriptions and an order for more blood work in 30 days. After my initial statement of coming in because of the foot pain, we never spoke of it again during that visit. Or after the next four, as a matter of fact.
I picked up my prescriptions from the pharmacy and came home. I read over all the literature for each medication. I sat down and cried. My husband came home, I explained it all to him, and I cried some more. And then he did something that completely shocked me. He got weepy, too. Not all “American Psycho,” or anything, but genuinely concerned for my health, and, well, for me.
I guess sometimes we get these little wake-up calls from God to remind us of the things that are important in our lives.
I’m not talking about my husband’s wake-up call. (That’s between him and God, not me.) I’m talking about my wake-up call. We stumble through life in our own little world, and forget how much we mean to the people around us. I mean, I knew my husband loved me, but to see him so greatly affected by something that was happening to me reminded me that I better get a move-on. I better get my shit together and try to get on top of this asshole disease that I’d let creep up on me.
I started poring over all the information about the medication that the doc had prescribed for me. Metformin to help my tissues become more sensitive to insulin. Actos to decrease the amount glucose that my liver releases. Diovan for the outrageously high blood pressure, along with its sidekick amlodipine. Simvastatin to control the amount of cholesterol produced in my liver.
The side effects of Metformin are generally mild, if you like to know about such things. It causes malaise and fatigue, (hey, didn’t I complain about that before I went to the doctor?) and it also causes gastrointestinal disturbances. It’s also recently been discovered that it causes a vitamin B12 deficiency that causes fatigue, mental status changes, and neuropathy. (Hello, did I mention foot pain already?)
One word about Actos: Weight Gain. (Okay, two words, but who’s counting?) I gained 30 pounds in 28 days. If your doctor ever tells you that it’s unsafe to lose more than a pound or two a week, you have my permission to slap her. Well, don’t slap her, ask her how it is safe to gain 30 a month but not safe to lose a pound a day?
Diovan side effects include headache, dizziness, lightheadedness, and diarrhea. (always with the diarrhea) Yikes. Amlodipine side effects are leg and foot pain, (again with the foot, dude) fatigue, nausea and dizziness.
And now to simvastatin, which is in a class of meds called statins.
Muscle pain, tenderness, or weakness, confusion, fever, unusual fatigue, memory problems, pain or burning when you urinate, dark colored urine, decreased or no urine output, (what the HELLS is this drug doing to your kidneys?) swelling, and weight gain.
Simvastatin also increases your risk for cancer. (Ever notice how they always know what causes cancer, but supposedly no one knows how to cure cancer? Hmmmmmm….) It can cause immune depression, cataracts, anemia, and sexual dysfunction, too. There are even some reports out there about it CAUSING diabetes!!
But the big one? The one your doctor doesn’t tell you about? The one that scared the begezums out of me? Statins may increase your risk for heart disease. Especially for women. Because they deplete your body’s supply of CoQ10, a co-enzyme that is essential in the production of ATP molecules that are needed for cellular energy production. Your heart and other organs have a higher energy requirement than other cells, and therefore require more CoQ10 to function.
Doctors are not routinely advising their patients to supplement with CoQ10, especially after the age of 40. My doctor is very good and I honestly don’t remember being advised to use this supplement.
I took simvastatin for two and a half years. When I started finding more and more articles about its dangers, I quit taking it. I won’t say against my doctor’s advice. When I saw her, I mentioned it to her, and she looked at me thoughtfully and moved on to the next issue.
She was in the process of referring me to a cardiologist because of an abnormal EKG. I ended up have to have a stress test and a nuclear heart scan. All was good, but you know what? When I followed up with the cardiologist’s PA, she mentioned that I was not on a statin for my hypercholesterolemia. I explained my rationale: My mother had three heart bypass surgeries, both carotid arteries cleaned up after 80% and 95% blockages, and after having at least five heart attacks and one stroke. Point: I had a very strong history of heart disease and I didn’t think that the statins were worth the risk.
The PA looked at me like I had horns growing out of my head.
(Some think they’ve actually seen them, but I protest on the basis that they can’t stinken prove it.) She actually looked at me and said, “That’s nonsense. Statins have been proven in human studies to be some of the safest drugs available.”
I didn’t know how to respond. I am not a doctor, but I can read, and I have excellent comprehension. How is it possible that this medical professional had not heard of any of the studies available with a simple google search? I left that office feeling really disappointed. I worked for doctors. I knew these professionals. They weren’t quacks. It’s not that I lost all trust in them, but I did feel betrayed by their blind belief in a pill. It made me question everything they told me.
Look, I was a practice manager. I get medical-legal and being vigilant about liability. But damn. Couldn’t she have at least asked me where I read this information so that she could verify it? That would have made me feel like she at least thought there was a brain behind my eyes instead of blowing me off like a silly school girl.
I didn’t just see one clip on Dr. Oz, or read Woman’s World. I saw it on the internet, too, and everyone knows that it has to be true if you see it on the internet. Seriously, I read many articles from a lot of trusted professionals. I’m not one who sees what I believe reflected back to me in every word or deed to justify my point of view. I want to find a reason to doubt. I mean, I want it to work, but I want to know it won’t kill me, either.
The Western fascination with pharmaceuticals has taken ginormous leaps since the 80’s.
I personally have never believed that a pill could or would cure everything. I’m too much of a realist, too pragmatic to believe in fairy dust and bean stalks. But that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in Nature. I believe most of what ails us can be treated and often cured with the natural bounty of food at our fingertips. We just have to study that in which we have not yet been schooled. (How do you think I found the articles about the damned simvastatin?)
That being said, there’s much room for traditional medicine and pharmacy. There are many who have benefitted from it, including myself. There is no doubt that it’s saved lives. However, the biggest problem that I personally have with modern medicine is the by-the-numbers approach to every human. I understand the safety in numbers agenda, and that it’s generally a good place to start. When it comes to me or my loved ones, though, that’s simply not good enough.
If only one person out of a million had a bad side effect with a drug, or a really sucking bad side effect like they keeled over from a heart attack or something much worse, that’s a percentage that most drug companies would embrace before marketing their drug.
But what about that person who had the side effect? That person was someone’s parent, kid, sibling, spouse, friend, co-worker.
What are the long-term effects of that person missing in any of those lives or of that person’s own life being forever changed, and why is it acceptable to have caused harm to him?
Look, I’m not trying to be overly dramatic. (okay, maybe I am, just a little…) I know the value of the drug that only affects one in a million patients in an adverse manner, especially if the benefits of the medicine are spectacular. My beef begins with the pharmaceutical, but it extends to the provider and the pushers, too. My doctor did not tell me about one single side effect of any drug that she recommended. Nor did the pharmacist. They left it up to me to read the literature that came with my prescription.
I’m fairly savvy about reading up on drugs before I take them or allow a loved one to take them, but what about those who are too weak or old or dumb or careless to research the drug? Does it truly meet medical-legal standard to simply hand a bunch of medical mumbo-jumbo to a patient with their drug?
If one person in a million died and it was directly related to a drug, then shouldn’t those professionals who delivered it at least give you a “By-the-way, the odds are in your favor, but you might turn into a pumpkin seed if you take this medicine,” or maybe a “I’m pretty sure this will not kill you, but you should know that it killed one person?”
One person can do great things. Don’t ever forget that. And for goodness sake, don’t let a doctor or a pharmacist ever blow you off in favor of the crowd effect. Make them listen to your questions. You’re the reason they have a job. Don’t ever forget that little nugget, either.
I gotta run. It’s a school night and I have two silly dawgs who are trying on new poses for dinner entertainment. Seriously, you should see these two.
Before I go, though, let me ask you this: Have you ever felt like a number to any of the professionals who are helping you manage your diabetes?
Life is good,