Tag Archives: real

Hunchback.

Having just been going to the PCP assigned to me at the time my insurance became active, I decided to follow the advice and recommendation of a friend and switch to the PCP at her office. She had had the similar experience of non or half diagnosis over the course of several years with little result, and said that this office was where she found doctors that would listen and take action. So I made the leap and I switched to an office much further from my apartment and made an appointment, X rays at the ready, to get my second opinion (since Professor Doctor hadn’t really given me… any opinion?)

I have no plans to abandon the original treatment plan. I do not want surgery, that would be shitty. But I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to hurt myself jumping straight into physical therapy without first making sure what exactly was wrong. I walked into the appointment with my new doctor still feeling completely confused about what my actual diagnosis was. The physical therapy referral from Professor Doctor, on the line labeled, “diagnosis”, had simply written “LBP” in large scrawl. I went in with the chief complaint of severe lower back pain and left with the diagnosis of… “lower back pain”? Great. Thanks for clearing that up.

A friend was kind enough to give me a ride to the new office since I’d never been to that part of town, and it is not what I would call an “easy” trip for a person in pain and in a back brace who needs a seat on the train. The office is underneath the Subway tracks, the walls are made of frosted windows, and there are chairs along those windows, facing the receptionists’ desk. This office, you can tell right away, is an osteopath’s office. An entire half of the office is dedicated to physical therapy suites, the other half, exam rooms.

I saw, let’s call her, Veronica, first. Veronica hung, rapt, but my every word. She seemed really concerned for my well being, and was receptive when I told her how much pain I was experiencing and how it manifested. She took pages of notes and showed me images of spines on her computer. She read the reports from my X rays and defined and illustrated for me what every single term meant. She told me what she thought my pain was and how she imagined it starting. She told me that I’d probably be given a stronger anti-inflammatory  (currently I an prescribed Naproxen), and that she was sending me to the physical medicine specialist and that after I saw that person I would probably be seeing a chiropractor. All in that same day.  I was later informed that Veronica could be slightly alarmist.

The physical medicine doctor, let’s call her Pam, asked me many of the same questions, looked over my  X ray reports with me, and then pulled up the images through the Lenox Hill Radiology website. She shuffled back and through the images a few times muttering “ok…. ok…” to herself every once in a while. She excused herself and came back with the director of the office, whom we’ll call Director Doctor.

Director Doctor sat and looked at the images, immediately muttering to himself, “kyphosis.” And going over the rest of the images. He explained to me, and showed me, what a “normal” spine looks like and how mine, instead, is shaped like a C. He let me know that whatever it was that was causing me the pain I’ve been experienced, has only been aggravated and intensified by the presence of kyphosis and the scoliosis I was previously diagnosed with, and had confirmed at this appointment.

He said my disc height wasn’t worrisome enough to warrant an MRI at this point, and seconded the opinion that careful and daily physical therapy would do me some serious good, if the X rays were any indication of the state of the bones. He confirmed that he believes I have spinal arthritis.

Still, there is nothing structurally worrisome about the bones themselves. There is no sign of deterioration or breakage, or mineralization. All of my pain, it is hypothesized, is soft tissue related (also nerve related, when in an exacerbation).

Things I noticed:

No one wants to tell me that I don’t need surgery.

For every doctor, there is a diagnosis. Sometimes they overlap. Sometimes they add new parts.

Things I was told:

“This is something you’ll feel your entire life.”

“This will be with you forever. There’s no fixing it.”

“This is probably what makes everything else worse.”

“You will have a pronounced curve and probably be bent over when you are 60 or 70 years old.”

I started to believe these doctors as the 4 hour appointment came to and end. It was the first time I had looked at the X rays with a doctor. It was the first time someone actually pointed to the areas of an image that helped to translate exactly what was happening. I was physically examined by 3 doctors, thoroughly and with care. I spoke up, I asked the same questions over and over again of each of the three doctors, and I didn’t stop until I felt like I had covered all I possibly could.

So, you know, all in all, it wasn’t great news. But it was good to know that I had covered my bases and found a place where the doctors listened to and answered my questions. So, onto physical therapy it is.

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Apologies.

When you live your life scared of almost everything, you tend to have to give a lot of apologies.

Lots of apologies sent when breaking plans. Social situations make me incredibly anxious. It could be 1 person or it could be 30, it doesn’t matter. I’m anxious. If  there is free/cheap/any booze to be had, I will be having some. I might accidentally over drink just to make things manageable, rushing through my first cocktail, making awkward jokes about “social lubricants” and laughing at myself. Then maybe I drink too much and I become unmanageable. I might say some stupid things. I might embarrass myself. And then all of this new embarrassment feeds into the next time I’m in public. It cycles. Like everything.

But, also, it’s hard when you have a lot of pain and you aren’t sure if you should or shouldn’t go out on a particular day. It’s hard to know if that’s a valid reason to break existing plans. It’s hard to know if insomnia is a good reason to break plans. It’s hard to know if massive anxiety is a good reason to break plans. It’s hard to tell people the truth when you don’t know what they’ll say. It’s hard to know if what they say is the truth because you can’t read their mind.

There’s the apologies after I ignore my phone for the umpteenth time. The phone sucks. I don’t know what happened between the phone-OBSESSED years I spent as a teenager I experienced and the absolute, heart-jumping fear I experience when the phone rings, now and for the last ten years. Part of me thinks that it’s about the time that landlines became a thing of the past and suddenly people could call you anywhere you were. We’re not alone anymore, we’re being stalked every day. You don’t go to the park and leave your TV, computer, and phone at home — you bring them with you in the form of a tiny infinity box. You never left your living room and you’re going to get a sunburn. I miss when leaving the house meant no one really knew where the hell you were. Like, you told your parents what your plans were… but how would they really know?

I send a lot of apologies because I don’t respond in a timely manner to things that make me anxious even a tiny bit. A person I’m nervous about, a subject I’d rather avoid, something I’m feeling particularly sensitive about that day, or because I am in such an ugly place that I literally can’t handle any part of my adult life and spend the day cleaning the house, crying intermittently.

I feel like I might have to apologize for this entry. There are always the inevitable people with whom I attempt to share my fears with who tell me “Oh, but you don’t have to feel that way with me.”  And that makes my heart speed up. That makes me clam up. I’m done sharing with this person because they clearly do not understand how this silent terror tends to operate. The anxiety grows when they message me. They must be thinking that since we had our conversation and they assured me I had nothing to worry about that I’ll pick that phone right up! No ma’am.

And maybe they aren’t thinking that, but I don’t know that. I don’t know anything other than the crushing fear of potentially embarrassing situations. I don’t know anything other than the remembered pain of past regressions against some invented and unreasonable standard I’ve placed on myself and reality.

I’ve missed weddings. That hurts so many people. I feel awful. I stay up at night thinking about things that happened a decade ago, wondering how I could have changed them, fixed them, or lived them differently. I’ve missed graduations and deaths, births and birthdays, and didn’t even initially pick up the phone when my mother called me from my dad’s cell to tell me I had to come home and we were losing him. I still don’t know exactly how I feel about that. Some things don’t feel remotely appropriate to even attempt an apology, so I just stew and feel horrible and know that I messed up and continue to feel helpless.

I apologize for apologizing so much. All the time. For everything I do, say and think. I apologize for my very existence sometimes. At least that’s what it feels like. Like, I have to apologize to the people in my life constantly for the mere fact that we are existing on this same terrestrial plane and they have to deal with me. 

Already in my head I’m thinking, “I’m going to have to take this entry down,” because it’s just too embarrassing. It’s too self centered, or something like that. It’s too painful and weird. Someone is going to have something to say and they must be right, right? But that all goes back into the cyclical nature of fear and how it can affect the human mind. My human mind, specifically.