Health & Wellness

I Swear, I Wasn’t Asking!

10 Jan , 2018  

Remember how I said, “Never, ever, ask“? Well, I swear I wasn’t asking! But Karma has a wicked sense of humor.

A bit of background:

First, I’m needlephobic. I’m pretty sure this fear is related to my fear of spiders, hornets, and venomous snakes. I can mostly control my reaction, meaning I no longer have an urge to punch unsuspecting phlebotomists while running from the doctor’s office, but it’s bad enough that just thinking about someone else getting an injection can cause my blood pressure to spike high enough to be referred to a cardiologist.  I have worried that a diagnosis of diabetes would kill me, if I had to take insulin – because I’m not sure I could be trusted to inject myself. You know, “Let’s not, and say we did.” I have visions of my poor, long-suffering husband having to chase me around the room, tackle me to the ground, and pin me down to stab me with a hypodermic full of insulin. Might be fun, once or twice, but he’d eventually tire of it, I’m sure.

Second, my mother had serious health problems. One of those problems was COPD; she smoked heavily all her life. I smoked, but never  heavily. I quit a dozen years ago, and can beat a healthy grown man on one of those “incentive spirometer” devices. They gave me one with a little smiley face drawn on it in Sharpie marker, when I had breast cancer surgery. Called it “Mr. Happy.” That’s really only amusing when you’re on a morphine drip. Anyway, another serious health problem, osteoporosis, led to my mom taking her own life in 2002; she suffered two spinal fractures, one just from turning her head too fast while brushing her hair. Due to the COPD, she wasn’t strong enough to survive surgery that might have relieved the pain, and she hated being loopy on painkillers. A mind is a terrible thing to waste. She was also terrified of being an invalid. Who isn’t?

I mentioned that in the post, Never, Ever, Ask that I may be having spinal surgery near the end of the month. I had looked at my chart, and noticed a line that said I’d had a bone density scan in the last 24 months. This was an error, and I urge you to always look at your own medical records to be sure that they are accurate. I told the surgeon that I had never had a bone density scan, and asked, given my mother’s medical history and the fact that I’m post-menopausal, if maybe I should have one before we started operating on bone so near my spinal cord. The surgeon immediately referred me for a DEXA scan, which I had, yesterday morning. So, the plan is now complicated – somewhat – by a diagnosis of osteopenia and early osteoporosis. After talking to the surgery scheduler, it’s probably not severe enough to not do the surgery. But it also means starting treatment to prevent bone loss and build new bone. The only medication for that – the only one that actually builds new bone, rather than just stopping the loss of bone, involves…

::drum roll::

…daily injections. FML. When she called to give me the diagnosis, which I already knew (at my request, the testing center gave me a CD with the DEXA scan results, so I had them before the doctor did and had already called the office to alert them), I told her, “I know. I told Dr. C the other day that if he had a problem with me knowing things and Googling things, we’d have to part ways. Not only do I know, I’ve been researching – and I already have a treatment plan.”

She laughed. “Okay, what’s your treatment plan?” I like these people already, I really do. They’ve not once been abrupt or dismissive or condescending.

“Twenty four months of Forteo. The only thing I’m not sure about – do we proceed with surgery as scheduled, or wait till late summer to see if the drug’s working first? Oh – and can I stop taking it for two weeks this summer, when we travel?”

“That is exactly what we recommend to our patients. And you can travel with it.”

“I know I can travel with it, but to Europe? For two weeks? It has to be refrigerated. That’s going to be a pain in the ass.” Doable, probably, but you know airline travel. I don’t want to inject myself with toxic – or ineffective – crap just because it went bad during a layover. And it’s not exactly cheap. One device lasts a month. I don’t think I get a “travel pack” with this.

“Good point. No, it won’t hurt to take two weeks off then.” Cool. I’ve got priorities, you know. I really don’t want to miss that trip – I’ve sworn, if I do, to sit in the doctor’s waiting room and sob, loudly, in front of all his other patients. I’ll scare them off.

I get hard chills just thinking about the damned needles. But guess what? I’m geared up for WAR. This mother****er is going down. This disease is not going to kill or disable me or get in the way of working or living – I intend to live to be at least 96 (both my grandmothers made it to their mid-90s, so it’s not far-fetched). And I mean live. If I do, I may even try skydiving, like George Bush, Sr. That which doesn’t kill us makes us strong, so look out world, I’m going to be doing all my own stunts, from now on. As if anything could stop me.

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19 Responses

  1. Jen O says:

    Oh…wow, Holly. Heavy stuff. You are one fierce, determined dragon. You are NOT one to cross. You also seem to have adventures, rather than “rough times” and I so very much love that., Lead on!!! ❤️

    • We are warriors, Jen. Look, there’s not much point dwelling on “rough times.” Given a choice between collapsing in a puddle of tears or seeing the humor in a bad situation, it’s ALWAYS better to laugh than to cry. I mean, think about it – all crying does is give you a stuffy nose to add insult to injury! (Put that on Brainy Quote with my name attached! Hah!)

      Sometimes, it’s not a choice. Sometimes, we cry. That’s okay – but trust me, I had pregnancy rhinitis, and having a stuffy nose for MONTHS on end just SUCKS. They say that when you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back? I just visualize making silly faces at it.

      Remember when I didn’t WANT to be “inspirational”? I find it’s kind of fun, after all. But I see my leadership style as a little Peter-Pan-ish. I refuse to get all serious and shit. If I lop off a hand, I’m damned well going to cry and whine and throw a tantrum before I rally, buy a 3D printer, and print myself a better one – then upload the plans so everyone else can do it for free. (Note: I think that’s been done – I’m just using it for an example of the sort of thing I WOULD do.) So sing with me, “We’re following the leader, the leader, the leader! We’re following the leader, wherever she may go! Wait, wait – okay, maybe not THERE…” LOL

  2. Would you like to be a guest on, when I have it rolling?

  3. Mike Goad says:

    Wow. I don’t like shots either, but I endure them. I used to get allergy shots, even took them with us on a trip, too. Karen administered them. I hope the treatment works. Karen has been having regular osteo-related treatment for years now and her bone density is stable. She gets an annual shot of something-or-other.

  4. Peter Wright says:

    Holly, I am mentioning this purely to let you know that it is possible to overcome the needle phobia. Not to get into a “my surgery was more serious than yours” contest. I have had 4 major surgeries, anaesthesia for broken bones and other stuff, all the heart attack related needles, over 100 skin lesions surgically excised then sutured as a result of skin cancer, most of my teeth extracted 2 at a time under local anaesthetic and many vaccinations and blood samples taken.

    I have had hundreds of needles, canulas, tubes and other sharp instruments stuck into me. Years ago, I started using meditation to put myself in a zone where I could neither feel nor fear the needle. It worked so well that for many years when I still had my own teeth, I could have fillings done without local anaesthetic.

    This allows me to watch the nurse or doctor giving me the needle, excising a skin lesion, suturing a wound without feeling any apprehension while asking technical questions about the procedure.

    I am sure with your creative mind you can tell yourself a story that will get rid of your needle phobia.

    Best wishes for a successful treatment and outcome and of course your European holiday.

    • Muahahahahah…I’ll let you win the “my surgery was worse than your surgery” (although, you weren’t around when I was blogging the breast cancer surgery, I think you’d STILL have me beat). Happy to concede this to you, Peter!

      Meditation MIGHT help. (I’m BAD at it, though. Really, really BAD at it.) Ironically, the biggest help, lately, has been to acknowledge that I have a phobia. It’s not rational. I’m a wienie. BFD. It tends to get you the technician that is best at needle sticks, and as I mentioned in email, and removes the stress of having to fake being a big, brave, mature adult (which, ironically, makes it more likely I can maintain that facade, because I don’t have to PRETEND). I do have to LOOK at the needle – I cannot look away. It’s like knowing there’s a venomous cobra in your house. Imagination and not knowing is worse than keeping one eye on the damned thing. My “creative mind” is truly my enemy when it comes to this. (It used to respond well to “giving blood might save a baby’s life” until I got mad at the blood center and my “creative mind” started making me sick – LITERALLY ILL – every time the bloodmobile showed up at the office, if I tried to make an appointment.)

      Needle wielder’s confidence is a big factor. Arrogant and dismissive, or hesitant and too willing to cater to my fears, is a disaster. Confident, likes their job, compassionate without being too indulgent – that’s the ticket. As I said in email, I imagine this is what it’s like for “the Horse Whisperer.” Animals respond well to that, and when phobias kick in, we’re as close to being “wild animals” as we ever get, I think.

      Thanks for the good wishes – I’ll take all I can get! 😀

  5. Geesh, Holly, your challenges make my sciatica sound like a stubbed toe. Stay strong and do ninja stuff.

    • Oh, no – well a stubbed toe is awful (of course, you get bonus points for being in a hotel, stubbing it on a couch, barefoot, ripping off the nail, and calling the front desk for a band-aid so you don’t bleed all over their new carpet – BTDT, on the first day of a three day business trip).

      Sciatica sucks, too. Mine was at its worst when my now 21 year old was in the womb and decided to BOUNCE on my sciatic nerve. OMG, do I sympathize with you – even just a day or two of flare up on that is awful. I can’t imagine it, long term. My doc gave me a handicapped parking pass for that one, so I could park closer to my office at work. 😀 That one literally brought me to tears. It still flares now and then, but is currently not even on the list of “things we’re going to worry about in January.” I can always relieve it by moving differently or changing position, thank goodness. (Let’s face it, any nerve pain at all sucks.)

  6. Anklebuster says:

    Holly, just balut that mother***. I was always impressed by your willingness to do what “normal” folks — real weenies like me — wouldn’t dream of doing. I did learn one trick to get over FOGS (Fear of Getting Stuck — LOL): absolutely relax the muscle. I was told that the pain would be worse if the needle had to rip through muscle.

    I hope your treatment goes well.

    By the way, I don’t think it’s an insult that you don’t get the Denny’s Discount: think of it as being carded at a club 🙂



    • Good point about the discount! I used to laugh at my grandmother for refusing to take her senior discounts and getting so offended when they were offered. I wouldn’t refuse one, but I’m not ready to have them offered spontaneously! (54 is the new 30, after all!!) I remember how fun it was to be underage and NOT get carded; then to be well past 21 and GET carded. It’s all relative, isn’t it? Young people need to understand that the mind really doesn’t age after about the age of 25 – it just acquires new data and experiences. We may even realize that life’s too short to be as serious as all those young go-getters, but God bless ’em for being young and so eager to play fetch!

      re: FOGS – funny you should mention that (I’m still working at your trick, but years ago, while giving blood – why, yes, I devise my own psychotherapy torture plans – it was pointed out to me that getting a DEATH GRIP on the squeezy ball only made it take about 5 minutes LONGER than if I would rhythmically squeeze and let go. I prided myself in being able to donate a pint in under 6 minutes, after that!)

      I’m sure that treatment will go well – I don’t wage wars not to win them. (I’ve always thought war was “done wrong,” you know? Men seem to like thinking of war as a “game” – a contest. Women see war as a way to lose babies, and for the most part, we don’t even hate our worst enemy that badly. So, if war is a necessity, we’re going for all out scorched earth. We’re in it to win it. BUT, when all is said and done, if everyone left standing can wash their hands and faces, keep a civil tongue in their heads, and behave like decent humans, we’ll make room at the table and feed everyone.)

      As for the comments and replies, it helps to have friends who know that a blog is meant for conversations. (I see NO reason a blog can’t function as a forum, and this seems…nicer than some of those other big forums we won’t name here, if you know what I mean.) I’m still mulling that idea I mentioned to you around the holidays. I wish you were familiar with the stuff I was doing on GEnie in the 1990s, because then it would be easy to communicate what I had in mind…)

    • “just balut that mother****” – LOL, Mitch!! I figure any adventure that sounds the least bit intriguing, that’s not actually likely to kill me, is probably worth having. Not entirely sure this qualifies, but sure – I get your drift.

      Honestly, the more little “signs of aging” I discover are really likely to be attributable to spinal cord compression, the more I’m looking forward to this. There is a passably good chance I’ll wake up with a sore neck and parts of me that have ached, had muscle spasms, and just not felt right for a LONG time will feel better right away. A lot of little things we just dismiss, because they’re not causing PAIN and just seem to come and go or become “background noise.”

      Also, I feel better – I outright asked, if I take the collar off like he said I can to shower, can I actually DAMAGE anything (like all his work) or just cause myself PAIN (which should be sort of self-limiting, as I’ll likely go, “Maybe I should stop doing that”) and he assured me he wouldn’t LET me take the damned thing off if it was going to do anything but be uncomfortable. So we’re good. I think. 🙂

      • Anklebuster says: dropped the thread, so to speak. I came after reading Peter’s reply.
        Your uplifting outlook is a model for all of us!



        p.s. As for GEnie, give it your best shot (no pun intended) and I will try to understand what you envision.

  7. Peter says:

    If anyone can fight it Holly, I’m sure you can.

    Like you, I’m also scare of spiders and needles. I remember one time whilst driving home with the wife and the kids I noticed a huge hunstman on the windscreen. I immediately put the wipers on to knock him off. Nope, it was in the car. I stopped it right there in the middle of the road and told the wife to get rid of it. Yeah, be protective he man I turned out to be 😀

    As for needles, once you have it you remember it wasn’t that bad after all. At least until the next time 😉

  8. Peter says:

    As big as you hand Holly! What an awful thought. At least I can still squash a redback spider.

    • I have irrational visions of spiders that jump up and over (in a “C” shaped jump) – as in out from under my hand and right onto the back of it as I go to swat them. Or my foot. Little ankle biter spiders. The only ones I’ve managed to get a LITTLE bit okay with are spiny orb-weavers, but I just pretend they’re tiny little crabs that live in trees and spin webs. I’m okay with that.

  9. Welcome to the needle party. I’ve been injecting myself since 2007, and I had to be as needlephobic as you are. Luckily the needle is tiny and I was able to get the thinnest one so it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. I still hate going other places where they use needles because there’s are bigger than mine.

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