Friday, October 28, 2011

Dry Bones

I am a body divided. I have been partitioned and parceled out to several orthopedists, each of whom treats only one specific body part, like a paint-by-numbers kit. Or packages of chicken parts at the butcher's. Don't they know the thigh bone connected to the hip bone, the hip bone connected to the back bone? (Now hear the word of the Lord.)

Last week I saw a neck doctor for a stiff neck which has been hurting for at least two years and makes noises like a car that needs brake pads. He sent me for x-rays: Degenerative disk disease, herniated disks, osteoarthritis, and a couple of disks facing the wrong way. No wonder it hurts. He prescribed physical therapy and Aleve, which I decided not to take after I opened the bottle and then read the warnings. Anti-inflammatory drugs are contraindicated for those with bleeding disorders, and I am such a person.

I went to the drugstore for Tylenol and they didn't have any gel caps, only tablets. I am a poor pill taker. Tablets are harder for me. They did have Walgreen's brand Acetaminophen in a gelcap, and it was even on sale so I took a bottle to the register. The sale price was one for $3.99, two for $5.98. I only wanted one. The clerk rang it up for $8.99. I told him what the sign said. He went to look at the shelf and returned, saying it was $8.99. I peeled the sign off the shelf and took it to a different register. The second clerk said, "You have to buy two."

I said, "You never have to buy two just because it's offered. See, it says One for $3.99 or two for $5.98."

"That's for a different product," he said. "24 count." "This is a 24 count," I said. "$14.99," he replied. I walked out and went to the other Walgreen's a few blocks away - yes, I live in a two-Walgreen's neighborhood - where the clerk rang up one bottle for $3.99 plus tax. No problem. She even wished me a nice evening. It's hard to believe those other two people have jobs when so many with working brains do not.

Today I visited a shoulder doctor because my right shoulder hurts so much that I am trying to become left-handed. This may be even harder than switching ones sexual orientation. The condition has persisted for at least a year. He also ordered x-rays: Osteoporosis, a probable torn rotator cuff, inflammation and tendonitis. He gave me a cortisone injection and a prescription for physical therapy. All roads lead to Rome PT. Surgery may be necessary at some point, but I can't do it now because of my responsibilities to Flip and a cat who gets injections twice a day. It is outpatient surgery, though, so I could get home in time for the evening shot.

This is a song with many choruses as I also have bursitis in one hip, for which I was given 8 or 10 cortisone shots by an orthopedist in 2009. I haven't yet made an appointment with a hip doctor, but it will not be the same one. He is on my permanent shit list, and I don't think he liked me either.

The whole thing is absurd. Last time I looked, I was healthy, young and strong. And now I need a whole body transplant. How did this happen? I am trying to keep it in perspective by reminding myself that I would unhesitatingly choose body over brain issues. We have all heard the old homily about how if all the world's problems were in a huge pile, we would pick out our own. It always made me sneer, but when I think of what Flip is enduring with Alzheimer's Dementia and Parkinson's, physical pain doesn't seem all that bad. Of course, it doesn't seem all that good either. On the upside, it's nearly Halloween and Day of the Dead and I am the best skeleton costume ever. I need to figure out how to light myself up in the dark.


JeannetteLS said...

Wow. I have one doctor--a DO, and he has been able to diagnose all my disparate parts that have problems. Modern medicine. When I had all my back surgery, I remember this one nurse who used to refer to me as "the back in bed 2." When I was finding my brain a few days after surgery, I was talking to a visitor and said, "Oh, this is the red hair from shift three."

I was lucky. She actually GOT it and started calling me "the back PATIENT in bed 2." At least we established my humanity.

I don't think any specialist sees the person... just the part. Hence I have a DO.

How nice that you need no costume though!But, then neither do I. I'm gonna dress like an old, dumpy hippie with a cane!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


"Back patient" is an improvement, but I would have preferred "JeannetteLS in bed 2." You taught her an important lesson - I hope it stuck.

All those doctors -- I feel like a cow which gives milk for a whole village.

Paula said...

Susan, I wish I could twitch my nose like Samantha on Bewitched for you. This is so much for one person to bear simultaneously. Have you considered chiropractic to get at least some relief? If it doesn't work for you, at least it is non invasive.

I used to work for a DC and have seen many people helped. They also practice therapy that will deal with what stress may be doing to your body. Sometimes considerable relief was apparent in the first visit. A DO, as JeanetteLS suggested might be a good fit for you, as they practice allopathic and chiropractic both.

An RN friend and I were recently visiting about how too many different doctors becomes counter productive as they don't communicate well with each other.

secret agent woman said...

How frustrating. I think I might send a copy of the paragraph about what happened at the first Walgreen's to the manager.

I don't really have a primary care doctor after I decided mine didn't really seem to be all that helpful. Right now I'm relying on my GYN. Fortunately (?) all my problems fall under her expertise.

I don't know how it happens. Physical aging sucks.

English Rider said...

I have a lot of faith in Physical Therapists as diagnosticians. They can tell a lot by what movements work or not. They are also usually more in tune with human interactions.
My husband recently had an epidural for disk problems and it was very successful. He can't take anti-inflammatories either. I hope you feel better. (The torn whatevers in the rotator cuff can become atrophied and un-fixable if the tear is complete and you wait too long. That's on our list of "I wish I knew that before it was too late")

Tanya Brown said...


The business in the first Walgreens could almost pass for sketch comedy, if it wasn't so unfunny.

Jo said...

Susan, you manage to be cheerful and funny, even in the face of ~~ yet more ~~ adversity. You have had so much on your plate the past couple of years, it's a wonder you're not falling apart completely.

When I worked in Orthopedics at Vancouver General Hospital, there was an orthopedic surgeon who specialized in hand surgery. His name was Dr. Groper. He had a wooden sculpture of a hand on his desk, with the plaque "Dr. Groper". True story!

(You should report the first Walgreens clerk, BTW...)

nick said...

Two things occur to me. First, all the pain may be stress-related because of all the business of looking after Flip and trying to get proper care for him. Second, the pain may be food-related and maybe you should try a different diet with less processed food and more natural food, like a vegan diet? These may be totally crap suggestions, but the medics with all their alarming diagnoses and expensive treatments may also be talking crap....

Taradharma said...

Your Walgreens story had me laughing and booing! What nincompoops! (sp?) it's a good thing you don't carry a weapon.
Your varied health issues are worrisome, but it sounds as if u are aware of your options. Whether your GP or a specialist, you WILL be viewed as a "body part" or condition -- nature of the health care best. But you know enough to help these poor medical schlepps connect the dots.

Now we understand why our elders had such long winded conversations about their ailments!! xxoo

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I wish you could twitch your nose, too, because it would be very cool. Chiropractic is wonderful and Flip always found it vastly helpful, but my experiences weren't as good.


I would prefer to have a gyn in charge of everything but haven't been able to find one I like in SF. I think very highly of my primary care doctor, though.


I know I'll have to have surgery at some point, but can't do it now. I'm sorry your husband has disk problems as they are extraordinarily painful.


I know. It was like a bad SNL skit, or a modern version of Who's on first? I would write comedy if I could make this stuff up.


Dr. Groper! Love it. There is clearly a case of a person doing what he was born to do.


The pain is surely stress-related. I think stress exacerbates everything. It isn't diet - I am a near-vegan vegetarian and have been all my adult life.


I try not to let them think of me as a body part. I annoy them with questions and listen to their answers so they will have to be aware that there is a person inside that shoulder/neck/hip/whatever. Sometimes this is more successful than others.

I apologize for the long-winded post about my ailments. I almost didn't post it because it seemed like a long whine.

Anonymous said...

I always feel bad about laughing at your posts but your humor and wonderful way of looking at things always brings a smile to my face. In spite of a horrible string of luck, you keep a wonderful perspective and that is an amazing quality.

Don't forget Susan in all of this. You need some attention too. And some help and some care.

Isn't that funny about tablets vs gel caps? They seem to be phasing them out in my local drug stores too. We much prefer gel caps but have a tough time finding them.

Day of the Dead is a great look. Honest.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Nick about the link to stress but I admire your sense of humor in the face of all this adversity. Eating radioactive Japanese seaweed might help you glow in the dark.

consuetudinis magna vis est said...

J'aime vraiment le contenu actuel du poste, le mot, j'ai été impressionné. Merci

heartinsanfrancisco said...


They're phasing out gel caps? I'm screwed. My children all laugh at the contortions I go through to swallow a pill. This won't end well.


Radioactive Japanese seaweed. I'll get right on it. I'm a little nervous about eating sushi these days, actually.


It's very difficult to keep track of all the names you use, but merci beaucoup.

mischief said...

Susan, I don't know if this is at all useful but I am of the understanding that infrared can be effective for treating inflammation, improves circulation and healing time. We have an infrared sauna, and it's hard to say, of course, with no uncontrolled variable, what it would be like without it, but the research seems to support its use. If you're dishing out for medicine, physical therapy, etcetera anyway, it might be a worthwhile investment, either to own one or to spend some time in one. If nothing else, it feels really good. And I'd love for you to feel really good. xxxx

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I would like that, too. I have had infrared treatments in the past and they were extremely helpful. I will ask if my physical therapy facility has it, or I may have to join a health club to use a sauna, which I would love. I don't do well with icing injuries as I hate to be cold.

mischief said...

Or you could move here and be my neighbour and share mine. :)

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Now you're talking. What a great idea! See you later.

Maria said...

When I was in med school, I had the good fortune of learning from a teacher who told it like it was. He said that once people turn 40, their bodies become like used cars. That their genetics catch up with them (Mom's diabetes, Dad's bad knees, Aunt Betty's arthritis, Uncle Pete's kidney stones)...

And when one turns 50, an old car, the big stuff starts to rear it's ugly head.

He also said that if a person can make it to 65, there is a high likelihood that they will make it to 80.

I loved this man. He was an atheist, the first I had ever met. But, he was the most loving physician. He always treated the whole person and he told me a secret: that PT really only works for athletes. The rest of us? Well, it only has minimal effect. He also did not believe in back or neck surgery unless the pain was unbearable and even went as far to say that he's rather give the big gun drugs for pain relief than an operation that only had a 30% chance of working, at best.

Another secret: most physicians will tell you to either use cold packs or alternate between heat and cold. The truth: heat just works better. It DOES make things swell at times, but the comfort is more likely to take away the pain more than sitting in misery freezing with a cold pack on your shoulder.

Just sayin'. And, as my teacher once told me: Everyone is different. LISTEN when they tell you their story. THEY are the ones who live in their body, just as YOU are the one who drives your car. The user knows best.

And I have never had success with Walgreens employees. Although...Lee DeWyze used to be one and I'm sure he was a stellar employee....

Thinking about you always....and for GODSAKES...let your neighbor carry your laundry!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I've been very lucky in that the inevitable aging process has been delayed. I've had a good run but nothing lasts forever.

I wish all doctors actually listened to their patients instead of merely spewing their own agendas to get through X number of people in a day. True healers are rare.

Surgery is not imminent. I believe that I can heal myself to some degree with self-education and dedication. I have also never found PT particularly helpful, but it makes me feel as if I am doing something for myself.

I like that you are thinking of me! Thank you.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

The first thing that came to my mind is water.

Hot water to soak in.
Cold water to swim in.
Ocean water (nowhere near The Bay... ew...) to heal in.

Water, water, water.

Drink it a lot. Put your body in it often.

Also, it may help to get some massage therapy.

I'm so sorry to hear you are in pieces. I'd send all the King's horses and all the King's men if I thought it would do you a bit of good.



heartinsanfrancisco said...


I like water. I'm even a water sign. I also like your suggestions, especially the one about massage therapy. I'll be fine. Sometimes I just like to complain. But please do send in some horses as I like horses, too.

Jocelyn said...

I deeply appreciate that you're trying to keep perspective and realize it could be worse.

That noted, it still sucks crazy-like. This is your reality, and it came seemingly out of nowhere, and even if it could be worse, it still sucks.

I'm 44. My knees hurt every time I sit down on the toilet (which is more frequently than it used to be!). I know I'm sliding down the same hill you are. Meet you at the bottom!

Sextant said...

I used to be in the PT is useless camp, but my wife had a shoulder problem of some sort and 6 weeks of PT fixed it. A guy at work had sciatic related leg cramps to the point that he couldn't get out of bed, and damn near couldn't stay in it. Some PT and exercises and he was good as well maybe not new but a well worn used car.

Jo-At least Dr. Groper was not a gyne. "Hello BABE, my name is Dr. Groper." My wife had a gyno guy that always referred to her as sweetheart, honey, and BABE. The whole way home I would get my ass chewed out about the sexist pigs who get into gynecology.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I'm sorry about your knees. I used to run, too, but it was my back that took the brunt of it, not my knees. They are actually still fine despite getting bonked regularly as I'm a hapless but dedicated klutz.


That is exactly why I prefer female gynecologists. I haven't yet encountered an orthopedist named Dr. Chainsaw, but I'm sure he's out there when I get to the body part in which he specializes.

I think PT may offer some benefit as long as I don't expect miracles, and as long as I am willing to work for it. The person I go to is great, so I'm optimistic.

Maria Montenegro said...

Hi Susan,

I had been having terrible neck pain for the last 2 months. Couldn't find any position to sleep in that was comfortable. Then I went to a massage therapist on Tuesday morning. I awoke with zero pain on Wednesday. It's likely that my neck will go back to tweaked painful mode unless I continue trying to reprogram how my body absorbs stress, but at least I have some relief from the pain, if temporary. I don't go to women massage therapists anymore because they consistently don't apply the enough pressure to deal with the knots in my back. I researched a male massage therapist in my area who specializes in sports massage (and has experience dealing with rehab and injuries). If you can bear deeper pressure, it makes a huge difference.

Anonymous said...

When you figure out how it all happened, dear friend, please let me know because I'm yet to figure it all out.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I'm so glad you were able to get relief from your pain so quickly. Years ago, I was Rolfed, which was the system of deep tissue massage in practice at the time. It was extraordinarily painful but provided immense relief.

I studied massage therapy for a while and was told that women tend to carry stress in their necks while men do in their lower backs. (Since I seem to do both, I idly wondered if I might be a secret hermaphrodite until I realized that there really are no rules about this.) Now if we could actually remove the causes of stress, that would be wonderful.


Not very likely but if I do, you'll be the first to know.