Did you ever feel like a lab rat?
Let’s think about lab rats for a moment. They stay in cages and are given a variety of ‘treatments’ and then are ‘observed’. They really don’t do anything else.
My nephew is a physician. During medical school, he told us about a summer during which he daily practiced sutures on a lab rat. Each day he would take the rat out of the cage, anesthetize it, slice it open, suture it up, then put it back in its cage. Poor rat.
Ok, I don’t really feel like a lab rat, but I do share some characteristics with one. You already know that I love my little house by the river, so I won’t compare it to a cage. After all, I have a lovely view, I can come and go as I please, I make my own food, and I have the steady companionship of my husband and my dog. However, even though I am not currently ‘caged’, I am an object of experimentation.
You may recall that my doctors are unsure of my diagnosis; they don’t think I have Psoriatic Arthritis, which is what my doctors in St. Louis diagnosed me with. So, experiment #1, they discontinued one of my medications — the biologic, Humira, which is used to treat Psoriatic Arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. They are currently observing me to see the effects of that change. Two doctors stood near me last Wednesday and asked me questions about what symptoms were resurfacing, and asked if I thought they warranted taking the medication I had been on. We agreed to do some more observing.
They also decided to add a new medication, Neurontin, which they said is used for fibromyalgia, to see if it alleviates some of these symptoms. Experiment #2. Well, since I am not currently working, and am not in danger of missing work due to illness, I agreed to give it a try. I mean, maybe they are right. Maybe I do have fibromyalgia. And if I do, doesn’t it seem that Neurontin would help with my symptoms?
Well, here’s where I differ from a lab rat. I have a computer and am quite adept at doing my own research. I do have a master’s degree and a bachelor’s degree, after all. So, my research shows me that Neurontin is used to treat epilepsy and the nerve pain associated with shingles. Let me assure you that I do not have epilepsy, nor have I had shingles. Now, I have been around doctors long enough to know that medicines can be helpful to treat maladies for which they were not originally designed. So, I did more research to see if people with fibromyalgia had any success with Neurontin. The results I found were overwhelmingly, ‘No.’ In fact, it seems that Neurontin is great at causing sleep, lethargy, dizziness and weight gain. Great.
So, I am supposed to take 300 mg at bedtime for one week to see if that ‘helps’. Then I am can, “if you want” take 300 mg in the morning and 300 mg at midday. Really? They are letting the rat decide if she wants to sleep more, be more lethargic, dizzier, and heavier?
I have been taking it for four days. No, I don’t feel better. Yes, I sleep very well. I sure hope I haven’t gained weight in four days. Lethargy? I mean, we may or may not have watched ten episodes of Criminal Minds this weekend while lounging on the couch. But, I did also go to the gym on Friday, walk on Saturday and Sunday, and yell loudly every time Michigan State scored against the University of Michigan.
This rat is skeptical. But, two years into this thing, nothing has really alleviated all the symptoms. No tests exists to definitively diagnosis what I have. In fact, all my labs say I am ‘normal’. [Insert laughter here]. Actually, if I was truly a rat, no doctors or scientists would be doing anything to me. From the outside, I look just fine.
But I am not a rat. And I can tell you that I am not just fine. But I can also tell you that what I have is not life-threatening, it just slows me down. It makes me uncomfortable, and it forces me to rely on others. Because I hurt, I have more empathy for others. Because I am slowed down, I have more time to listen.
Do I want a cure for that? I think I need more time for observation.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.