Friday, December 2, 2011

Is The Cure Worse Than The Ailment?

I very rarely talk about my health issues on this blog, simply because I try not to let them define me as a individual. I would rather define myself as a unique individual who happens to blessed with a genetic malady and the world's cheapest disease to have: diabetes.

I say cheapest, because if you have diabetes, the insurance companies have to cover your prescriptions (if you have insurance that is) and thus, your co-payments are usually zippo. That means, if you take pills, the co-payment on a $180 prescription is $0. Same goes for about any other expensive diabetic medication that you might have to take. Think I'm fooling? I have a prescription that if I had to pay retail, it would cost me about $400.

Anyways, for the most part, I stumble through my day-to-day activities with my diabetes well under control. I watch what I eat, test my sugars when I feel off and adjust accordingly, and when I am off, I let my supervisors know that if I'm hibernating in my cube it's because my sugars are out of whack and I don't want to inflict a messed up me on anyone else.

Last week, I experienced such a messed up me that when all was said and done, it made me truly wonder if the cure was really worth putting my body through the ringer.

I have, for better and worse (yeah, it is possible), a very wonky left shoulder. To whit, I had surgery on it back in 2001 for tendinitis. Over the course of the next ten years, the durability of said shoulder has ebbed and flowed with an ever escalating degree of annoyance and irritability, until by the late summer of 2011, it was really interfering with my ability to function like a normal person.

From the late summer to about now (mid November), the shoulder got to the point where it was becoming extremely uncomfortable to do anything that would be considered normal (driving, typing, writing, eating, etc., etc., etc.). So I called up my doctor and set up an appointment to have my shoulder checked out. After taking a few X-rays and diagnosing another mild case of tendinitis plus rotator cuff issues, he suggested a cortisone shot and some inflammatories (Advil) as the first step in curing the problem.

Since the second and third steps would be incredibly difficult for me to deal with (rehab & surgery), I said go for it.

One important fact that you should realize when you take either cortisone or steroids: it can temporarily jack up your blood sugar. Normally not an issue when you're not a diabetic, it becomes a major issue when you're a diabetic. Especially if you take medication on a daily basis.

My friends, not only did my body take a proverbial beat down with this cortisone shot (which I might add, is working out very fine so far), but I had to tweak my medications for the entire week, which of course left me in a most irritable frame of mind.

How irritable?

Consider this fact: My fasting sugars are usually around 115 and the day is usually spent functioning anywhere between that number and 150. Last week, I started Tuesday at 315 and I didn't drift down below 150 until Saturday morning.

Not only was I functioning with a stubbornly high blood sugar, but I also had to deal with vicious mood swings (my hot flashes would make yours feel like the end result of sticking your forearm in the oven while taking a tray out), frequent trips to the porcelain gods, brutal acid indigestion and hiccups.

Yes, you heard correctly, hiccups. I spent four and a half days suffering from a severe case of the hiccups. How bad was it? Ever try carrying on a semi-important phone conversation and apologizing every five seconds for hiccuping?

By Saturday, I was back down to my usual abnormal self, but to be honest with you, the next time that I'm offered a cortisone shot to ease the pain of a particular body part, I will definitely think twice about subjecting myself to that kind of torture again.

So my good friends, my question to you is this: Ever have a procedure done where in order to achieve long term relief for your particular problem, you had to suffer through a week's worth of rotten side effects in order to achieve that goal of long term relief for the problem at hand?


  1. That's terrible, G. Does that mean no more cortizone shots for you? Sounds like the cure is worse that the effects.

    I can't say that I have had anything like that happen, unless you count dental things. Ugh.

  2. Yes but my pain is usually dealing with the insurance company and what they will or will not pay

  3. G, I'm sorry you had to go through all that. I had a cortisone shot years back, but thankfully had no side effects. The only bad thing was, it ended up masking the pain so well, I ended up doing more serious damage to my tendon. So I never had one of them again.

    It does seem hard to balance the pain of the cure against the pain of the condition, doesn't it?

  4. Lynn: I'm not so sure. The option of rehab would be hard because of the current neuro-muscular malady that I have in my hands has pretty much rendered my hands somewhat useless as items of strength, and the surgery option ties into the rehab option, which on one had will cure the problem (again) but make it very hard to both rehab and get cleared for full regular duty at work.

    Dental would rank up there with rotten side effects for long term relief.

    Bearman: The state recently changed our health insurance to a lighter version of ObamaCare so I may be asking for your expertise on how to deal with insurance companies.

    Lynn: That's really bad. Killing the pain is one thing, but masking it so that you can't identify other potential damage is inexcusable.

    It's a very delicate balance and for me, I almost have to become completely incapacitated before seeking medical treatment.

  5. Poor G! I haven't had that personal experience (yet), but my boss had knee surgery and spent a year and a half recovering. But it was worth it (he says.)

  6. R: Having certain kinds of surgery can be worth it in the long run, but the initial rotten side effects can really make you question your sanity.

    Like knee surgery, or hip replacement surgery, like a good friend of mine had. Made her into a new person but the initial side effects drove her nutty.

  7. I hope you get everything to feeling better soon. Lana just had an MRI today for a shoulder problem that is causing her a great deal of pain.

    I hate those painful hickups. Sorry you had to suffer through that for so long.

  8. Charles: Thanks.

    It's the beginning of a long slow ride back to decent health.

    Sorry to hear that Lana is still having so many problems with her shoulder. Hopefully the MRI will finally narrow down to what the exact problem is.

  9. A qualified no...they offered a cortisone shot for my torn rotator cuff.

    Fortunately...or unfortunately, depending on p.o.v.... I have a legit paranoia of needles. And I mean the actual, dictionary definition where the fear is unreasonable and disabilitating.

    So I refused it because I could not face the needle.

    And, on a completely unrelated note, I still have occasional shoulder problems.

    If it would have cured it, would I have done it? No, because that one moment of the needle would have so dominated my life before and after from pre-injection terror and nightmares for months after that the "cure" would have been worse than the issue for me.

    Hoping you get yours resolved

  10. Darth: Let's genuinely hope that you never become a diabetic, especially my kind in which I give myself four shots a day.

    The doctor did give me the option of taking cortisone pills for it, but as I take enough pills already, I didn't really want to take anymore.

    I can definitely see and understand where the cure would definitely outweigh the goal of long term relief for you.

  11. Sorry you had such a tough week, G! I've been blessed with pretty good health (and believe me, I'm extremely thankful for it!), so I can't think of anything that I've personally dealt with that would compare. But I know people who have experienced similar things, and I've seen how difficult it is for them -- so you have my sympathy! Hope this week is better!

  12. Lisa: Thankee.

    This week has gone much better, although I'm still dealing with an elevated blood sugar, which I'm thinking is simply the residual aftereffects of my body slowly assimilating the shot.

  13. so I take it you've got diabetes type 2 not type 1? fluctuating blood sugars feel awful, hope you don't have to go through a week like that again

  14. Nurse Myra: Unfortunately, yes. Normally I can deal with slightly flucuating sugars seamlessly. However, this was a major pain in the ass.

    And I hope I don't have to go through another week like that either.

  15. Ai caramba - that sounds awful! It's a bummer that you have to weigh one health problem against the other. You are very stoic for all that you go through.

    I have had bad side effects for sure: head to toe hives with fever from sulfa antibiotics. There was also that time I took a sleep aid and it gave me an extremely rapid heart rate, and terrible vertigo for four hours. You can guess how much help that was to my sleep!

  16. S.R.: Stoicism is the end result of age, wisdom and the ability to choose the lesser of two evils when it comes to my health.

    I'm not so much afraid of going under the knife than having the surgery and not being able to do the rehab needed in order to be released back to full duty at work.

    Unemployment is a great motivator at times.


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