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May 25

Just Say, “No”. I Don’t Want to Take the Medicine.

Family & F.I.T.  |  Debbe Hatch

Yes, I’m sharing my own personal medical results.  That’s my prerogative.  

 

I am not looking for advice, nor am I giving any.  This is my personal experience.  If it helps you, great.  If it’s just an interesting story (or rant) for you, great.  I have no ulterior motive or goal.  I’m not selling or trying to convince you to do anything – except maybe stand your ground in advocating for yourself.

 

I’ve spoken about my headaches, here, before.

 

They were the worst when, as a teenager, I first started menstruating.   I would lay in a dark room, curled into the fetal position for a day or two each month.  The headaches went away for years.  Now, they’re back with a vengeance.  They last three to five days. Sometimes longer.  They always come either just before or just after my period.  That made me believe they’re hormonal.   

 

I have all of the tell-tale signs of a 53-year-old woman entering the next stage of life.  I’m not menopausal but it’s coming.  My periods have changed.  I’m occasionally dizzy, anxious, irritable, and a little depressed.  I’ve had a few hot flashes and night sweats.  Brain fog is a real thing!!  It, insomnia, and the continual fatigue really suck.  I sometimes have a hard time remembering words (and sometimes really simple things like the name of the neighborhood where I live). The headaches are my most concerning symptom.  Not having the doctors listen to me is the most frustrating. The last three primary care providers I’ve had refused to send me for hormone testing.  One did test my iron levels…  Um.

 

I go to the doctors for my regular paps and mammograms – rarely for anything else.  That means, when I do go, there’s likely a real problem.

 

Frequently, the pain of the headaches causes vomiting.  I suck it up.  I travel like this.  I teach like this.  I live life like this.  I am not able to just stay in bed for 3-5 days, or more, a month. 

 

I’ve studied hormones and peri-menopause.  I’ve read everything I could get my hands on.  I’ve attended classes, seminars, a summit, and several webinars.  I’ve listened to numerous podcasts.  I am not the first person to go through this.  My primary care doctors have refused to refer me to an endocrinologist.  I’ve received multiple lectures about how “medicine is a practice, not a science” and “we’re not going to engage in quackery like hormone testing until all other options are exhausted.”  One doctor said, “I have issues too.  I don’t know what you expect us to do for you.”  One said, “I cannot refer you to an endocrinologist until you try all of the medications available, first.”  She gave me a prescription for Topamax.  

 

COMMON side effects of Topamax include:

  • tiredness,
  • drowsiness,
  • dizziness,
  • nervousness,
  • numbness or tingly feeling in the hands or feet,
  • coordination problems,
  • speech/language problems,
  • changes in vision,
  • sensory distortion,
  • confusion,
  • slowed thinking,
  • trouble concentrating or paying attention,
  • memory problems,

 

Do these sound like things I should voluntarily have more of?  I don’t think so.  They wanted me to take the pills every day.  I don’t have a headache every day.  I’ve refused to take the medication.  Some people who love me agreed with my decision.  Some people who love me, and have seen me deal with the headaches, suggested I try medication if there’s a chance it might work.  

 

I’m not against medicine when we know why we’re taking it and what it is supposed to do.  We have some amazing things available to us today.  I’m not a doctor and I have no interest in playing one.

 

Here’s what I wanted.  Data.  I wanted to know why I am getting the headaches – or at least, a likely cause.  I do not eat a lot of processed foods.  I have super low blood pressure (sometimes it doesn’t break 100).  I exercise 4-5 times a week.  I take care of myself.  I wanted information.

 

 

Yesterday, I paid out of my own pocket to have my hormones tested.  It was $199 but I had my answer within 45 minutes.  No surprises!  Many levels are far below optimal.  Armed with the information, now I can make a choice as to whether I’m going to just “ride it out” or do hormonal supplementation (bio identicals or synthetics), and to what degree.  Now I can consider my options based on facts – not just take medication after medication until I find something that takes my headaches away, regardless of what other things they may cause for side-effects.

 

 

Here’s the part that makes me angry.  I came from a very poor family.  My sisters and I didn’t just share a room – we shared a bed.  I was a single mom for several years after leaving a physically abusive marriage.  I am fortunate at this point in my life to be able to afford $200 out of pocket for hormone testing.  Years ago, I definitely could not have done that!!  Many of my friends still can’t.  Many women are left to merely take the pain medications their doctors generously prescribe in hoping for relief. 

 

It’s just wrong.  

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