Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

When Medicine Is Not Working

I am sitting in one of my specialist’s offices waiting for my turn, which is being delayed by the constant interruption of drug reps and insurance reps. And since I wrote yesterday that I would talk about medicines in my last post, I felt it ironic that everything is coming together at this moment.

My entire life, I grew up rarely taking any kind of medicine. When I do get sick these days, my family doctor is always amused that my body can probably get by with simple Penicillin because I have not built my immunity against all other kinds of antibiotics. Of course, that all changed when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. At that point, I had all kinds of toxins put into my body. This was supposed to be a good thing. These medicines were going to make me better. That is what medicines are supposed to do. But what happens when medicines stop working?

I continued my record of not taking medicines following the completion of my cancer treatments. I believed that enough garbage had been put into my system. I experienced all kinds of side effects in the short run, and long term. Back when I was exposed to all of those drugs, potential side effects were not really discussed openly, simply as “matter of fact.” Today, you cannot escape the television commercials for long awaited hopes for cures to crippling illnesses only to have to face the disclaimers at the end of the commercial that warns of all kinds of horrible and potentially fatal side effects. After hearing most of the possibilities, I cannot for the life of me wonder why anyone would take that risk.

But I do not want this post to be about side effects, but more about what happens when the medicines are no longer working, yet we continue to take them, just because the doctors tell us to. Just a few years prior to my open heart surgery, after more than ten years of my doctors bugging me, I finally relented to take a simple drug called Synthroid to help me with a thyroid that was pretty much destroyed courtesy of my radiation therapy. My alternative would be to face a good possibility of thyroid cancer otherwise. Soon, other drugs would follow as my cholesterol got out of control, and after that, my blood pressure. Following my heart surgery, more blood pressure medicines, and then pain became an issue as various muscles and bones began to show their effects from the radiation and chemotherapies. But, the bottom line, they worked. Next to the pain I was dealing with, the biggest issue I struggled with following the heart surgery was insomnia.

I began taking Ambien, low dose to get me to sleep. Not helping, I graduated to the higher dose, but that too would not keep me asleep more than two to three hours. Then it was up to the controlled release, a pill meant to keep you asleep for eight hours. Just like everything else, it was not doing the job. To make matters worse, I was developing memory issues, and the first half of my days were pretty much spent in a “fog”. You see, Ambien CR can last in your system much longer than the eight hours it is meant to work. From my understanding, it can last up to twelve hours.

I have said before, I believe most medicines “mask” the ailments, in other words, they just treat the symptoms, not cure the cause. I believe medicine is just too quick to say, “here, take this” whether it be for depression, sleep, or pain.

Getting back to my Ambien problem, and that is what it was, a problem, because I was taking a pill to help me sleep, and it was not working. The trick was trying to find out why. It was not long until I discovered that it was the enormous amount of daily stress I was under. And once I learned to recognize and deal with my stressors, I was able to get to sleep, and without the Ambien. But another neat thing happened soon after. With less stress, I got more sleep, my pain levels seemed to get better. My body was finally getting the rest it needed. Do not get me wrong, I still have chronic pain, but it is easier to deal with because of increased sleep, and I have stopped pushing my body harder than I felt that I needed to.

As of today, I am now off all sleep medicines, and all pain medicines. I still have an occasional bad day, but I have more good days that I can tolerate them. The only pills I have to take are for my thyroid, and my cholesterol and blood pressure. I have already asked my doctors to consider taking me off of those meds, but to no avail. It is felt with my health history, I have enough stacked against me, and any preventative help I can get I should take. For now, I am still complying.

But when the medicines no longer work, why would I continue to take them? Exposing myself to long term risks and side effects and possibly addiction? My ailments are real, just as many others, and those ailments should be dealt with, not covered up by drugs that simply cover up the pain and discomforts. What is causing the issue, and deal with that, not just the symptoms.

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