If you have a medical condition for which current medical science has no answers, learn to live with it, and take care of your mental health
For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.”
So goes an age-old folk rhyme, and it’s a truth that resounds well with my malady.
I suffer from continuous abdominal pain, which is 24×7. Since I have gained consciousness, this pain has been with me, a continuous signal, originating from my abdomen and classified by my brain as pain. This condition has given me sleepless nights, had an effect on my academics, my job. For a chronic patient to stay functional is a difficult task. I have had to be on and off jobs, went through depression, frequently suffer from suicidal thoughts.
What does an endless patient’s life consist of? An endless pool of doctors and hospitals. Consultations, clinical tests, misdiagnosis, unnecessary operations and useless medications. Till date I must have seen more than 50 doctors.
It started in childhood. Each and every doctor came up with a different diagnosis. The very first doctor operated on me for appendicitis. The pain didn’t stop, the scar is a mark of one of my mistakes. One of the doctors did endoscopy hoping to find something called H. pylory bacteria. Endoscopy captures a video of its journey from your throat to your stomach, which is fascinating for the doctor but a horrifying experience for the patient.The worst part is when the test doesn’t give you any clue, and you are left with where you started. In pain.
Sophisticated test are useful to diagnose and treat patients who really need them, but they can also be used as a means to exploit patients whose diagnosis is elusive. The worst experience any patient will have is falling into the hands of a corrupt doctor. A corrupt doctor will try to exploit a patient to the fullest capacity. I became a victim of one such doctor who operated on my spine for no reason.
After 10 minutes of physical examination, after confirming that I had insurance, he decided that I needed an operation. The diagnosis was that nerves going to the abdomen were pressing on the spine. In desperation, I and my family agreed. The operation had no effect on my pain.
Later, the doctor didn’t even entertain me in his clinic. I needed a medical certificate for leave, which he refused. I had to resign from my job because of that.
The biggest mistake a patient can make before getting operated, is not taking a second opinion. Later, I showed the MRI to two more doctors from the same hospital. They clearly stated that the operation was not needed, and I could see they were upset with my doctor’s decision.
I am 36 years old, still suffering. Four years back I started going to a psychiatrist for depression. His diagnosis was that I am suffering from Functional Abdominal Pain Syndrome (FAPS) which is a result of abnormal functioning of nerve impulses in the abdomen and brain. I take my medication as and when required.
What did I learn from all this? Being aware of your reality is the first step. Then comes selecting a doctor. Remember, you have a say on what doctor to choose and which line of treatment to take. You are supposed to ask questions to the doctor, especially questions regarding the medications. If he is unwilling to answer, then that doctor is not right for you. If an operation is suggested, then you should take a second, even a third opinion, even though your doctor is considered best in the field.
If you are in chronic pain, you should not hesitate to refer to a psychiatrist. Your mental health is affected when you are in continuous pain. Do not succumb to alternative treatments that are not validated by science. Emotional support of the family is an important part of treatment. In such cases, frequently talking to a counselor will help. Your chronic pain will give you fatigue, which you need to fight by regularly exercising, an exercise routine that doesn’t aggravate your chronic pain.
My chronic journey has no end. But, after accepting my pain, I don’t have to be an endless patient anymore. I have stopped visiting doctors for getting an answer for what exactly is wrong with me. I have accepted the fact that current medical science may not have answers for my questions. This realisation has helped me to be the master of my own illness.
The writer is a poet and a techie who has dabbled in the intriguing world of Artificial Intelligence.