Dear Doctor: Please Don't Treat Me Like a 'Drug-Seeker'
Please don’t treat me like someone who is just trying to get painkillers from you. I am in serious pain. I need these meds to get through my everyday life. I have just had a major life-threatening operation. I had one this year, I had one last year and I had one the year before that too. You know me. Surely you know my type. I am a chronic pain warrior. I am in pain talking to you right now. I have to see you on a regular basis to get my medication. You are only legally allowed to give me so much of these meds at a time and I understand that, but please don’t look at me in that way when I come back next week to see you again because I don’t have enough.
I don’t understand why you’re suspicious of me. You have seen my x-rays, you have seen my MRI’s, you have seen my CT scans, you have all my surgeon’s reports, and I can show you the many scars from where they have cut me open time and time again.
Three years ago I had a disc replaced, a spinal fusion and a bone graft off my hip after years of pain and struggling with no disc left. It required a major operation, two weeks in the hospital learning how to walk again and three months in bed at home trying not to move. Full recovery from this was one to two years. Last year I had to have a hysterectomy due to my back issues. Luckily I have already had two beautiful boys and didn’t need that part anymore! Then this year I had to have another disc replaced, spinal fusion and another very painful bone graft from my other hip. Again, two weeks in the hospital, three months of bed rest and one to two years for full recovery.
It is obvious to me that you as a GP know very little about my surgery. You thought I would have scars on my back, but my surgeon did it all through my front. You asked me if I was doing physiotherapy yet, but I am barely managing to walk still. You look at me like I am trying to “scam you for drugs,” but that is not me.
If you only knew how much pain I am in, you wouldn’t look at me like that.
I am only one month out of the hospital in what will be a two-year full recovery. I am going to need strong medications to manage my pain and will for some time yet.
I know you have rules and regulations and you need to ask those silly questions you ask me, but please don’t make me feel like that.
Do you know what it even took to get me to your office today to come and see you? Resting all morning, taking enough pain meds to make sure I could walk and just getting out of bed and clothed was a superhuman effort – don’t even ask me about trying to put on a bra in this condition! I had to get my mum to come and pick me up and bring me to see you as I can’t drive. I struggle to get in and out of cars and have to lay the seat back so I am not in pain. Every bump on the road that we go over hurts me, hurts my new fake disc sitting in my spine, packed with my bone from my hip, surrounded by a cage and four screws….it hurts like a hellish pain you may never know.
When I get to your office to see you (even though I phoned before we left to check that you are on time), you’re running late. I have to ask the desk staff to find a room where I can lie down to wait to see you, as I am unable to sit on a regular height chair. Lying down on those terrible beds in waiting rooms hurts my back more. I see you, then have to go to a chemist to get my drugs, then endure another painful bumpy car ride home and then have to get back into bed and that’s where I then need to lie for the rest of the day as I am in so much pain from coming to see you.
So when I finally get to see you, please treat me with some respect, compassion and empathy. I have only just had major spine surgery, and I am in immense pain and I need painkillers. I am not going to be silly with them. I promise. People in my kind of pain really need them. We don’t choose to take them to have a good time, we need them to survive.
So please, my dear doctor, next time you see me hobbling in with my walking stick, think twice before you speak. Think twice before you give me “that look.” I am just a human in pain and you are my doctor and are supposed to help me not be in pain. That’s all I ask.
A chronic pain warrior
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Thinkstock photo via psphotograph.