Dear Mom and Dad,
Last Sunday afternoon I went to Urgent Care because I had the worst earache that anyone has ever had in the entire history of man. After a mere two hour wait, I saw Dr. Biggles. He is in his early 70’s, and has obviously been around the block a few times. He is also very charming. Dr. Biggles asked me a lot of questions. He wanted me to bend my neck, roll my eyes, scrunch up my face, and touch my head. Finally, a little irritated, I suggested that he look in my ear.
“I’m pretty sure that if you’ll just LOOK IN MY EAR, you will see I have a very bad ear infection.”
Dr. Biggles said he didn’t think I had an ear infection. He put me through several other exercises. Once again, I suggested that maybe it would be helpful if he just LOOKED IN MY EAR. Sighing, he got that little ear light thing and looked into my ear.
“Just as I suspected,” he said. “Your ear is fine. Everything is completely clear.”
“Then what the hell is wrong with my ear?” I asked him.
“I am thinking you might have something called Triangle Minutia,” said Dr. Biggles.
“Are you sure I don’t have an ear infection?” I asked him. “Maybe you should look again just to be sure.”
“Are you by any chance Irish?” asked Dr. Biggles.
“I see where this is going, Dr. Biggles. I’m not being stubborn. I just don’t understand how the entire left side of my face can basically be on fire and I don’t have an ear infection.”
Dr. Biggles said he wanted to do a blood test and left me alone. I immediately called my sister.
“Lesley, I’m at Urgent Care and I need you to put on your doctor hat.”
“Okay, but I want to point out that I’m a nurse, not a doctor.”
“Whatever. I think I have an ear infection but the doctor says I have Triangle Minutia. What is that?”
“Kelly, there is no such thing as Triangle Minutia.”
“Well, it sounded just like that. Hold on, he’s coming back.”
I put my sister on speakerphone and asked Dr. Biggles to tell her what he thought I had.
“I think she has Trigeminal Neuralgia,” said Dr. Biggles.
“Oh, I have that. I’ve had it for five years,” said Lesley.
Then they went on to have a nice little chat about how it presented with Lesley, and what medications she’d tried, and I could see they were well on their way to bonding in that secret medical society kind of way so I interrupted the conversation and took Lesley off speakerphone.
“So what is it?” I asked her.
“Well, they call it the Suicide Disease,” said Lesley.
Mom, please notice that it took Lesley about one second to throw that out on the table. Given the fact that I was in a vulnerable state, and she was officially acting as my nurse at the time, I think we should all seriously question her bedside manner.
Lesley went on to explain that Trigeminal Neuralgia is considered to be one of the most painful conditions known to mankind. She said a lot of other stuff but I had pretty much stopped listening after the words “most painful”. Dr. Biggles came back into the room and said he was going off duty but I should stay for my blood tests and then go see my doctor as soon as possible. He also wrote me a prescription for Percocet. Then the nurse brought over the bottle and had me take one right away. It helped.
The next day I went to see my doctor and he examined me and said that he thought it might be shingles. Although it is unusual to get shingles on the side of your head, it does happen. We would not know for about a week, at which point I should break out in a rash on the side of my face. If the rash did not appear, then I most likely had the Trigeminal thing. Then HE wrote me a prescription for Percocet, as well as an anti-viral medicine (just in case it was shingles) and also a prescription for Lyrica, which is for the whole TN thing.
When doctors start throwing Percocet prescriptions at you like it was candy, you know you are in some sort of serious trouble. Shingles is something that goes away. TN is the gift that keeps on giving. Like forever. So you can see why I was hoping I had Shingles.
Meanwhile, I have spent the past week basically stoned. By taking Percocet every four hours nonstop, I have been able to ratchet down the pain to a dull roar. Unfortunately, Percocet also causes constipation. So I have been taking medication for that.
For several months I have been working on a key note speech that I gave yesterday. This event was very important to me, as many of my good friends had registered to attend and Kristina, the woman who invited me to speak, is someone I care for very much and admire a great deal. Bob even took a half day off work to attend. I practiced my speech all week. But getting through the 20 minutes of talking was the least of my concerns. What really terrified me, and what I had nightmares about for the entire week, was that I was going to get on stage and start speaking, and all of a sudden, a big red rash was going to appear on the left side of my face at about the same time that the laxatives kicked in, and I would shit my pants.
So while I am very happy that everyone enjoyed my speech, I am even happier that I did not poop my pants on stage.
Today I went back to my doctor for a follow up. I have not gotten a rash, so unfortunately, it appears that I have TN. Like my sister. Research shows that only 1 in 15,000 to 20,000 people get TN. And of the small percentage that get this disease, only 4% of those are related to someone else who has the disease. This means that Lesley and I are a very rare case indeed.
Clearly, this has been caused by some sort of mutation that occurred when your respective genes got mixed. Therefore, I hold you both completely responsible for this problem I now have. I realize there is nothing you can do about it, but I think you should definitely take this issue into consideration when you are trying to decide what to get me for Christmas this year. As for Lesley, I would like to remind you of her little “suicide” comment that she couldn’t wait to share with me. I’m not suggesting you give her nothing for Christmas, but I do think that my present this year should be just a little bit nicer than hers.
Your suffering but not dead yet daughter,
P.S. I told my doctor today that I have not started taking the Lyrica because one of the side effects is that it causes weight gain. Do you know how hard it is to lose just one pound at my age, let alone several? I have asked him to go find me something that either A) does not cause weight gain, or B) causes weight loss. Now, I realize that I cannot go around eating Percocet for the rest of my life because it is a slippery slope and before you know it I’ll be selling my body on a street corner. So I’m going to figure out the whole pain management thing. Meanwhile, just remember that when you get very, very old, you’re going to want me to take care of you. There is a lot riding on Christmas.