Recently I became a casualty in the war raging against opiates.
No, I didn't lose a loved one to a heroin overdose. Nor did I decide to shoot narcotics into my veins.
However on March 17 my Cuyahoga Falls based doctor's office, which was recently purchased by a large Cleveland medical conglomerate, called to tell me they would no longer prescribe long-term narcotic medications for chronic pain.
I was shocked and also a little scared.
Some readers might think the doctor's call was a good idea. It's not. Not everyone taking opiate-based pain killers is addicted nor do we contribute to another's addiction.
Of course everyone's situation is different. Please allow me to explain mine.
Several years ago I was diagnosed with severe osteoarthritis in both shoulders and both knees.
This isn't the type of minor arthritis that goes away with an ibuprofen and some heat. This is the type that keeps me awake at night with tears in my eyes.
According to my doctor's office the medication I had been getting for several years to make the arthritis pain in my shoulders and knees tolerable, just so I could walk from my car to my desk and raise a shoulder to type, will longer be prescribed.
So while I've been diagnosed with severe arthritis throughout my body I'm supposed to live on ibuprofen and Tylenol. That will not work for me.
My arthritis wakes me up in the middle of the night as my knees throb in pain. This is the same pain that causes agony with each step and makes me want to scream each time my knee twists or bends.
This is the kind or arthritis that has caused me to wince in pain while I type or turn the steering wheel as the sharp pains in my shoulders spread down my arms.
This condition did not come on suddenly.
My knees have been bad since I was a child who loved to play football. For some reason both kneecaps used to dislocate. Yes -- you read that right, dislocate. The caps would pop out to the side and my knees would collapse. I would fall down with my knee cap lodged to the side.
I was eventually able to exercise the knees and build up enough strength that the knees no longer dislocated. And, up until about five or six years ago I was riding my stationary bike 10 miles a day and working out with weights. I had managed to lose almost 100 pounds by sticking with the bike and watching my calories.
However, over the years, and due to the ever increasing arthritic pain, I eased off on my workouts and then stopped all together. I justified quitting in my mind, convincing myself the pain was too much.
After awhile I forced myself to continue -- and the pain increased. During this time I had twisted my knee a few times and slipped on ice, adding to the pain.
My doctor has tried to help by draining fluid from my knees, giving me shots and suggesting possible surgeries.
But through it all, the pain killers helped me to function. The pain pills allow me to at least walk from my car to the office and back at the end of the day. Most days that is a struggle and without some sort of pain relief I'm not sure how I'll make the walk.
Every morning I dread stepping out of bed because of the pain. And each night I dread going to bed due to the double flight of stairs I need to almost crawl up. The pain completely rules my life. I schedule my day around my pain. When I go out to dinner I think about how bad walking will hurt. During dinner I think about how much walking back to the car is going to hurt. The pain never leaves my body or my mind.
My shoulders are just as bad, if not worse. Due to multiple injuries over the years, my shoulders often dislocate and cause me excruciating pain.
My mom, brother, sister, girlfriend and editor have all helped pop my shoulders back into place. There are times when I reach for a coffee cup and my shoulder either freezes in place or dislocates. A simple act like washing or brushing my hair has become torture.
Imagine the worse toothache you've ever had, multiply that by 10 and think of how that would feel in both shoulders and arms as you tried to type. Under past insurance policies I could have considered surgeries on the shoulders and knees. However, at the time, I needed cornea transplants more.
The pain medicine and occasional cortisone shots eased the pain enough that I could function. Then the shots began losing their potency.
The only thing that seemed to help in the last several years was a narcotic pain reliever. I would often be forced to bite them in half because I felt guilty going back to the doctor every few months for a new prescription. I don't take the pain pill to get high. I've never sold it to anyone. And the only addiction I have is to being pain free.
But now I have to suffer because the perception is that everyone on opiates is somehow contributing to the heroin problem. My doctor has referred me to a pain management clinic where I can hopefully find some type of relief -- about a month away.
I'm not writing this to complain or get sympathy. I'm not a complainer and I don't thrive on getting others to feel sorry for me.
Please don't get me wrong. It breaks my heart when I see that someone, especially a young person, has died from addiction. And my pain is in no way like the pain felt by those who have lost someone to addiction. Thank God I don't know what that pain feels like.
But, by the same token, until you have felt my pain and walked in my shoes, please don't judge me.
I just want our readers to know there are folks who need those drugs some people are fighting to ban.