A few days ago I found myself in a situation I never could’ve dreamt up in a million years; and not really a good position, so please don’t get too excited for me. There I was inside of a pain management clinic submitting to Botox injections- not for beauty, but for pain. I was apprehensive to say the least. The staff members were great, the doctor was so welcoming and amazing; but for real he was intending to stick giant needles in my head, I wasn’t happy. The whole experience was brand new; fascinating in one way and completely terrifying in another.
A few weeks before this appointment my first contact with the clinic was an email containing a 19 page questionnaire, laden with queries that didn’t apply to me and topics so disturbing it created the initial sense of horror all at the same time. This came before ever setting foot in their in mid-process facility. The questionnaire covered territory I’ve yet to discover and made me wonder if this was the right place for me. When I did finally visit I wasn’t disappointed. It’s beautiful and so new it’s not done yet. Construction is happening and unfortunately welcomes visitors to the first floor and the only elevator that either leads to doctors’ offices or the beauty clinic. I’m never a fan of construction in conjunction to an elevator I’m taking. I’m never really, under any circumstance an elevator fan, but I’m also not a fan of killing myself with three flights of stairs so I stuck it out. None of this helped my apprehension. Once in the elevator things started to get better. It was clean, cozy and smelled good. It was also thankfully in great working order. So far the first and second floors are unavailable, after reading the elevator signs for directions I realized that Botox is the main flavor at each clinic that is open. It’s just that OHIP covers you on one floor and good credit, a healthy bank account or a sugar daddy is necessary to visit the other.
The first time I ventured to the insured floor I was nervous because I felt like I was about to be offered drug treatments I’d previously avoided and I was completely unsure about having any needles inserted into my skull. Originally I thought I was there to receive prednisone injections; in fact I had the vials in my handbag that day and was set and ready for what I thought was to come. After we crossed the hurdle of my possible drug addiction via the million question questionnaire and the urine test I passed with flying colors, the prednisone was excused and the concept of Botox was introduced. The first visit was short, turned out to be a consultation, then I was sent home to ponder my options with an appointment for the following week and the instructions to come back with a full blown head ache. I went home and fulfilled the doctor’s request. For a week I did everything I could to increase inflammation and make the headache I’d spent a month at home trying to control come back with a vengeance.
When my second visit rolled around I had a full-fledged migraine. I think I hurt everywhere by appointment day, but my head certainly hurt the most. I hopped on the bus because driving isn’t recommended after these treatments and after a quick stop at my comic shop and a transfer found my way to this new destiny. On my way in, past the construction I was very aware of the irony. I often make fun of Botox Babes and their expressionless faces and here I was lining up for a trial dose. We are there for very different reasons; while my fellow females are hoping to recapture their youth and good looks I’m hoping to recapture my life. I’ve been missing from it again for weeks and 17 years of similar interruptions is really just enough. These wimmin may never laugh again after freezing their face into eternal lack of expression, but I’m hopeful I’ll be able to recapture the laughter and joy I feel my life should include.
Ten months of the same throb in my left eye that has no physical explanation. Ten months of partial blindness. Ten months of extreme sensitivity to light, sound and noise; even the flavors and textures of food have become an issue, soup my only consistent meal choice. Ten months of not driving except for on the “good days”. Ten months of not seeing friends, ten months of not living because of pain that can only be explained as a fibromyalgia related migraine. I found myself in this situation for ten months this time, but I’ve experienced a lifetime of pain and unexplainable issues so enough was enough. Something new needed to be brought to the table.
The world is full of advice and the internet has brought all of the trendy crazes to frenzied social heights; before I’m offered more let me assure you I’ve tried many especially food control. Gluten free made me discover my extreme sensitivity to corn. Keto helped me gain 30lbs and moved my cholesterol level from “you should watch it” to “hey lady your heart is going to explode”. So many failed attempts at nutrition control and visits to the gym that always made me feel like they had the opposite effect. Hundreds of visits with dozens of doctors until one doctor assured me I wasn’t wrong. My fat body wasn’t an indicator of a love of fast food; how I carried my fat, my overall body shape, health challenges (diabetes, fibromyalgia- including side effects like migraines, gastroparesis, allodynia, food sensitivities etc., sleep apnea, pulmonary hypertension) were all indicators of something more. This doctor assured me I wasn’t wrong, yet there was little that was going to change it. Cortisol the hormone from hell is likely my biggest challenge. Years of illness and trauma have created a toxic environment and my body rhythm is a broken hormone loop. My body shape, sleep cycles, food cravings, skin issues and frequent bouts of pain all suggest it. Modern medicine will quietly acknowledge it, but cannot fix it so most doctors just stick with blaming the patient.
So I was there because food control didn’t work and I’m against narcotics that only mask the pain while creating dependency. I was there because my disease has progressed and I need a treatment that will stop the pain and give my body a break from the daily hormone attacks while allowing me to recapture some of the living moments. I was there because so far it’s the only option that made any sense. For how invasive it sounds it’s the least invasive option and in the long run and offers the greatest promise of relief. As with every treatment there are so many variables that if you read the pamphlet you’ll run the other way. So that day on the bus, my migraine spiked by the extreme curry smell of my seatmate and the rocking motion of the bus I gave myself the pep talk of the century. I reminded myself that I’ve been through worse. This wasn’t a day of discovery, an invasive procedure for knowledge. This was a day of moving forward. A possible solution to a lifetime of problems; and for once it was an acknowledgement of my pain. I’ve had fibro pain since childhood when doctors always assured my parents there was nothing wrong with me except being fat. My parents were always told I made up my issues because I was fat and it saved me from myself. They were assured my pain was psychological not physical; a song weak uneducated doctors still try and sing at me today. My Dad never believed it for a minute and until he died tried to be there helping me even though he was sick. Because of his dedication and total sense of conviction I’ve never stopped fighting and never stopped looking for better solutions.
I tried to convince myself that the multiple little pics I give myself with a BD Ultra Fine needle and preloaded insulin pen everyday have prepared me for these moments of insertion. They really hadn’t; but I lived. I cannot explain the sensation of having a needle and that much liquid pushed into my skull any more than I can explain the continued feeling of the entire back of my skull being frozen. Four days after the crazy moment and my arms are still weak, my left eye still throbs, the injection sites are itchy and nerves around them overreacting to stimuli yet in a weird way I feel like there’s been an improvement. Certainly the intensity of the pain has lessened. The swelling in my eyes seems to have slightly disappeared. So whether it’s true or I’m just seeing what I’m hoping to see in a couple of weeks I’m committed to round two. Somewhere around visit number three I’ll be receiving some Botox to the face. My forehead will no longer move and the wimmin I know dedicated to wasting their money on this stuff may be a little jealous. This week however to enjoy the eternal youth factor of my shots I’d have to shave my head, finally sport the hairdo I’ve threatened for years, and walk backwards allowing the work of that nice doctor to speak for itself. I think I’ll hold off, wait until it’s in my forehead and cheeks. If it works I’ll be smiling, but you won’t be able to tell. Inside I’ll be fireworks and first kisses; outside I’ll be exam week and every first day of work after every vacation ever.
If the pain is gone it will all be worth it; if it isn’t it will be one more attempt that amounts to nothing more than a waste of time. At least I can say” I have tried”. This try will join the piles of other hopeful moments that all made me think “this is the one”, yet failed me. It will be one more thing I can speak about with great knowledge only to have to finish by saying- “nope that didn’t work for me either” I’m still being positive and I refuse to think this will be the case again. This week six needles in my skull is my glass is half full moment. This week I’m willing to believe there’s an option for me. This week I’m feeling some relief because I wasn’t afraid to try.
My ultimate hope is that this treatment will break the cortisol cycle my body is stuck in. I haven’t been offered a medical protocol to help the problem and after years of asking, my endocrinologist is still only crying about insulin control. It’s like he’s never heard of anything else and is incapable of exploring more possibilities. Sometimes I want to stand up and shout “FYI Doctor Insulin control is impossible if my other hormones are suffering”, but I think my shouting would fall on deaf ears. For now I’ll be happy with my half full glass of possibilities. It’s more than I had last week and so far it’s a good thing and who knows maybe once my face is frozen into eternal youth I’ll be even happier about it. You just won’t be able to tell!