Jagged Little Pills

“When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” Theodore Roosevelt

The synthetic cannabis was not doing its job. I was still vomiting each day, every few hours. My family doctor directed us to the ER. At triage, the nurse took my history, and then asked me about my medications. Everything was fine until I mentioned the synthetic marijuana. She stopped typing and told me very bluntly that there were no guarantees that anyone would prescribe any pain medications to me. I was confused by her comment, and stammered that I was here against my wishes and that my doctor had sent me. Mollified, she took my blood pressure and then asked if I had ever been diagnosed with heart disease, because my blood pressure reading was “absolutely terrible.” I snarked back “Nope. No heart disease. Only cancer. And then CIPN. And the fact that I have been without any kind of meaningful pain control for the last four months might have something to do with the elevated pressure, dontcha think?” 

Her answer was to tighten her lips in silence as she directed me to sit down.

It was chaotic, but even so I curled up into a chair and tried to nap. My husband held my hand. I dismissed the nurse’s grumpiness as a byproduct of the crazed pace.

Eventually, I was sent to a second tier treatment area, for patients with complex medical conditions where I could finally stretch out. Only moments after lying down on the gurney, I bolted to the washroom. After retching for a few moments, I opened the door to the tired face of the harried ER doc. He watched as I wiped my mouth, gingerly lowered myself onto the bed, and then began peppering me with questions. It was fine until he discovered the synthetic marijuana in the container of pills I’d brought along. “What’s this?” he asked.

“Synthetic marijuana,” I said. “It’s supposed to help with the nausea -”

“I don’t prescribe,” he interrupted me. I sat up and looked at him more closely. What, I began to wonder, was the problem here? Why was everyone so reactive to this little bottle of pills?

“You don’t have to,” I said quietly. “That has been prescribed to me by another doctor.” A silence hung between us, but I wasn’t able to decode its significance. 

“I’m going to order some blood work, to check out your liver and kidneys. And then, I think I will contact your oncologist to alert her that you’re here. She may want to admit you.” And then he was gone.

Upon his return hours later, he told me that he was “not alarmed yet. Your organs are distressed, but not seriously enough to interfere with your kidney and liver function.” (How reassuring). The oncologist bumped up the dates of some imaging tests after the consultation, and then he would be sending me home. The only treatment he was going to offer me was IV fluids, and a Benedryl drip to ease the nausea. That way, the nausea would be under control, and then I could resume the prescribed pharmaceutical regime. He made no mention of the cannabis meds.

In other words, no one was going to offer me any pain medication, wonky blood pressure notwithstanding.

I decided in that moment that I was done with the pharmaceuticals. I was done with the doctors’ dodging dismissal of the pain. I was just done.

No more pills meant I was going to start seeing the full impact of the damage in my body. But three years into this spiral, I was ready to try life without pharmaceutical pain relief and all the unseemly side effects that came with it.

trey-gibson-710983-unsplash.jpgPhoto by Trey Gibson on Unsplash

3 thoughts on “Jagged Little Pills

  1. Some doctors are so arrogant. I cannot believe their subtle and not so subtle judgement on you. As if you were a street user. OMG.


    1. To be fair: an ER does see a number of street users looking for drugs. So I suppose that’s due diligence on their part. But the lack of empathy even after they knew my history was a tough pill to swallow too. Not sure why it’s like that, except that perhaps doctors see so much human suffering that it’s a protective mechanism to help them through each shift. I’ve had to work at being fair and not judging the medical professionals. (Because there’s a chapter coming up that really devastated me and I had to dig deep to forgive). More on that later.


  2. Your writing is such a haunting reminder of the immediacy and primacy of life… experienced completely in a unique and solitary way even when you are in the company of others…

    Liked by 1 person

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