I suppose there are a lot of reasons that I didn’t hesitate to cancel my appointment at the Mayo Clinic the very instant I was offered a work trip to Brazil the exact same week in May.
Yes, I had waited a full 12 months between application and appointment to get that doctor’s visit at the Mayo Clinic. And yes, once I had it marked down in my planner, it had become the source of hope that kept me going through the long, evil nights when the pain would try to kill me.
But when my boss randomly emailed me Thursday morning to say that a confectionery association in Brazil wanted to pay for me to travel to the South American country for a week, and then write about it, I said yes without thinking. I mean, sure, I pretended to list the pros and cons with my mom, my best friend and my boyfriend, but deep down my heart was already in Brazil.
Back when I originally posted on Facebook that I had finally gotten in to Mayo, what many believe to be the most incredible hospital in the United States, the post got 67 likes and 27 comments in about five minutes.
People wrote things like, “Congratulations! Expect nothing but the best!” as though I was starting a new miracle drug that had a 95 percent chance of curing me instead of going in for a first-time appointment with a doctor I had never met.
They said things like, “That’s amazing!!” as if to imply I had already been cured, and “Good luck with this appointment, Crystal! I’ll be pulling for you!” as though I was about to go under the knife and come back up with some relief.
I was excited about the appointment too, but only in that hopeful-fatalistic way all chronic pain patients are about appointments with new doctors at new hospitals.
After all, I’ve already sought treatment at two university hospitals, only to be drugged and pushed out the door by every doctor I have met along the way.
So the way I saw it, even if the doctors at the Mayo Clinic were indeed the very best doctors in the world, the odds were still pretty high that they were just going to shrug their shoulders, increase my Lyrica dosage, and send me on my way.
Doesn’t a 7-day trip to Brazil sound so much more fun than that?
And anyway, I figured, I could just call the Mayo Clinic, tell them something super-duper important had come up and re-schedule. Like you would at any other doctor’s office ever invented.
Alas, the Mayo Clinic is apparently too cool to do things like re-schedule appointments. And, while it is true that the woman on the other end of the phone sounded like the type of person I could vent to over a cup of coffee, when she broke the news to me that they currently did not have any openings at all, her sweet voice didn’t make me hate her any less.
How is that even possible? How does a huge hospital like the Mayo Clinic not have any openings? At all? As in zero openings?
She tried to give me some line about how the June and July appointments weren’t open yet, but it didn’t really make sense. I mean, at the time it kind of did, but now, when I try to tell people that I just don’t have an appointment at the Mayo Clinic anymore, but DON’T WORRY, the June and July calendars weren’t open yet, they look at me like I’m insane.
The lady on the phone did swear to me that she would put my name and number right next to her computer and check every day for an opening and call the second there was one. However, I think that might have just been a response to me telling her that I was planning to call every day until there was an opening.
Even now, knowing that I wasn’t able to reschedule my appointment, and being left in a state of Mayo limbo, I’m still extremely content with my decision to go to Brazil instead.
I mean, come on, how many chances do you get to go to the doctor in your lifetime? And how many chances do you get to go to Brazil? Exactly.
Deep down, I think it’s also a little way of saying screw you to my pain. Of picking something else over my health because my health has been so effing awful to me over the last year. I get that it’s hard to explain that to people who expect that they’d do EVERYTHING they possibly could do get better if they were in my situation, wearing the same pajamas and sitting on the same couch every single day, praying for the pain to go away.
But until you live it, until it tries to kill you, you don’t really know what you’d do. Until the pain has left you for dead in the middle of the night, you can theorize all you’d like about how what you’d do in my situation, and feel all the righteous indignation you want as you lecture me in your head about how important it is to CHOOSE THY HEALTH above all. But you just don’t really know.
My health doesn’t seem to listen to reason these days, and the only thing a first-time appointment at the Mayo Clinic guarantees me is that I’ll have some blood work done. Brazil, on the other hand, offers the guarantee of at least one more stamp in my passport. And that’s enough of a trade for me.
As for how I’m planning to endure a 7-day trip around Brazil, a trip that includes traveling to a new city every single day, well that’s easy: opioids.
And if I ever do make it in to the Mayo Clinic, maybe the doctors there will finally be able to figure out what is causing the heinous pain that makes if feel like someone took a sledge hammer to my right ribs. And better yet, they’ll be able to magically cure it with a simple out-patient procedure.
But if that never happens, I’ll always have Brazil.
Crystal Lindell is journalist who lives in Byron, Illinois. She loves Taco Bell, watching “Burn Notice” episodes on Netflix and Snicker’s Bites. She has had pain in her right ribs since February 2013. It is currently undiagnosed.
Crystal writes about it on her blog, The Only Certainty is Bad Grammar.
The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that! It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.