Pills for Breakfast: Still Sick, Even After the Mayo Clinic

Pills for Breakfast: Still Sick, Even After the Mayo Clinic

Lately, when I think about killing myself, I try to remember Brazil.

Brazil Palm TreesI recently went on a week-long trip to the beautiful sea-side country, and although it was technically for work, I was able to experience plenty of amazing moments — moments I try to remember when I think about ending my life.

I try to remind myself that it was such an unexpected trip that came up out of the blue, and it was so incredible and magnificent, and if I had killed myself a few months ago like I wanted to, back when the pain was particularly bad, then I would have missed out on the whole thing. I would have never made it to Brazil.

From there, I try to remember that the rest of my life is still filled with so many incredible possibilities and ending it now would be a mistake.

These days, though, I’ve had to remind myself about Brazil more often than I’d like.

I just got back from a much anticipated visit to the (in)famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

It’s supposed to be THE place to go when you have things like excruciating random rib pain that you wake up with one day for no apparent reason. It’s supposed to be the hospital that puts all other hospitals to shame. The one that can diagnose the undiagnosable and cure the curable. The very mecca of the chronically sick.

Except for me, at least. Aside from the pretty buildings and the fancy tour guide facts on the shuttle bus ride between the hotel and the clinic, it ended up being pretty much just like any other doctor’s visit.

Which is pretty much exactly what I was afraid of.

I mean, sure, the doctor was nice enough. A strong Italian woman, she had the kind of fierce personality I often wish I could muster. With her relatively thick accent, she went over my medical history with a strikingly straightforward approach, saying things like, “Oh yes, you are on the Amitriptyline. It’s makes you fat.”

Oddly, that comment was among her more comforting words. I mean, at least she didn’t think it was because I was just a lazy slob, like everyone else did.

Waiting for my appointment at the Mayo Clinic.

Waiting for my appointment at the Mayo Clinic.

But, as we started to talk about the nitty gritty, I quickly realized that she wasn’t going to dig very deep into my pain. And in fact, she was just going to do what all the other doctors before her had done.

She concluded that she thought the pain was probably intercostal neuralgia, even though I’ve already had a test to show that it’s probably not intercostal neuralgia.

Then, she said the same thing all the doctors say, “We don’t know what caused it. We’ll probably never know what caused it. And we don’t know exactly how to cure it, but if we throw a bunch of different treatments at it, maybe something will work.”

After that, she sent me off for two days of peripheral nerve tests that had almost nothing to do with my pain — one of which literally electrocuted me for three minutes straight. Another burned the top of my left foot to test my pain tolerance. All of them came back normal.

In the end, her best piece of medical advice seemed to be to take off work and attend a three-week, outpatient pain clinic — which just made me feel like she had run out of ideas and was shipping me off to the place people go when they’ll never be cured. Also, who the heck can just take three weeks off work?

On Thursday evening, after all the tests and all the appointments were done, I reflected on the experience in the hotel hot tub, and I tried desperately to wrap my head around what was happening.

I had tried to mentally prepare for this outcome, to remind myself that nothing might come from this visit. But I also had still allowed myself to hope for more. And honestly, with so many people out there on social media rooting for me and writing messages on my Facebook wall about how they were praying I would be cured at Mayo, I somehow also felt like I was letting the whole world down.

For a half a second, I honestly thought about pretending that I had actually been cured at Mayo.

I could come back and tell everyone the news they so desperately wanted to hear. I could let my boss believe my health was no longer affecting my work, and I could date guys without worrying about whether or not they were secretly turned off by my pile of orange prescription bottles.

But then I remembered how sick I really am, and I realized that my plan wouldn’t work. I mean, how many days could I last at work without having to tell my boss I needed to sign off early and lay down? I can only fake so many episodes of the flu.

Which really only leaves me one option — I somehow have to deal with the fact that I’m just going to continue to be sick, at least for now.

But that’s where the suicidal thoughts start to creep back in. Because, if I’m being honest, looking at a life filled with unendurable pain seems too overwhelming to handle. And coming to grips with the fact that even THE Mayo Clinic couldn’t help me, makes me want to just give up on doctors and prescriptions and life in general.

But I try to keep reminding myself about Brazil. And about the palm trees, and the sound of the ocean waves, and the way the people I met there have left such a strong impression on my heart.

And I keep going. At least for now.

Crystal Lindell

Crystal Lindell

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.

There are 3 comments for this article
  1. Jamie at 9:28 am

    Sounds like dr Scalcini from your description. I too went to mayo, “THE Mayo” we were there for a month, the end result was the same as yours. 3 weeks outpatient and no real help to me bc outpatient therapy makes me way worse. But I got lucky, 4 months after coming home to oklahoma a dr started an expiramental procedure and I was the first in the state to receive it. After 4 years walking with a cane, 1 1/2 years in a wheelchair with mayo sayin I wouldn’t get out of it, I walked my dogs 2 miles yesterday. It took me totally going across the across the country and getting my dreams crushed to find that a hospital 4 miles away from my home is now helping me walk. I have a pain disorder in my leg, my disease is called RSD. I relate so much to what you have said and I sure hope you get some relief. I still have pain and my disease will never be gone but today right now I am walking feeling good and happy and mostly pretty healthy, and I couldn’t ask for anything more.

  2. Stephen S. Rodrigues, MD at 9:14 am

    “She concluded that she thought the pain was probably intercostal neuralgia, even though I’ve already had a test to show that it’s probably not intercostal neuralgia.”

    Here to help, apologies but this is my mission. There are a few concepts that are invisible or discounted to many, they need to be understood so policies and protocols can be undated.

    All pain has a cause and all pain should be treated.

    Structural pain needs a surgical blade.

    Nonstructural pain is in the flesh, can not be seen, detected, analyzed, scanned, biopsied or blood tested, this is because the sole purveyor of nonstructural pain is the patient.

    Most if not all nonstructural pain is myofascial until proven by therapy.

    If MF pain or nonstructural pain does not automatically or naturally heal by itself, it absolutely must be treated.

    The only treatment for MF pain if it does not resolve all by itself is on a spectrum from heat, massage, active release, manipulations, stretching, acupuncture, GunnIMS, dry/wet needling to deep in the muscle injections.

    Since you are the only person who is suffering, feeling this pain, you have to be the lead advocate who should fight for your rights.

    Demand the proper treatment from your providers, if they don’t understand MF, get a different provider or call the medical society of your state for help.

    Believe it to not a few strategically placed trigger point shots could give you a respite from the pain.

  3. BL at 8:48 am

    Drs aren’t miracle workers. Unfortunately the way some drs convey to their patients that there is nothing that can be done at this time can leave their patients hopeless. The drs that can convey this and not leave the patients hopeless are rare. I