The Good Doctors

The Good Doctors

by Cynthia Toussaint

Cynthia Toussaint

Cynthia Toussaint

Despite my motto to keep a healthy distance from western healthcare professionals, I gotta admit they recently saved my ass.

As part of my CRPS/fibromyalgia self-management regimen, I stay away from healthcare professionals (except my integrative doctor and physical therapist) unless it’s an absolute emergency – in which case I still generally stay away. Over the past 34+ years with high-impact pain I’ve learned the hard way that doctors tend to make me sicker. Much sicker.

But there is the occasional exception where these men and women in blue smocks are worth their weight in gold.

About half a year ago, I had a new pain in what I feared was my right hip. Fear because sharp pain there often equals hip replacement and I can’t have surgery without a major chance of spreading my CRPS.

When the pain didn’t subside, I told, Abad, my PT, about it – and was greatly relieved when he diagnosed me with bursitis at the top of my right femur. Abad told me to ice the spot every day – which I did diligently – and to not worry.

I didn’t. That is until three weeks ago when I got out of the YMCA pool and screamed bloody murder. I’m still uncertain as to what spiked my previously low level pain. Two guesses – 1) our car wouldn’t start that morning, so my life partner John had to wheel me a mile in the cold to the Y. And/or 2) there was a group in the pool who greatly upset a number of swimmers, me included, by spewing loud, pre-election hate talk.

Whatever the reason, I had a very big problem. I worked through my regular day, but avoided standing or walking due to the severity of my worsening pain. After canceling a dinner date, it was all l could do to lie on my right side and fall asleep.

Next morning it was pure torture trying to get through my ballet pilates exercises – and by that night after work I had no choice but to go to the ER. I couldn’t move my right leg in any direction or put weight on it without screaming in pain. John suspected I had a fracture.

Six hellish waiting room hours later, I finally got to the inner sanctum. Because the ER staff couldn’t get a vein (almost no one can) to give me morphine relief, they gingerly peeled off my jeans while I moaned. To avoid further agony, the technician brought the x-ray machine to me where they ruled out a fracture. I was stunned that bursitis could create so much misery.

My physician’s assistant was frustrated because she knew a cortisone injection would relieve my torture – but didn’t have the authority to give me one. Short of that, she carefully instructed me to keep my pain at bay until I lined an injection up. She advised me to take prescription NSAIDs, stop exercising and use ice, heat and the topical Voltaren, and sent me home.

After two hours of shut-eye, I woke with enough relief (hallelujah!) to take an important meeting with a California senator. But that afternoon, I was stunned to find out that John and I needed to be in Amsterdam for work in a week. My bursitis barked in protest.

Unfortunately my pain doctor was out of country and I couldn’t get an emergency appointment with another specialist. Panicking that I’d be screaming for eleven hours on a plane without that cortisone injection, one that both my pain doctor (via email) and Abad agreed I needed, I spent two days on the phone scrambling for a shot of relief.

I finally got the appointment and almost cried with joy when my female doctor was competent, kind and caring. She gave me six injections, and hot damn, I was good to go.

Today, almost two weeks later, it still feels like a miracle to be pain-free in my upper femur. The travel to Europe was a relative breeze, the meeting went smashingly and I even got to enjoy the charm that is Amsterdam. Last week I started exercising again and am slowly but surely working up to my full workout routine.

I feel great gratitude for the healthcare professionals who provided me a life-line through this pain crisis.

It was indeed a powerful reminder that many times western doctors have the tools, knowledge and wisdom to heal those of us with pain.

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There are 5 comments for this article
  1. Deb Shuck at 6:04 pm

    I can’t have steroids because of my diabetes. After 45 years of Type 1, even eye drops raise my blood sugars and I have to take a LOT more insulin which I hate to do. I have Gastroparesis and all pain meds slow down my stomach SO much. It is a vicious cycle with the pain. There is just no relief at all. I have had the pain for 42 years. I keep thinking that it can’t get worse…and then it does.

  2. Angel at 7:08 am

    In a way it’s sad for us to be surprised when we find a good physician. I know that feeling and I’m so happy you had one available to you just in the nick of time. It says a great deal about the state of medical care in our country when finding a good doctor is like winning the lottery, the odds are miniscule but the payday is huge. Blessings to you and yours, thank you for your pain and CRPS advocacy.

  3. Sheryl M Donnell at 7:43 pm

    Cynthia, I am so glad you got such amazing relief but I have to echo Maureen. That type of injury can and often comes back with a vengeance. So much of having CRPS and Fibromyalgia is knowing our limits so we do not injure ourselves, especially because we are more susceptible to fractures, tears in ligaments and labrum’s, etc. My s.i.l. and mom have both had hip surgery to fix torn labrum’s and both are still suffering years later so please remember that Steroids will mask pain fantastically short term but they do not fix what is broken. Go slow and be good to yourself. We all have a tendency to want to do everything we did prior to our original injury. And sometimes we must slow down and heal ourselves. By the way, I am healing from breaking 5 bones across the top of my foot right now and I am fighting myself to slow down each day.

  4. Maureen at 5:54 am

    Cynthia, You sure have gone through way too much! I follow you from time to time and know that you are extremely dedicated and work very very hard, despite your condition. And that you also work very hard to care for your body. Too hard perhaps?? Our pain ridden body never cease to surprise us huh?!
    Please be careful not to stir that bursitis up again. I can’t believe you ended up with ‘6’ injections in that area though! That’s a lot of steroid. No wonder it helped!
    And then to follow it up with a work trip to Amsterdam! I can’t even imagine going through all of that.
    After one of my spine surgeries in 2005 I ended up with what my surgeon thought was bursitis in my left hip. I was injected and got no relief. The injection was very painful.
    I have not been able to lie on my left side ever since it began. It is very painful to touch, especially with pressure put on the hip joint area which also involves my left anterior thigh with perpetual pain and numbness.
    I now know that it is CRPS. It took me many years to understand that it is.
    Hang in there, try to take it easy for a bit and Be Well!

  5. JoDawn at 3:53 am

    So grateful you are feeling better!! There are some wonderful doctors out there. My GP is definitely one, and makes sure I am really cared for.
    My pain dr probably couldn’t pick my out of a lineup, despite the fact that I’ve seen him once a month for around 6 years.
    I’m grateful for my GP, who we just call Doc, and his diligence, especially since he may have found a somewhat serious problem, just by making sure he gave me a thorough exam when I was there, instead of the kind of appointment where you wait 90 minutes for a 3 minute appointment and your stack of refills.
    Although I am working on getting off as many meds as possible, it’s very important to be able to do that at my pace.
    Again, so glad to hear from you & so glad the shots worked! 😊